After a much publicized wrangle with the NWT Liquor Licensing Board and some colourful comments from Minister Michael Miltenberger, Yellowknife’s Warrior Strong Fight League is holding its first event tomorrow. Here’s a quick intro to the local guys who will be dishing out the northern hospitality to a batch of southerners being flown up for the aptly named the “Red Tape Rumble.”
It’s going to be the fifth fight for 22-year-old Grey Patino, whose record is split down the middle with two wins and two losses. The 5-8 145 lbs fighter was born on the Eastern Pacific island of Saipan and started Muay Thai at age 16 when he was living in the Philippines. He got into MMA when he moved to Canada in 2011 and has been training with the Warrior Strong Fight League since moving to Yellowknife in 2013. For the past four months the massage therapist (he owns his own clinic in town) has been training six times a week “pretty much nonstop” with three of the other Warrior Strong fighters. “It’s great, we’re like family. Nothing brings you together like kicking each others’ asses.” About a month ago he won a kickboxing fight in Fort St. John. “I feel confident coming off a win, so hopefully that momentum will keep on going.”
James Williams is the most experienced MMA fighter of the lot, with six fights (three wins, three losses) to his name. The 23-year-old parks officer, originally from Inuvik, got into fighting as a scrappy defenseman playing Junior A hockey for the Summerside Western Capitals in P.E.I. It was while on that team that his coach, a retired pro boxer, started teaching him to fight: “He knew I was a tough fighter in the Junior Hockey world.” After his hockey career, he started learning Jiu Jitsu and began training for MMA fights. Along with a hockey fighter’s ability to take hits, Williams also brings his experience with Inuit sports to the ring. “My balance and flexibility is probably top notch because I grew up doing high kick, and I got strength from muskox push, arm pull, and other games that help you endure pain, like the knuckle hop.”
The Little Spartan
At 5-3 and 125 lbs, Jarret Vornbrock comes by his nickname “Little Spartan” honestly. But two wins into his career, one by arm bar and one a ‘rear naked choke,’ and no losses, the flyweight fighter isn’t someone to mess with. The 21-year-old Yellowknifer, who grew up on Finlayson and in Kam Lake, started kickboxing and wrestling in high school. He’s competed in several kickboxing tournaments and a Jiu Jitsu tournament, and in 2011 he won silver in the Kickboxing Nationals, though he admits there weren’t too many fighters there in his weight class. With his background in wrestling, his strength is in his ground game, something seen in his two MMA fights, both of which ended in submissions in the second round.
It’s the first fight for Winnipegger Mitch Arrow, who’s been living in Yellowknife for four years. He grew up scrapping with his older brother (“He punched me out quite a bit”) and watching WWE, but didn’t start training in combat sports until he moved to Yellowknife. He began doing Taekwondo then moved to Arctic Combat Fitness where he’s focused on Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu. He says he’s a fairly well-rounded fighter, but he’s most proficient at Muay Thai. The 5-10 carpenter apprentice usually walks around town at 215 lbs, but he’s shed 10 lbs over the past few months to make the 205-weight class. He’ll be going head to head with another first-time fighter, Steve Hudey of Winnipeg. Asked if he’s nervous about his first fight, he shrugs it off: “Mostly I’m excited.”
Standing 6-3, Devon Tordoff is the tallest of the Yellowknife pack by a fair margin. The 25-year-old psychology student started Jiu Jitsu five years ago and has been doing MMA for two years. This will be his third fight. He won the first, which took place in Yellowknife in 2013, by decision after three rounds. But after injuring his pectoral tendon he wasn’t able to fight again until March of this year – a fight in Calgary that he lost, being “a bit rusty.” Now, after months of training – three kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu practices as well as a wrestling practice and two sparring sessions every week – he’s coming into this fight with confidence. “I’m not as nervous as I usually am. Though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”