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Fighters use local MMA promotion as springboard

“The Kauai Cage Match,” was more than an opportunity for local fighters to showcase their skills in front of their home island.

The 14-card Sunday night event at Kukui Grove Center in the old Sports Authority location provided opportunities for Kauai fighters in an industry seeking Hawaii-based opponents, cage promoter Vance Pascua said.

The bout created a one-night parallel universe for Kauai fighters as the industry came to Kauai.

The essential fundamental components of the law attraction are at work.

The industry attracts industry, and with Maki Pitolo (UFC), Yancy Mederios (UFC), and Ray Brada Cooper (PFL), all there to sign autographs, it gave the young up-and-coming Kauai fighters extra exposure.

New pre-fight storylines potentially attracted more cage fighting insiders.

The Professional Fighters League, which currently has a contractual broadcasting agreement with NBC, is producing a documentary of Ray “Brada” Cooper, and the film crew was at the “Kauai Cage Fight.”

Cooper, whose younger brother Makoa was a participant in the cage match, was just one example of the business of fighting coming to Kauai.

“Fights like can jump-start their career, and even have more island exposure, state exposure, and national exposure,” Pascua said. “Other cards will want to pick up our fighters on the mainland, and having all of those opportunities start with all of these little shows here.”

The Hawaii hotbed

With the success of Hawaii-born fighters Max Holloway (UFC), Kendall Grove, and B.J. Penn, the industry knows the islands are talent-rich, and they are looking to cash in on it.

“The industry is trying to reach a lot of Hawaii fighters, and UFC is trying to recruit some Hawaii fighters, and they’ve had a lot of success with fighters, and the next generation of MMA fighters coming out of Hawaii,” Pascua said.

“Our fighters are just naturally talented and gifted to fight for some reason,” Pascua said. “They have strong genetics per se, and fighting comes second-nature, and honing them through that kind of sport or level of competition is something they can have. This sport requires a lot of commitment.”

Tee Jay Britton, is a professional fighter from the mainland, with a record of 7-2 in the professional ranks. The native of Poplar Bluff, Mo., came to Kauai looking for a challenge and got it.

“It was very refreshing to have someone come in and fight as a professional MMA fighter, and I have people back out all of the time,” Britton said. “Mainland, we have tough guys, and everyone knows me, and they know my reach. In Hawaii, these guys are animals; they want a different challenge and hit my opponent with stuff that normally drops bigger guys, and he just came forward in the ring and smiled.”

The 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner coined the popular phrase, “if you build it, they will come.” You can’t recreate the 1919 baseball scene as the movie did, but you can build a spot to cultivate future cage fighters, and the “Kauai Cage Match” was a step in that direction.

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Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

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