As evidenced by a recent feature in The New York Times, fighting—at least in the realm of hockey—has been alive and well in Saskatchewan for quite some time.
But mixed martial arts—or legitimate fighting—on the other hand, has never exactly played a significant role in the prairie province’s culture.
“It was next to nothing,” Miles Anstead, a Regina-based amateur mixed martial artist, offered when asked about the state of MMA in Saskatchewan prior to 2010. “We had a couple shows before, but they were pretty bush-league—we had some bush-league events.”
About three years ago, AJ Scales and Troy Lavalley, with the intention of raising the bar for the sport in Saskatchewan—where professional MMA is still prohibited—decided to promote their own event, Saturday Night Fights.
Since the first card in April of 2010—an event that admittedly failed to live up to the expectations of several of those involved—there have been three more events and more than a dozen athletes from across Saskatchewan have had the opportunity to showcase their skills in the Saturday Night Fights ring.
According to Scales, his promotion—which is to return to Regina’s Turvey Centre for the fifth time on May 5th—is going stronger than ever.
“I’m very happy with how things have been going with the promotion,” noted Scales, who has had more than half a dozen of his students from Regina's Complete Martial Arts and Fitness compete under the Saturday Night Fights banner.
“Things get better and better every show. We see our flaws and things that we can do better and we see the fan base growing ... I think the current state is very good. People are constantly messaging me, asking me when the next event is—they’re hungry to come out and see more. I think we’re doing well—we’re in a good place and we’re able to produce good shows.”
“I think it’s grown a huge amount,” Lavalley added. “We really sold the majority of our tickets the day of the fights for Saturday Night Fights I ... We’re selling two weeks out now and people know that it’s a hot item. It’s growing.”
Although Saturday Night Fights—the only promotion that consistently puts on mixed martial arts shows in Saskatchewan—is regarded as the pinnacle of the sport in the province, the promoters behind the organization insist that the best is yet to come.
“The sky is the limit, really,” Lavalley offered. “ ... We’ll have to wait and see, but I think expanding across Saskatchewan is in our future.”
“There are all kinds of things that can be in play for the event in the future,” Scales added. “It can outgrow the Turvey Centre—it can get bigger. If the province starts sanctioning professional fighting, we can bring in some professional fighters ... There are a lot of things that could happen.”
Ed Kapp is a contributor for Bleacher Report. All quotations were obtained firsthand.