Anyone who likes fights would probably love the Fight Circus in Kansas City.
Fifteen mixed martial arts bouts, including both semi-pros and first-timers, were on the lineup Saturday night at Impact Elite Gym and MMA at 7932 N. Oak Trafficway.
The Fight Circus is riding the wave of MMA’s increasing popularity across the country. Earlier this year, a fight broadcast with MMA stars Conor McGregor and Dennis Siver drew 3.1 million viewers, more than the year’s biggest boxing matches.
Fighters such as UFC female bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey have become household names, with Rousey making headlines by feuding with boxer Floyd Mayweather.
Rousey was not in attendance Saturday at the Fight Circus. But she was represented by a cardboard cutout.
The Fight Circus, beyond being an MMA event, is a carnival with feats of strength — including weightlifters taking turns hoisting a Dodge Dart. It is a car and motorcycle show and a festival for local businesses, bands and food trucks, especially those from the Northland.
“Local everything,” said organizer Josh Baker. “You’re going to see a little bit of everything. That’s why we call it the circus.”
Now in its third year, Fight Circus is organized by Baker and Luke Prout, the owner of Impact Elite Gym. They usually put the event on twice a year. On Saturday, the event achieved its biggest turnout yet, Baker said, with 4,500 tickets sold and a 1,400-seat audience filled for the fights.
Some of the headliners were well known in the MMA world, with professional records. Danny Tims and Joe Estrada took top billing, while Jake Thompson of Salina, Kan., prepared to face Johnnie Roades. Thompson’s strategy was difficult for an outsider to understand.
“I’m just looking to stand up until it’s time to go to the ground,” he said.
Cody Sellers, on the other hand, prepared to step into the ring for the first time. Sellers, 22, of Lawrence, wrestled in high school and college but had never fought in public before.
“I’m excited, pumped,” Sellers said. “I’m feeling really prepared. I’ve put a lot of hard work into it.”
Outside, the Jeremy Nichols Band, of Kansas City, played while visitors checked out motorcycles and looked under the hoods of cars. Local businesses promoted deals under tents.
The event was billed as a family affair, with bouncy castles for children. The fights started at 7 p.m., followed by an after-party.
More Fight Circus events are to come, Baker said. He hopes to keep the event focused on promoting all things local.
For more information, call 816-716-4059.