Mixed martial arts in Barbados appears ready to take off to new heights.
But much of that flight could depend on the input of Government – particularly the Ministries of Tourism and Sports.
That was the suggestion today from president of the Trinidad and Tobago Combat Association, Jason Fraser, during a media briefing at the Blue Horizons Hotel to outline plans for a March 30 and 31 mixed martial arts spectacular entitled the Barbados International Combat Sports Festival.
Fraser, who was accompanied at the briefing by Barbadian MMA promoter Rollins Alleyne as well as local champions Renaldo Stuart and Corey Weithers, and coach Albert Best, said the Easter event would be a sports tourism boost for Barbados as approximately ten countries would be represented, with each likely to be bringing 15-member contingents. He noted this figure did not take into account family and supporters who would also be attending.
Fraser said that included among the countries that would be sending fighters were Venezuela, Guadeloupe, Suriname, Canada, Martinique, St Lucia and England. Fraser also revealed that the celebrated Andre The Beast Fraser would be in Barbados during the Easter weekend fist and kick fest. †
Andre, who has been involved in the sport for more than two decades and is now retired, is the only West Indian to win bronze medals in the sport, doing so at the Korea 1997 International Kick Boxing Federation World Championships. He was ranked third in the World by the IKBF from 1997 to 2004. He won the Light-heavyweight Commonwealth title ISKA in 2001, and the Caribbean Championship from 2002 to 2004. He also received honorary membership in the United Kingdom Academy last year.
Also expected to be in Barbados in March is the Diego Martin-born, USA-based professional fighter Dwayne Hinds.
“I am calling on the Government to support this sports tourism initiative for it is the only way it will succeed,” Fraser, said, noting that mixed martial arts was the fastest growing sport in the world and pointing to the fact that 20 000 people attended the last staging of a combat event in his homeland last year.
Fraser, who indicated that the international media inclusive of ESPN would be covering the event, said the March spectacular would be a prelude to another major combat event slated for Trinidad and Tobago in 2014 where the best Barbadian mixed martial artists would be featured.
He said the staging of last year’s similar festival in Trinidad and Tobago had cost about TT$500 000 but the monetary outlay for the Barbados event was still being worked on. He stated it was hoped to offer free admittance to the Barbadian public for the tournament and as such the part Government and corporate entities played in the package was vital. He stressed that the economic spin-offs from the March event were many.
Fraser explained that the promotion was slated for the Barbados Community College’s Gymnasium to which he had to pay a site visit. He noted the logistics of whether a larger venue might be needed or not, were aspects of the promotion that would be worked out as the planning stages advanced.
Speaking specifically to the action in the ring, Alleyne said the competition would involve grappling, mixed martial arts and kick-boxing. He said patrons would be guaranteed to witness some excellent match-ups as some of the best fighters in Barbados and across the region would be taking part in the two-day event.
Weithers, who retained his regional title in a rematch earlier in the year against Guadeloupe’s David Rochemont after losing to the same opponent in 2011, said he was looking forward to the combat festival. He urged Barbadians to support the national athletes and assured that he would be in top shape in order to give of his best at the tournament.
Weithers, who fights out of the Regional Organisation for Combat Karate Gym, recalled his controversial loss to Rochemont, and said he would be seeking to close out his opponents and not leave future decisions to be made by referees.
Stuart, of the Lion’s Den Training Camp and who was beaten earlier in the year in his international MMA debut in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Island, also indicated he would be in prime shape for the tournament. (WG)†