MMA fighter David Rickels takes a swing at promoting

MMA fighter David Rickels is acting as promoter for the first time for Saturday night’s card at Beech Activity Center.
MMA fighter David Rickels is acting as promoter for the first time for Saturday night’s card at Beech Activity Center.

If there’s one thing that David “Caveman” Rickels has learned in creating the Evolution Fighting Championship this summer, it’s that fighting is a lot easier than promoting.

Rickels, whose last fight ended in a no contest at Bellator 139, has used his downtime to look ahead. Although Rickels expects to be competing in the ring for some time, promoting a new fighting championship has allowed him to learn another side of fighting

“It’s the natural evolution of Caveman as I take on new ventures,” Rickels said. “I could have my rise in Bellator, and could win the belt. That could be in two years. But what about 10 years? What about 20 years?

“I want to venture into different avenues of making income for myself and my family without getting my head smashed in.”

The idea for creating organized fighting events in Wichita has been in Rickels’ mind for a while — he’s a Derby native who suffered from a lack of local fights as he was beginning his career. With another fight not likely on his schedule until the end of the year, Rickels got together with longtime partner Steve Hanson and Title Boxing owner Chris Gerhardt and put together Saturday’s 11-bout card at the Beech Activity Center.

They’ve locked up fighters, sponsorships, and conducted all the behind-the-scenes work.

“There’s a lot that goes into this that I didn’t realize; printing tickets, going through the commission to make sure everyone’s blood work is done, this and that, XYZ,” Rickels said. “We’re not penny-pinching at all. We’re pulling out all the stops. I’ve fought for Bellator, I’ve been to UFC fights, I’ve been all around the world seeing fights, and I have an expectation.”

The first four scheduled fights will be amateur prelims, the next four will feature more experienced amateurs, and the final three fights will be profesional bouts.

“All the fighters, there’s not one on the card that was approached lightly as far as getting them on,” Hanson said. “Especially locally. The ones that we work with locally — Steven Nguyen, Chris Harris — they’re all superb fighters.”

Rickels said his connections in the fighting world have helped him draw fighters to the event.

Thai “Landshark” Clark, a Wichita fighter who is 3-0 as a pro, will face Christian Camp, a Missouri fighter who has started his career 1-4, in a featherweight event. Clark trains at Title Boxing and has a strong kick-boxing background, but has trained in mixed martial arts his entire life, and will have the crowd behind him as he tries to keep up his undefeated record.

“(Thai) is the home guy, and he’s got that added pressure with the support behind him,” Hanson said. “You’re not going to see a timid fight. I think it’s going to be fast and furious, for most of the guys.… Dave has matched up fights so they’re appealing to the fans, and challenging to the fighters as well.”

YouTube sensation Jessica Middleton — a video of her spinning backfist knockout last November has more than 1.4 million views — was slated to fight but has had three opponents drop out, including two in the last week.

“Amateurs don’t really know if they love the sport yet or not; that’s why they’re amateurs,” Rickels said of the frequent dropouts in his first attempt to schedule the event.

“One of the hardest things about female fighters is that they’re few and far between. The women that are good fighters, do they want to get punched in the face? Not many of them. You have to take those few, that are willing to get punched in the face in front of their friends and family on the stage, and those are hard to come by.”

Evolution Fighting Championship

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Beech Activity Center

What: An 11-bout MMA card concluding with three pro fights: Loren Hermreck vs. Nick Garrett, Chris Harris vs. Tyler Jones, and Thai :Landshark Clark vs. Christian Camp

Tickets: Rickels said the event is 98 percent sold out on Friday night.