July 17th, 2024

Canadian promoter Unified MMA to hold two shows the same night in different cities

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on June 12, 2024.

Unified MMA founder and CEO Sunny Sareen is shown at Unified MMA 52, in Calgary, Alta., in a Sept. 8, 2023, handout photo. The Canadian promoter is holding two shows the same night on June 12, in Toronto and Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Unified MMA, GUHDAR ALI, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Putting on one mixed martial arts show is a challenge, with multiple fighters, trainers and officials involved. Holding two shows the same night doubles the degree of difficulty.

But that’s what Unified MMA plans Friday with Unified 57 in Toronto followed by Unified 58 in suburban Edmonton.

Necessity proved to be the mother of invention for the “Unified National” double bill, it seems.

“It’s not something that we wanted to do “¦ But with the amount of shows that we’re doing, sometimes between commissions and venues and availability with (broadcaster) UFC Fight Pass, there’s only so many dates you can go with,” said Unified president and founder Sunny Sareen.

He says it turned into a blessing in disguise, given the number of athletes Unified has under contract – currently 50 and growing – and who want to fight.

There are 10 bouts scheduled for Unified 57 at Toronto’s Rebel Entertainment Complex and nine at Unified 58 at the River Cree Resort and Casino in Enoch, Alta.

Sareen calls it “the biggest night in regional Canada combat sports in history.”

Cody Chovancek (6-0-0) of St. Catharines, Ont., faces American Gage (The Gremlin) Gill (6-0-O) for the Unified MMA bantamweight title in the Unified 57 main event. Tom (Big Nasty) O’Connor (13-2-0) of Lethbridge, Alta., takes on Calgary lightweight Ramil (Mr. Real Deal) Kamilov (7-0-0) in Unified 58’s marquee bout.

The Alberta main card will follow the end of the Toronto show, with both airing on UFC Fight Pass. The broadcast will cover five fights from Unified 57 and six from Unified 58.

Unified shows its undercards on its YouTube channel or OnlyFans page.

The promotion has two cages and Sareen says some of his team have taken on new roles to get things done. Just assembling the 38 fighters and their cornermen was a challenge, as is ensuring the shows end and start on time for the broadcast.

But he says the promotion is ready to pivot as needed fight night.

“Obviously when you have a timeline that is as strict as we’re trying to get thing done, some things pop up,” said Sareen, who will be at the Toronto show.

While there isn’t a title on the line in the Unified 58 main event, Sareen believes the winner could be in line for a UFC contract given the calibre of O’Connor and Kamilov.

“In my opinion, as a promoter, it’s a shoo-in for the winner to get in (the UFC),” said Sareen who believes the matchup is good enough for a UFC card.

He believes the winner of the Unified 57 main event could also land in the UFC.

“Prospects galore littered all over the (two) events,” Sareen added.

UFC president Dana White, in town for UFC 297 on Jan. 20 at Scotiabank Arena, took in Unified 55 in Toronto the night before for an episode of “Lookin’ for a Fight,” an online series that is part-talent hunt and part-travelogue.

The UFC reached out to Unified during the pandemic, looking for content. It started by airing four Unified shows a year on Fight Pass, its streaming service, but has since grown to 10 with plans to increase the number.

Sareen says the UFC has helped Unified improve its broadcast production and the Canadian promotion plans to continue staging shows the night before the UFC when it comes to Ontario and Alberta.

Unified started in 2009 as a hobby for the 39-year-old Sareen but has become his business.

“As the support grew, we grew,” he said.

Unified plans 18 to 20 shows over this year and next. Enoch is the promotion’s prime venue with Toronto a recent addition. And Unified plans to return to Calgary, visit Red Deer and add Quebec in the months ahead.

Sareen’s company, which now also stages boxing cards, has come a long way from the days of putting flyers on cars.

“The first four or five shows that we did, we didn’t make any money,” he said.

But while others left, he stuck with it.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2024.

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