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|Monroe wants, needs MMA|
As 3,000 fans converged on the Monroe Civic Center on Friday night for the Bellator Fighting Championship event, it became clear to everyone that this area is hungry for Mixed Martial Arts.
This city has not had an intense response for a fighting sports event since the spring of 1997 when World Championship Wrestling completely sold out the arena for a live national television event featuring appearances by such pro wrestling legends as Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger.
After Bellator IX saw their plans for a national television event in Montreal, Quebec, Canada fall through two weeks prior to show time, Bellator promotor Bjorn Rebney in found himself in a tight spot.
That is when Monroe mayor James Mayo came forward with a team of city officials ready to put the proper accommodations to have the ESPN Deportes event at the Monroe Civic Center.
The ticket sales were brisk and the enthusiasm was at a fever pitch in the short time the city and BFC had to promote the event around Ouachita Parish.
"To have this kind of response and crowd in a two week period is unbelievable," Rebney said from ringside. "I have been promoting fights for a long time, and something like this just does not happen. It was amazing and we will be back in the fall."
This will likely be music to the ears of many MMA fans in the area. It was to this journalist.
From the viewpoint of someone that has spent their entire life living in Ouachita Parish, one thing is clear: Monroe needs MMA just as much as MMA and their checking accounts need Monroe.
With a very nice 12,500-seat Centurytel Center opening in Bossier City eight years ago as well as Little Rock, Ark. opening the Alltel Arena around the same time, many top acts and big name events have taken their shows to those venues.
Times are changing in the south and this past Friday night Monroe finally caught a break. After all of the economic heartaches and the all the days of empty arena seats, the city of Monroe got their chance.
Ouachita Parish responded with a great crowd that stayed into the each fight throughout the evening.
3,000 tickets sold was a sellout on this night because ESPN had used each end of the arena for large high-definition video screens that made about 2,500 seats unavailable to sell to the public.
With so many modern arenas in surrounding markets, this event was significant for Ouachita Parish and the city of Monroe.
It allowed Monroe to establish themselves as a real player in landing future MMA events and big-name talents.
The response and love for MMA in this area was good news for the sports. It was just as big a triumph of staying relevant right here at home. With so many different people from different backgrounds coming together for this event, it reminded all of us who love this area one thing: we are all in this together.