Las Vegas has become the fight staple of the world with UFC, boxing, and the fast-growing young promotion, Lion Fight. In just four years, Lion Fight Muay Thai blossomed from a passion which began locally to sold-out arenas across the nation.
Scott Kent, the CEO and a former casino executive, opened up about its roots. "We started at Primm, and were not really sure what we had then, but we had a good team. Christine Toledo is a former Muay Thai champion; she's our matchmaker. We brought in Jen Wenk who handles our PR. We put together a small nucleus of people who really believed in what we were doing." Since then, the fans' support has been tremendous. "The response has been overwhelming. Our last two shows in Connecticut have been sold out, and Pechanga's sold out."
As far as an inspiration to start, Kent elaborated. "I trained Muay Thai myself for 22 years but I was a casino executive so I kind of lived a double life. I would suit and tie during the day and go fight at night. I got to the point where I decided I wanted to do something different and make something my own. This seemed like a perfect opportunity."
Last summer, Lion Fight 16 was held during the UFC International Fight Week. Scott Kent confirmed that they will be collaborating with the UFC again. "Yes, we will be working with the UFC Fight Week. I ran into Dana (White) a couple weeks ago and everyone's on the same page. It's more about logistics, figuring out where we're going to do the fight and how we would be involved in that. Our fight would be July 10th and their show would be the 11th."
While Lion Fight has quickly made a presence to its fans around the world, Kent revealed there are no shortage of athletes who want to compete for the organization. "I get emails every day from fighters all over the planet who want to fight for Lion Fight. Everyone wants to fight in Las Vegas."
The Las Vegas-based organization will be making its California debut at Pechanga Casino on Friday, March 27, for Lion Fight 21. It will feature the long-awaited rematch between Kevin Ross and Tetsuya Yamato. When the two first competed back in September 2013 at Lion Fight 11, Tetsuya won by what many have referred to as "the nightmare on Fremont Street". In the bloodbath match, Yamato won by split decision. The local favorite, Kevin Ross, looks to redeem himself this Friday. It will air live on AXS TV at 10PM ET/7PM PT.
Lion Fight 21 Fight Card
Main Event: Kevin Ross vs Tetsuya Yamato 2
Co-Main Event: Tiffany Van Soest vs Chajmaa Bellekhal
We've got about 30 minutes until the Men's Mountain West Tournament tips-off, so what better time to write a blog post about the tournament? Last year, as a lowly intern here at ESPN 1100, I was a wimp and picked straight up wins. This year, we go ATS.
Game 1: New Mexico (-2.5) vs Air Force
Can Dave Pilipovich end the Lobos sad season?
Photo via: USA Today
The first of two underwhelming games to start the tournament (Sorry UNLV, but it's true) features two teams that have largely struggled. The Falcons seemed lost during senior guard Max Yon's seven game absence, but have somewhat leveled out when he returned, going 1-6 without him, but 4-4 with him back in the lineup.
On the other side, the Lobos have had their own struggles, snapping an eight-game losing streak against Wyoming with 52-49 victory on Saturday. It's amazing to think that this is the defending tournament champs. The Lobos, like a lot of teams this year, have injuries taking a toll on their season, losing Cullen Neal, Jordan Goodman and Deshawn Delaney for the season. Tough, but that's what happens as the season progresses.
In a match-up that could end being very ugly give me the dog.
Pick: Air Force +2.5
Game 2: UNR vs UNLV (-8.5)
It doesn't get much better for the afternoon game. The 9-21 Wolfpack versus a disappointing Rebel squad doesn't make for a great game to watch.
There seems to really be one player to watch in this game: A.J. West. West is an offensive rebound machine, and more than had his way with UNLV on the boards grabbing 20 offensive rebounds in the two meetings with UNLV. Not to beat a dead horse, but UNLV needs to win the rebounding battle to have a shot at covering this big spread.
It'll be a great battle to watch down low with Chris Wood and A.J. West, and it will be a close game. The Wolfpack will want to steal a second game at the T&M from UNLV, despite the "neutral court" label.
For over half a decade now, since 2010, Las Vegas has been home to the largest rugby tournament in North America. Annually, the USA Sevens Rugby is played in front of an arena full of fans at the Sam Boyd Stadium. Though there's no professional team in the city yet, Las Vegas has undoubtedly made a name for itself in terms of sports. With NHL, UFC, and boxing dominating the city's sports headlines, February has brought rugby into the Las Vegas spotlight.
Many could justify that rugby is among one of the most popular sports in the world, and is quickly rising in the United States. It is often and widely compared to American football with similarities in tackles and touchdowns, to name a few. According to ESPN.com, it was announced yesterday that former Australian rugby star, Jarryd Hayne, signed with the San Francisco 49ers in hopes of securing a coveted spot on the 53-man roster as a backup running back.
Three former international professional rugby players teamed up in the city to form Downtown Rugby. Elvis Seveali'i, Tom Carter, and Herve Mazzocco joined forces here in Las Vegas to start the club, along with Noor J. who runs the administration side. It was by sheer chance that though they all have crossed paths at some point during their professional careers, they wound up in the bright lights of Las Vegas. Elvis Seveali'i stated, "I was privileged enough to get together with Tom and Herve to start the new venture of Downtown Rugby which is the Vegas team at the moment."
Though Downtown Rugby is in it's first year, it has grown at an impressive rate with many people eager to join. Within the first two months, 30 people joined the club. Within the next couple months, they now have just shy of 50 players. According to Tom Carter, "Downtown Rugby is about getting the community and kids involved. Rugby is a positive game and the first thing is safety. We see this as a new opportunity for the city to have a team sport." They are bringing a European based rugby culture to Vegas.
"My involvement is to grow the awareness of rugby and it definitely helps when the Sevens are in town. It draws a big hype and huge crowd, not just in America but all over the world. We take that opportunity and try to grow the awareness in the city." Seveali'i continued, "We welcome all walks of life. We have an open door policy, regardless of athletic background."
They accept anyone who is interested in the sport to come down to the Charlie Frias Park on Tropicana and Decatur, every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm during their 90 minute practice. They encourage everyone from beginners to advanced of all ages to stop by the field and give it a try.
For those who may be more familiar with American football, there's good news for you. "Football and rugby complement each other." Seveali'i reassures.
After only six years in transient Las Vegas, first year UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez is proud to call this city home to him, his wife and two kids. I had an opportunity to sit down with coach Sanchez and discuss how his Vegas pride reflects in his recruiting.
Meet the luckiest guy playing on Super Bowl Sunday, LeGarrette Blount.
Doubt there are many college and NFL football fans making an official first introduction, but for the sake of this entry let’s pretend we don’t know much about him.
Skipping to his most infamous incident against Boise St. September 3, 2009. Blount had to be restrained by coaches and stadium security after responding to a post game taunt with a jab to the face that sent Boise State defenseman Byron Hout down to the turf. The incident was severe enough to prompt Oregon head coach Chip Kelly to suspend his running back for the remainder of the season. A suitable warning for any collegiate athlete inclined to engage in illegal physical violence on the football field.
However, instead of ending his college football career there, Blount chose to be productive with his absence and show that this incident should not define him.
Blount showed a level of remorse for his actions that convinced coach Kelly to allow the running back to return November 14, 2009 against Arizona State. His maturity was demonstrated even further when agreeing to speak with at risk teenagers and educate them on the lessons learned which culminated such a positive comeback story. An uplifting tale if the story concluded here, but the stigma of this collegiate loose cannon followed Blount to his temporary home with the Tennessee Titians.
August, 2010. LeGarrette Blount ends practice during training camp with a punch to the helmet of defensive end Eric Bakhtiari. The type of conflict known all too well in the NFL after being documented heavily in HBO’s Hardknocks and even condoned by a Super Bowl champion head coach. Point being, a training camp fight isn’t deserving of press unless it involves an NFL Star or is coupled with video of the incident. An argument supported by simply Googling: Training Camp Fights.
As an undrafted running back Blount was far from a super star and didn’t appear to have video circulating of his training camp scuffle, so why was it worth the coverage? It's likely that observers were waiting for a similar slip up from Blount, even if it was as mundane as a training camp fight that is commonly broken up and forgotten about. Nonetheless, Blount was not condemned for his actions nor should he have been. This was an example of one’s reputation catching up to him and the exposure lasted about as long as it should have. No harm, no foul, life seemed fair enough in this case.
After a three year stint in Tampa Bay and a season with the New England Patriots, Blount found a position with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A job where his veteran status seemed to give him a competitive edge against his second year competition, especially after Blount came off a season where he matched his career high in yards per carry with 5.0 as a Patriot. However, few anticipated such an impressive break out year from Le'Veon Bell who netted over thirteen hundred yards on the ground becoming the league’s second leading rusher of 2014.
As the number two in the Pittsburgh backfield, LeGarrette Blount could see the writing on the wall and chose Monday Night Football as the setting to vent his frustration. Following…forgive me, during the Steelers’ victory over the Titans Blount demonstrated his displeasure by leaving the game early. Being dressed and ready to leave the city while his teammates were still in pads was enough for the Steelers to take swift action and release Blount the following day. A decision apparently more detrimental to the team than being charged with marijuana possession considering that incident wasn’t enough to warrant being thrown off the team. A timeless tale of cause and effect that shows just how damaging selfishness can be when one puts personal emotions of anger ahead of the team. A great lesson if this is where the story ended.
Instead, a pouty, frustrated LeGarrette Blount was rewarded for his release by beginning his road to the Super Bowl when the Patriots signed him two days later. A signing that added 281 yards to Blount’s 2014 season rushing total and put the back in the best position to be a dark horse for New England in this Sunday's Super Bowl.
What a terrible lesson for any young athlete faced with a similar decision to make when he is not getting the ball enough and feels the urge to quit. How would LaGarrette Blount be able to sell this message to the next group of at risk youths who want to be inspired by his story?
Well, from a distance the key would be to show enough contempt for your current team that they release you and wait for a Super Bowl bound squad to scoop you up because you happen to know their offense.