By Nick Wagner
People love to drink, watch fights and get rowdy- that much will never change. However, Fargo-Moorhead’s fight community is constantly changing as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) becomes more mainstream locally and across the Midwest. In anticipation of the upcoming UFC 116 featuring Brock Lesnar versus Shane Carwin, here’s a brief history of MMA in the Fargo-Moorhead area, which will soon host the locally produced “Fall Brawl.”
On April 17, 2004 The Dakota Fighting Championship put on their first show, which consisted of seventeen fights. Looking back at the fight card, a few names stick out: Brock Larson, Krzysztof Soszynski, and Chris Tuchscherer. All three have gone on to fight in the UFC. Soszynski and Tushscherer fight again on July 3 at UFC 116.
Just as some local fighters have faced adversity and worked their way up through the ranks, local MMA has undergone a lot of change. Chris Tuchscherer recalls, “When I started, there was basically no MMA in town, except maybe a couple of guys doing it in their garage. It was really small in town. When I actually started taking it seriously as a sport, I started working out at the college; guys would come and train with me at NDSU.” Dylan Spicer tells a similar story. “I actually started in Grand Forks, late 1999 and back then it was just Progressive Martial Arts, a school ran by Ken Greer. It used to be in an office building that was a 20x10 square ft room, which is tiny.”
Dylan and Chris shared their first fight at DFC1, and both trained at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy with world champions and renowned instructors. Now, both have made careers out of a sport that they love. Chris is a successful pro fighter, having worked his way up the UFC ladder, while Dylan owns the Academy of Combat Arts (ACA) here in Fargo (2219 Main Ave Fargo, ND).
Dylan’s ACA uses a teaching style similar to the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy. The ACA brought solid structure and certified instructors to the local MMA scene, and it’s the first and only MMA certified school in the Fargo area. This not only means that the ACA is going to be turning out experienced fighters, but will create healthy competition by forcing other gyms to raise their standards.
When the gyms evolve the fighters evolve. Chris has been in the area long enough to have seen plenty of this: “The quality of fighters has changed the most. Back when I started it was just guys who were getting into the cage with whatever one skill, for example I was a wrestler. I would try to take guys down and beat them up that way. Now everyone is learning more of the arts. They are more well rounded, becoming more dangerous as fighters and they are taking it seriously. Before guys were fighting but they probably weren’t training like they should, now they are so much more into training and getting ready for a fight.”
Dylan also remembers the good old days: “Locally speaking the level of athletes has gone way up, back in the day it used to be a bunch of dudes that just beat each other up. That’s really what it was, I’ve seen guy’s pulled out of the crowd to fight- I mean that happened like in Moorhead early 2000’s, one of the first shows I went to. They would pull people out of the crowd that thought they could fight. I mean guys would walk into the ring with beer in hand—now you don’t see any of that—you see professional-looking gyms, professional athletes, guys who train seriously for six to eight weeks prior to a fight.”
Chris Tuchscherer is not only training for an upcoming fight, but this fall he’s putting together his second local MMA promotion, the “Fall Brawl.” Regarding the “Fall Brawl,” Chris adds, “With my promotion I see a lot of attraction coming to the area. If you’re putting on good fights you’re going to get people’s attention. I’m bringing bigger, better names, not tuna cans. There will never be guys that fight on my show that don’t train like a fighter should.”
Gyms and organizations like the ACA and Fall Brawl are writing Fargo-Moorhead’s MMA history. Pay attention to the fighters at local events because there’s a very good chance a few will go on to make it to bigger shows like the UFC. The days of walking into the ring with a beer are over.
If You Go
What: UFC 116
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
When: Sat, July 3
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