Two-man combat in a chain-link enclosure comes to county for first time this weekend at fairgrounds

  • 1 of 3 LEDE -- Kyle Pimentel (CQ) throws a roundhouse punch during training at Norcal Fighting Alliance for the upcoming Cage Combat Fighting Competitions held at Grace Pavillion at Sonoma County Fairgrounds held this Saturday. Pimentel who fights in the 170 lbs weight class will be fighting Barry Bloesser. (The Press Democrat) / Crista Jeremiason) 10/31/06

Forget dog shows and crab feeds. For bone-crunching, blood-splattering, knock-you-out action at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, the only place to be Saturday night is at cage combat.

Never heard of it? Cage combat, or mixed martial arts as it also is called, pits two men gladiator-style inside an octagon rimmed by a chain-link fence and hordes of raucous fans.

The sport makes its official debut in Sonoma County with the Cage Combat Fighting Championships on Saturday at the Santa Rosa fairgrounds' Grace Pavilion, where $125 buys a ringside seat for close-ups of fighters and scantily clad ring girls.

"You're going to see blood. You're going to see people get knocked out. You're going to see people go to sleep. That's just an aspect of the game," said Franco Burcina, a 30-year-old father of two from Santa Rosa and one of 26 men scheduled to fight Saturday.

Burcina's almost in fighting shape, needing to shed another nine pounds by Friday night's weigh-in to make the 190-pound weight class.

But is Wine Country ready for combat fighting at a location normally associated with gem and flower shows and, the weekend after the fight, a Christian revival concert?

Fair Manager Corey Oakley did not return several messages this week seeking comment. A fair board member declined comment Wednesday, and other board members could not be reached.

Other officials, however, expressed concern about the event.

"I know nothing about it but I can tell you this is not something I would support," Santa Rosa Mayor Jane Bender said. "We're working incredibly hard to prevent gang violence and youth violence, and we don't need role models like this."

The competition has been advertised in newspapers and on radio but hasn't garnered wide attention. The county Board of Supervisors, which appoints fair board members, was not briefed on the event, Supervisor Mike Reilly said.

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