Last summer long-time Fairbanks MMA icon Jeff Nielson brought a dream to life. He resurrected, if only for a night, the spirit of defunct Japanese promotion and beloved relic Pride Fighting Championships. And on June 24th, he's going to do it again.
"Everybody who participated last year had a lot of fun, and told others about it," the Frostbite Vale-Tudo coach said. “This years show is featuring a much stronger card. Last year's experience taught me a bit about putting together a fight card and preparing for injuries and drop outs.”
Nielson's annual event, called Midnight Sun Mayhem, is once again timed to coincide with Fairbanks' Summer Solstice celebration. It's unique for many reasons: it's outdoors, it's free, and, most intriguingly, it operates under the exotic and nostalgic rules of Pride FC.
Japan's answer to the rival UFC, Pride FC stood out for allowing stomps, 12-6 elbows (to the body), and kicks and knees to the head of a grounded opponent, all of which are fouls under the Unified Code of Mixed Martial Arts. The promotion also used a different, looser system of judging, where decisions were based on the overall fight, instead of the 10-point-must system borrowed from boxing. Although Pride was scuttled in 2006 debate still rages among old-school fans which system is superior, and which promotion produced better fighters and better stars.
And one night a year, In a small gold rush town at the top of the world, nostalgic MMA die-hards can re-live its heyday; or, at least, the closest facsimile a small local promotion can muster.
One might ask how Nielson can pull off promoting an event that is predicated on flouting the established rules. The answer lies in the Alaska Athletic Commission; or, rather, the lack-thereof. Alaska is the only state in the country without an athletic commission to oversee combat sports. As such, the Last Frontier can get away with these types of shenanigans.
“I've always enjoyed outdoor events, and I wanted create a event that will eventually become a traditional part of the Solstice celebration in Fairbanks,” Nielson said. “The free part is because I'm not a promoter, I'm a gym owner/martial artist, I've been teaching martial arts in Fairbanks for over 23 years. This show is about seeing some fights that I want to see, and sharing them with the community.”
Midnight Sun Mayhem 2012 will feature some of the craftiest MMA veterans from all around the state, including Thomas 'The Pot Bellied Assassin' Ide, Tommie 'The Tornado' Matthews, Tommy 'T-Gunz' McMichael (reportedly competing in his final match), and two pivotal featherweight match-ups featuring Billy 'The Hebrew Hammer' Zimmerman taking on Tyler 'New Moon' Piscoya, and Jeff 'Boo Boo' Bailey stepping in the ring against Zach 'Snack Pack' Shelley. Fairbanks champs Collin Rueter and Schon 'The Wolverine' Ellis are scheduled to defend Alaska's honor against out-of-state fighters in the Main and Co-Main events.
Fans can also expect to see a Muay Thai match, and special guest referee Paul 'The Polar Bear' Varelens, the first Alaskan to fight in the UFC.
It's all set to go down at 7pm at the Big I bar in downtown Fairbanks on Sunday, June 24th. General admission is free, free, free!