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Strike Hard event at Ratliff Center Saturday

Strike Hard, a mixed martial arts promoter based out of Tuscaloosa, will hold its first event in Demopolis Saturday night at the Theo Ratliff Activity Center.

The combat sport, which matches various forms of striking and grappling martial arts, has gained significant popularity in the mainstream culture, prompting each state to look at ratifying a set of regulations and a governing body to oversee it.

“It is probably the ultimate form of fighting,” Strike Hard organizer Matt Leavell said. “Any typ of martial art forms that are out there, mixed martial arts encompasses them all. These guys are experts, usually in more than one form. It really is one of the most pure forms of combat out there.”

In its initial phases, many steered away from the sport, labeling it “barbaric” as most states refused to sanction the events. As the Ultimate Fighting Championship has gained steam in the mainstream media, fans have flocked toward it.

“There are rules to it. There are a loto f rules that protect the fighters,” Leavell said, explaining that MMA fighters suffer less head trauma than do traditional boxers given the sports design of mixing combat forms. “This is actually the No. 1 fastest growing sport in the United States right now. One of the main reasons for that is the nature of the sport. The nature of an MMA fight is to end it quickly, not to wear them down.”

As the state of Alabama looks at sanctioning the sport under a soon-to-be adopted set of rules, Strike Hard has an opportunity to move even more toward the forefront of Southeastern promoters given its decision to adopt the UFC rules, widely considered to be the most balanced guidelines in the industry.

“When we started, we wanted to make it as pleasant of an experience as possible for the fighters while still trying to put on the best show we can for the crowd,” Leavell said. “We adopted the UFC’s rules so that we could keep the fighters as safe as possible.”

Among its other ventures, Strike Hard organizers are hopeful of playing a role in bringing about a national tournament for amateur fighters, a prospect that seems daunting but may not be as improbable as once thought given the sport’s rapidly-widening popularity.

Saturday’s event at the Ratliff Center promises to give local MMA enthusiasts and those only mildly intrigued by the sport an opportunity to build on their curiosities.

“We work very hard to make it a production, not just a fight,” Leavell said. “We’re bringing guys in from all over Alabama. I know we’ve got some from Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida too.”

Doors open at 6 p.m. while the show is set to begin at 7. Tickets begin at $25.