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KC-area MMA fighters get chance to fight at home

Demetrious Johnson (right) sparred with trainer Brad Kertson last year.
Demetrious Johnson (right) sparred with trainer Brad Kertson last year. dperine@thenewstrib

Tim Elliott is a well-known face in mixed-martial arts circles, with an appearance on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show and a UFC flyweight title bout appearance on his resume.

Elliott, a Wichita native, has fought out of Lee’s Summit for the past six years. His face is recognized in big-time fight cities, but not so much around his adopted hometown.

Elliott hopes that Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card at the Sprint Center changes that for him and rest of the MMA fighters who call Kansas City home. This marks the first time the UFC, the premier promotion in mixed-martial arts, brought a show to the state of Missouri.

“I’m hoping with the UFC coming to Kansas City, more people will realize KC is hub for fighting. Some of best fighters right here, locally,” Elliott said. “I want to bring more of a fight following here. I didn’t realize how little it was until I spent some time out in Las Vegas.”

Elliott (14-7-1) takes on Hawaii native Louis Smolka in his first fight since losing a unanimous decision to UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson in December. Elliott learned a lot from his title bout appearance.

“That experience was life-changing. I didn’t get the results I wanted, but got to go out and fight against the best pound-for-pound fighter, it let me know where I need to be,” Elliott said. “I didn’t win, but I gained some fans and learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of.”

Zak Cummings moved to Kansas City from Springfield six years ago. He’s been busy since then, opening up Glory MMA & Fitness in Liberty and amassing a 20-5 professional record. Cummings will take on Nathan Coy in the second fight on the card.

“I know it’s a growing sport. It would be really, really nice if the Kansas City sports fans got onboard and understand how big of a deal it is,” Cummings said. “It’s a worldwide promotion and a well-done production. When it gets here and they see it, I think it could change some minds. I’m excited for that.”

The main event features Johnson defending his flyweight title against Wilson Reis. Johnson, widely considered to be the UFC’s best fighter, is making his first appearance since defeating Elliott.

That’s preceded by a women’s strawweight bout between Michelle Waterson and Rose Namajunas. The card begins at 3 p.m. with fights streamed on UFC Fight Pass. Prelims, which will air on FS1, begin at 5 p.m., with the main card starting at 7 p.m. on FOX.

“I think that the UFC coming here this once is going to boost people’s knowledge,” Elliott said. “These are good matchups and should be good fights. This is a huge, huge deal, not just for MMA in Kansas City, but for all the fighters that live here.”

UFC

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Sprint Center

Tickets: Available at axs.com, cost is between $40 and $200.

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