By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — I realized Saturday’s “ultimate fighting” card at the Zorah Shrine Temple was different than other sports I’ve covered when I approached Daniel Hopper after he tapped out to Kyle Gray in the fourth round of a national amateur title bout.
Having noticed the Mount Carmel, Ill., fighter lost a fair amount of blood — some of it almost splattered on me and my nice clothes outside the eight-sided cage — I entered Hopper’s dressing room prepared to wait several minutes for him to be ready to talk.
Then I saw Hopper, still dripping blood from his nose and stained with dried blood on his upper body, laughing and telling one of his helpers how much fun he had trading punches, kicks and holds with Gray.
No need to wait, I figured.
“That was fun,” the 155-pound Hopper emphasized after I introduced myself. “More blood, more fun.”
He meant it too.
Not all of the 12 bouts were bloody and gory, but they all featured plenty of fast-paced action.
If you’re not sure whether to attend the next mixed-martial-arts event at the Shrine Temple, I’ll offer a little advice. Don’t take small children and don’t go if you’re squeamish (like my wife). But if you can handle seeing a little blood, check it out in the company of adults. You won’t be bored.
Just be careful how close you sit to the action, as former Indiana State women’s basketball players Kristen Weddle and Melanie Boeglin found out from their ringside seats. They cringed whenever the bloody combatants brawled toward the side of the cage closest to them.
Despite their strong desire to avoid flying blood, both seemed to have a good time.
“I think it’s pretty exciting, pretty intense,” Boeglin said.
“I’m impressed by their athletic ability,” Weddle noted. “You’ve got to have some endurance to do this.”
She’s right. None of the 23 fighters (one guy appeared in two bouts) appeared out of shape, although I was mildly disappointed that I didn’t get to see any 250-pounders battling it out.
“It’s not [Las] Vegas,” mentioned longtime MMA fan Darrell Shouse of Terre Haute between bouts. “But they’ve had some pretty decent fights here.”
“I’ve watched this stuff [on television] since UFC 1,” Terre Haute resident Bucky Whitlock said. “I watched it when there were no rules and now it’s become a disciplined sport. These fights [in Terre Haute] are not the quality of fights you see on TV, but there have been two or three that were really good. Overall, it’s been pretty good here.”
“I thought the MMA card was entertaining for a local show,” assessed Greg Brown, also of Terre Haute. “I was impressed by that local kid [Dustin] Neace and by the fact that most fighters really left it all in the ring.
“Aside from the late start, it was well organized and [promoter Jason] Reinhardt put on a nice production. The venue is really sweet for the fans, as there really are no bad seats in the joint. I had hoped for a larger turnout, but the crowd was decent and very vocal and supportive of the fighters. I’m a huge MMA fan and I hope we get another card in Terre Haute soon.”
Brown will probably get his wish. Reinhardt, who estimated that 760 fans attended the Courage Fighting Championships (CFC) show Saturday, said he plans to bring another card to Terre Haute in September or October.
“I’ve been all over the world at MMA events and I was very surprised at how the fans in Terre Haute were so educated about the sport,” said Reinhardt, a fighter as well as a promoter from Decatur, Ill. “They were great fans, some of the best I’ve ever seen.”
David Reinhardt, Jason’s father and CFC president, said they lost money on this card, so they’re hoping “a few hundred more people” will show up next time.
“Everybody I talked to really enjoyed it,” David Reinhardt added. “We look forward to coming back.”
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at email@example.com; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.