Friday, Sept. 4, 2009 | 10 a.m.
The amateur mixed marital arts scene in Las Vegas has plenty of competition with top promotion Tuff-N-Uff mixing it up with a handful of other organizations, but Mark Birnbaum thinks there is room to squeeze one more fighting company into the city.
And Birnbaum, the owner of two Rapid Rehab centers in Las Vegas and one in Brentwood in the Los Angeles area, is betting a longtime boxing guy will make the difference.
“It was really Robert (Johnston’s) idea (to start Las Vegas MMA),” Birnbaum said of his partner. “He’s been in the boxing business for several years and has tons of connections there as well as being connected to just about every casino in town as well.
“He’s just been a wealth of knowledge and resources for us.”
The two, along with Troy Mazzagatti, son of UFC referee Steve Mazzagatti, formed Las Vegas MMA seven months ago and will host their first show at 7 p.m. tonight at Santa Fe Station.
The 20-fight card, featuring mostly Las Vegas-based fighters, is the first ever MMA event set in northwest Las Vegas.
Birnbaum says the location, as well as the concentration on local fighters, will separate Las Vegas MMA from the other organizations that usually hold events in and around the Strip.
“It’s more for everyone who lives in Las Vegas, those who don’t want to go down to the Strip and have to fight to get down there,” he said.
“There’s about four other companies that have tried to come in and haven’t been successful. We’re locally owned, we have a lot of local people who are behind us. They like the idea of local guys representing Las Vegas fighters. A couple of the other fly-by-nighters try to set up a fight then leave. We have a commitment to people in Las Vegas.”
Johnston, who has nearly 400 members in his Las Vegas Boxing Gym, thinks his lifelong experience in the boxing game makes his transition to MMA and easy one.
“I’ve been promoting boxing for so long that I know what I’m doing way better than some of these other guys,” Johnston said.
“We’ve just had a lot of interest from our own fighters wanting to get involved in the sport and it seemed like a natural fit.”
Tickets are $25 and $50 and can be picked up at Santa Fe Station or unlvtickets.com.