Out for blood
The attention of most regional sports fans was firmly focused on the UND men's hockey team's offensive show against University of Michigan on Saturday night. But the sport on display at the Alerus Center featured more than its share of big hits a...
The attention of most regional sports fans was firmly focused on the UND men's hockey team's offensive show against University of Michigan on Saturday night. But the sport on display at the Alerus Center featured more than its share of big hits and thrills for the crowd of 3,000.
The Dakota Fighting Championships, which features mixed-martial arts bouts in a ring lined with chainlink fence, made its first trip to Grand Forks since becoming a sanctioned North Dakota sport
Based in Fargo, the DFC is similar to the Ultimate Fighting Championships that are quickly becoming a national television phenomenon.
"It's the fastest-growing sport in the world right now," DFC promoter Chris Nelson said. "It's fast-paced, it's exciting, and it's great to watch because it lets the fighters use every type of discipline in the ring."
Those unfamiliar with the sport might equate DFC-style matches with the staged professional wrestling matches on TV - but there was nothing fake about the fights Saturday. The second match ended suddenly, as the fighter who was dominant early on suffered a cut between his eyes that forced officials to declare a winner. As Reese Hernandez tried to wipe the blood from his face and chest, fans in the crowd were cheering for the match to continue.
Fighters used every tactic possible to beat their opponents. A common strategy was to tackle the opponent and then kick, punch and choke them until they gave up. Each big hit was met by a round of screams, cheers and jeers from the crowd of mostly male youths.
A good 'rush'
Marshall Martin, who won the opening match Saturday, has been fighting for almost two years. He said his decision to enter the DFC ring was the next step in the fighting progression of his youth.
"I'd wanted to try it since I was young," he said. "I was in karate, wrestling and boxing as a kid, and I just kept in shape over the years."
As he iced a bruised hand shortly after his match, he said the 'rush' of the fights is what keeps him in the ring.
"It's the only form of expression where I can't be wrong. I can let myself go," he said.
Martin, now 25 and living in Fargo, said he hopes to keep fighting until he's 30. "Then I'll decide what to do," he said.
Amber Funk and Adrianne Horne of New Richmond, Wis., made the trip to Grand Forks to watch the fighters. When asked why they were interested in seeing the fight, they had a simple answer: "The boys."
Funk's boyfriend and Horne's husband are fighters with Devils Den, a group of seven men from all walks of life who love to fight. Their loved ones transitioned into the sport about a year ago - but not without some resistance.
"I didn't understand why anyone would want to do this," Funk said. "But now we wouldn't give it up for the world."
They also said the rush of the sport was what kept them coming, and seeing their loved ones work hard to perform for the crowds is also fun. Although they said they loved the sport, they also talked about how hard it can be to be involved.
"It's fun until you see them get hurt," Horne said.
It also can be hard to make a good living as a fighter, unless you reach the UFC level.