Fredericton will be rolling with the punches in the next few months as the capital city prepares to host two combat sporting events between May and July.
"We're seeing it grow and it's not going away," said Coun. Steven Hicks, chair of the community services committee.
"It's getting bigger and bigger."
Fredericton council voted in February to let events such as mixed martial arts, boxing and kickboxing competitions to take place in municipally owned buildings.
'A game of skill'
"Words can't describe how we feel," said Andy Young, five-time world kickboxing and karate champion.
"It's a game of skill [and] for Fredericton to see that, it's a huge thing for all the fans."
Young owns Evolution Training Center, on Fredericton's north side, which plans a dual event — kickboxing and mixed martial arts — for May 6 at the Grant-Harvey Centre.
"Now to showcase my own students on a big stage in front of their hometown, it's unbelievable," said Young.
Over the past year, the Fredericton kickboxer has been working to get combat sports approved within the city.
"Everyone says the same thing — 'It's about time,'" he said. "It's a dream come true."
In an interview with Information Morning Fredericton, Hicks said the Combat Sports Act was not enacted in New Brunswick until 2012, and the sports were illegal before that.
Until 2015, Hicks said, Fredericton didn't have any applications to hold a combat sporting event in the city.
Then along came Brandon Brewer, two-time Canadian boxing champion, who recently held boxing matches at the Aitken Centre, bringing more than 3,500 people to the city.
"It gives me a lot of pride to be able to know that I get to have the privilege of giving people around here something to be excited about," Brewer said. "It's amazing to see people get excited about something around here … they're excited to go the Aitken Centre."
Brewer will be fighting May 27 at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton. His company, L-Jack Promotions Inc., will also be hosting a mixed martial arts event at the Grant Harvey Centre on July 29.
Someday Brewer hopes to see network television at these local events.
"I hope to be able to fight for a world championship in Fredericton and not only get myself known in the world but to get Fredericton, get New Brunswick known," he said.
More coming forward
Since then, more people have come forward, asking to hold similar events in venues such as Willie O'Ree Place, the Grant-Harvey Centre, York Arena and Lady Beaverbook Arena.
"It's a very popular mainstream sport now," Hicks said.
"It's heavily regulated, there's a lot of testing, the athletes go through physicals, they have drug tests, it's much more regulated than other … contact sports that are more mainstream."
Hicks said the city also looked at other municipalities, such as Moncton and Saint John, which have hosted similar events and haven't had problems.
He expects Fredericton's combat sporting events will draw athletes across the Maritimes, Canada and the United States.
Bobby Despres, director of sport tourism in Fredericton, hopes to see up to 2,000 people at each event a few times a year, which would boost tourism within the capital city.
"These sports are out of the mainstream world," he said. "But in the same breath they've grown in popularity to the point where they want to see it happen in Fredericton."