Canada's most successful MMA promotion, The Maximum Fighting Championship returns this Friday night for MFC 38: Behind Enemy Lines at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. Their 38th instalment is arguably their biggest fight card to date, including three-title fights and a main event which was selected by the fans.
The promotion boasts 14-straight years of business and is operated by MFC president Mark Pavelich, who is often overlooked in this country for the foundation he's established for MMA in Canada.
"I'm the forefather of MMA in this country and it's going to continue to be that way -- When I'm dead one day and they make (me) a statue. (Critics will) feel terrible about how they spoke about me. That's what's going to happen." Pavelich told TSN.ca
Founded in 2001, the MFC is the longest running MMA promotion in North America next to the UFC and has outlasted other organizations such as the IFL, Elite XC, DREAM, Affliction and most recently Strikeforce who have all ceased operations.
"I'm not a promoter; I'm a fight pioneer that's what people don't understand. Fight promoters are guys that come around and do it once in a while I'm a guy that's been in (the fight business) right from the beginning."
While MMA has been thriving in Western Canada for years thanks to the success of the MFC, the province of Ontario hasn't been as responsive, only legalizing MMA back in 2010. Despite the UFC holding successful annual events in Toronto the last few years, local MMA promotions are essentially non-existent in Ontario. Even the MFC has only held one event in Ontario (MFC 29: Conquer, in Windsor, Ontario) and that was back in 2011. What's keeping local MMA out of Ontario? According to Pavelich it is the governing bodies in charge and not Ontario Athletic Commissioner Ken Hayashi.
"It's not (Hayashi), it's the provincial government that makes these regulations and fees. That's the thing they have to fix and alter before (the MFC) returns because these fees are astronomical, they're the highest in the world. Las Vegas is cheaper (to run an event), Alberta's cheaper, and Quebec is cheaper."
Pavelich believes MMA can't grow properly in Ontario if the UFC is the only promotion running events.
"That's just something (the governing bodies) have to take a look at. If they really want to see MMA develop properly in Ontario, I think (the MFC) is the only brand of MMA that can actually do it. I mean if you want to wait around for the UFC to come once a year and you think that's going to develop MMA, it's not going to happen that way."
One of the catalysts for the MFC's success has been their out of the box type thinking, including their recent "Punch The Vote" contest where fans had the opportunity to pick which of the three title fights would serve as the main event for MFC 38. This included Canadian Smealinho Rama vs. Anthony Hamilton (for the heavyweight title), Sam Alvey vs. Jason South (for the 185lb title) and Anthony Birchack vs. Tito Jones (for the 135lb title).
"What I loved about the voting -- It really showed we're not a local a brand of MMA, we're not even a Canadian brand of MMA, and we had people voting from all over the world. That proves that's lots of people are paying attention and that's really exciting."
Proof of this was the Calgary native Rama who received the least amount of votes and bantamweights Birchack and Jones (both of whom are American) earning the main event slot.
Rounding out MFC 38's main card, aside from the three title fights is a lightweight affair between Canadian Kurt Southern and Jason Novaes. Pavelich believes this rematch from MFC 36 will be nothing short of fireworks.
"Kurt Southern is the best 155er in Canada. I think Novaes is a special individual as well. They're going to go at it again for the second time and I'm super excited about that. But like I said it's unfortunate because there are three titles and nobody is talking about (this) fight."
On the topic of fighters on the MFC roster, many fans have been wondering why welterweight superstar Dhiego Lima hasn't been competing inside the MFC ring this year. The answer is simple, he's a free-agent.
"Problem with Dhiego is we have too many American Top Team guys in our organization. He was crossing (fights) with them -- a few times he was going to have title fights with other American Top Team guys and then it got really weird. They wouldn't fight each other."
"We released him and let him go to where he wants to go, because (not fighting teammates) is going to be a problem."
This is the second time Pavelich has let a Lima brother leave his organization as a free-agent. Dhiego's older brother Douglas left in the Alberta based promotion back in 2011 and has recently found success in in the Bellator Fighting Championships, winning two welterweight tournaments.
"I'm happy for (Douglas) although I don't think he's fighting for the right organization, sometimes agents make the mistake. I don't blame him whatsoever."
"Go check Lima's twitter today, you know what it still says "MFC Champ" at the top of it. That tells you what's in his heart. He told us at our home one time that made a mistake going to (Bellator). He could have walked into the UFC, and not just walked in, he could have walked in like a star"
"I don't think he gets the publicity like he did when he was with the Maximum Fighting Championship any more. (Bellator) fails to promote that end of stuff"
As the sport of MMA continues to grow, the addition of women fighting is always a hot topic. With UFC introducing females into their organization earlier this year and debuting them on the Ultimate Fighter, could we see the same thing in the MFC?
"I respect all female fighters. I'm a huge Miesha Tate fan, I like Sarah Kaufman. I think they're great athletes. The problem is I don't think I can get a quality ten girls together to make this a great division."
Another budding issue with the MFC is their broadcast rights. Currently their events only broadcast live on AXS TV (formally HDNet) in the States. Canadian cable companies pulled the plug on AXS TV in Canada last year. The only way fans can watch MFC events in Canada is on a two-week tape delay on speciality channel the Fight Network.
"Andrew Simon and Mark Cuban are very intelligent at AXS TV and everybody knows that. I know they want to be in Canada. Sometimes being Mark Cuban is difficult because people might charge too much for what (the network) is really worth. The cable networks and the fans have to realize that it's your obligation to tell the cable company that you want AXS TV (in Canada)"
Despite these hurdles, Pavelich believes the MFC is a unique brand of MMA and fans always get their monies worth seeing their events live.
"Come watch our brand of MMA and then you tell me after that you didn't get your $60 worth or your $600 worth it's impossible! (Quality fights) is the only thing we're good at and we've been good at it for 14-years."
"We have real fighters in the MFC. You can't pick who you fight in the Maximum Fighting Championships, you go in these other organizations and you can pick who you fight. We tell you you're going to fight because it's our job is to the fans and we want to put on the best fight possible"
MFC 38: Behind Enemy Lines takes place this Friday (October 4th) at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton Alberta Canada and on AXS TV.