Photo by George Lauby
Tony Rimmer, at left, and Alex Souza of Lincoln wire cameras Friday afternoon at the fight cage.
Photo by George Lauby
Russ Jones, at left, and Kelly Wiseman in front of a large-as-life video screen on the north wall of the D&N Event Center.
Crews put the final touches on the D&N Event Center Friday to get set for fight night Saturday. Ten Lincoln County fighters will climb into the cage, eager to make a good showing for the hometown crowd in the 8th installment of Midwest Championship Fighting.
Cody Land, originally from Brady, returns from Las Vegas to take on Anthony Session of Albuquerque, N.M. for the MCF Bantamweight title.
Promoter Kelly Wiseman expects the action to be fast and furious. Both Land and Session are quick and agile, weighing in around 135 pounds.
Land is known for quick, swarming attacks that can turn the tables on his opponent.
Session trains at the Greg Jackson camp, arguably the best training camp in the world right now, Wiseman said.
In a second main event, Jaquis Williams (8-2) of Omaha takes on Jason Jensen (7-3) of North Platte at 185 pounds.
This will be the first professional fight for both men, after highly successful amateur careers. Jensen is a Union Pacific switchman and conductor who grew up in Ogallala.
Williams was a winner at the last fight MCF 7, when Jensen faltered in another bracket in the second round.
The two fighters are ready to square off, Wiseman said.
Fans will have great views of the action, thanks to three big new screens that will hang in the building, MCF owner Russ Jones said.
In 2013, Wiseman teamed up with Russ Jones to reignite MCF. Under Jones's direction, MCF has made impressive changes.
The action starts with a smoldering fight between Justin Weaver and Jordan Timothy-Vigil. Weaver, a tested fighter, stepped in five days ago to fill the card. Vigil is well known to the North Platte crowd.
MCF8 with Special Guest UFC Legend Spencer Fisher
(Fights start at 7 p.m.)
Amateur 175 lbs. - Justin Weaver (Lincoln) vs Jordan Vigil (North Platte)
Amateur 135 lbs. - Henry Adame (Albuquerque, NM) vs Johnathan Schmidt (North Platte)
Amateur 150 lbs. - Dondre Hubert (Sioux City, IA) vs Mark Hooper (North Platte)
Amateur 145 lbs. - Kolby Howell (Grand Island) vs Roman Reyes (North Platte)
Amateur 170 lbs. - Adam Gramlich (Lincoln) vs Brad Garrick (North Platte)
Amateur 170 lbs. - Duane Johnson (Omaha) vs Derek Thompson (North Platte)
Amateur Co-Main Event 145 lbs. - Jori Waln (Lincoln) vs Mercedes Timmerman (North Platte)
Amateur Main Event MCF Lightweight Title - Brandon Homer (Tucson, AZ) vs Anthony Cox (North Platte)
Professional Feature Bout 180 lbs. - Zachary Browder (Kenosha, Wisc.) vs Ryan Shank (Charleston, W.V.)
Pro Co-Main Event 185 lbs. - Jaquis Williams (Omaha) (8-2) vs Jason Jensen (North Platte) (7-3)
Pro Main Event MCF Bantamweight Title 135 - Anthony Session (Albuquerque, NM) vs Cody Land (Brady/Omaha)
North Platte prominent in MMA fight world
North Platte has become prominent in the world of mixed martial art fights.
What a difference a decade makes.
In May 2001, there was no place for MMA in North Platte. Few people had even heard of the sport.
But that year, a fighter named Kelly Wiseman moved to town from Bettendorf, Iowa. He changed all that, developing fights and fighters that became famous throughout the nation.
One of North Platte’s best known MMA fighters, Luke Caudillo, fought in national events -- twice for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, twice for Strikeforce. Caudillo is featured as a professional hunter on the Sportsman's channel.
“But the only people who knew about MMA in 2001 (then known as No Holds Barred fighting) were die-hard fans that watch on the internet or purchased the ultimate fighting championship programs on pay-for-view,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman had trained, fought and taught for four years under five-time UFC champion Pat Miletich. He started North Platte in a different direction.
The result: mixed martial arts battles are regular features of North Platte entertainment, and North Platte is a widely respected regional center for the sport.
On March 16, Wiseman and attorney Russ Jones, operating Midwest Championship Fighting, hosted the “St. Patty’s Day Beatdown,” a card that featured 15 fights. They set an attendance record for fights at the D&N Event center and surpassed the national online e-ticket sales record on Cagetix.com.
Wiseman and Jones hosted another fight night as part of Nebraskaland Days, and are now preparing the third MMA card of this year on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the renovated D&N Center.
When Wiseman reached North Platte, he had just fought inside the cage, but he thought his career was over.
“I pretty much conceded, since there was no way to continue training at the same level as I had been,” he said.
Wiseman worked out at the North Platte Recreation Center, and one day Jered Jorgensen came up to him. Pointing to the shorts that Wiseman wore, Jorgensen asked if the Miletich Fighting Systems logo on the leg referred to Pat Miletich, the UFC champion.
Wiseman said yes, it did.
Greatly impressed, Jorgenson helped Wiseman begin teaching classes at the Rec Center in Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. Wiseman later opened his own gym, due to the amount of interested people, at Sixth and Jeffers, next door to Luke Caudillo's store -- The Supplement Zone.
At that point, North Platte MMA began to make a serious impact on the Midwest MMA scene.
Caudillo and a couple other North Platte fighters had fought at an MMA event in Lake Okoboji, Iowa in January 2003. Nearly 50 North Platte fans made the eight-hour drive to watch the fights. Wiseman considered promoting a MMA event in North Platte, but he didn't feel like the timing was right.
Caudillo, Tony Johnson, Joe Doherty, began to make waves in the world of mixed martial arts. Along with Ricardo Ponce and a handful of other local fighters, they often traveled to other cities in the U.S. and Canada to fight.
Caudillo claimed the “Ring of Fire” title in Denver in September 2004. The dynamic young fighter made a television appearance that year on ESPN2.
Among Caudillo’s impressive achievements, he defeated veteran Tom Kirk at the famed Cicero Stadium near Chicago.
In 2005, after traveling to fights in Chicago, Denver and San Jose, Calif., Wiseman and a growing number of top-notch North Platte fighters decided it was time to hold an event in North Platte.
In July 2005, Wiseman teamed with Denver promoter Sven Bean to bring an event called “Ring of Fire 18” to the D&N Event Center.
He was gratified to see 2,500 fans attend.
Wiseman also brought another outside promoter to town -- Victory Fighting Championship -- and co-promoted an event with VFC founder/owner Victory Jay.
Wiseman started the local “Midwest Championship Fighting” in 2006, after two years of planning. In November that year, he produced the first MCF fight card, simply called "Genesis."
He produced two more MCFs in North Platte but the productions halted when he moved out of town in 2007. Happily, he returned to North Platte in 2009 and got back to promoting.
First he co-promoted a Tri-State Cagefighting card at the D&N. As mixed martial arts came under regulations of the Nebraska Athletic Commission, he re-started MCF with Tad Hanneborg of the D&N.
In 2010, Hanneborg and Wiseman hosted MCF 4 and MCF 5.
Wiseman said he helped two outside promoters in 2011 and 2012, co-promoting fights with Disorderly Conduct, but North Platte promoters were growing tired of helping other organizers come to town and leaving with the proceeds.
Also, a portion of the proceeds from the five previous MCFs went to local charities and they wanted that to continue doing that. So Wiseman approached Jones, a long-time fan and supporter of mixed martial arts, and asked if he was interested in teaming up on more MMA events.
North Platte’s mixed martial arts events have put the city on the map in the fighting world, Wiseman told the Bulletin.
Caudillo went on to national stardom.
Fighter Tony Johnson went on to fight twice for Strikeforce and box professionally for Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. He currently is an undefeated pro boxer. And, Johnson coaches at the world famous American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif. He is a training partner of UFC Heavyweight Champ Cain Velsquez.
Joe Doherty went on to win the Ring of Fire Bantamweight Title over current UFC superstar John Dodson. Doherty won the Fight-to-Win title as well.
North Platte is a great place for young fighters to apply their ability, hone their skills, test themselves and learn how to triumph, Wiseman, Jones and Hanneborg say.
“Now, there is a new crop of talented fighters that could follow in the footsteps of the past great North Platte fighters,” Wiseman said. “MCF is the perfect stage to showcase their talent.”
The proceeds go right back into the community, helping charities and improving facilities for all kinds of events.
The Bridge of Hope, a shelter and intervention center for victims of domestic abuse, has been a beneficiary. So has Rail Fest. And Jones is helping Hanneborg improve the D&N center, with more doors and for this fight, big new video screens.