Started as a way to promote local fighters, Rise and Conquer has snowballed into a popular event in the fighting calendar and has outgrown its original home to host its 11th fight card at Rainton Arena.
Taking place on Saturday, October 1, Rise and Conquer 11 features a whole evening of sporting entertainment from 4pm, with 20 fights in total including four professional fights on the main card.
Training is hotting up at the home of the event, TFT MMA gym in Seaham, under coach and fighter Andrew Fisher who runs the event with Carl and Toni Liddle.
“I started the night a few years ago because there wasn’t much happening up here, and it’s really grown in popularity since then,” said the fighter, who fights with Bellator.
As well as coaching the fighters, he is training for his next big bout against the number eight in the world-ranked Justin Gonzales in Madrid on October 29.
“Fortunately, I like being busy,” he said. “This really doesn’t feel like work to me, because I enjoy it so much. I moved the gym to this unit about six years ago and it’s amazing to see so many fighters doing well. We have professionals from around the country who come here just to train, it’s great.”
Jimmy Bamborough, 28, from Hylton Castle, is one of the amateurs who will be stepping into the cage when he takes on Jackson Clarke in a welterweight bout.
“Training is going really well,” said Jimmy, who is sponsored by The Wolsey in Roker and Master Debonair. “I love training anyway. For me, the hard part is cutting weight. I always have quite a lot of weight to lose so all the good food is out of the window. But in terms of being in a routine, I love being in here day in and day out.”
Speaking about returning to the ring, Jimmy, who runs his own GymBam fitness business with regular classes at Fitness 2000 in Roker, said: “My last fight was last November. I won, but I broke my foot in that fight so I had to have some time out of training, which wasn’t good because I put all the weight back on. So getting back into training is really tough as everyone in here is really high level so when you have a bit time off you feel a million miles away, but once you’re into it you feel great.”
Jimmy, who is dad to Jett, six, and Bodhi, two, added: “For an amateur like myself to fight on a show which gets so much recognition and publicity with the standard of pro fights, and amateur fights, is a great card to be part of. It’s always well organized as well.”
Andrew’s fiancée Katrina King, who co-runs the gym with him, is one of the female fighters taking part in the event when she takes on Megan Halliday in a catchweight bout.
Speaking about how she got into MMA, Katrina, who is mum to Theia, 18 months, and step-mum to Andrew’s children Maggie, three; Grace, 14 and Nate, 11, said: “I’d always been into fitness before, but had suffered with body dysmorphia and eating disorders. But MMA made me feel really strong and powerful and really cured that. It’s so addictive, when you’re in the gym all you think about is training and it’s a super supportive sport.
“When I first started there wasn’t that many females to spar with, but that’s changing, and we run a women’s class here that’s really popular. You see other women getting into other martial arts, not just MMA, a lot more are doing jiu jitsu and grappling, too.”
As well as women’s class, the gym in Strangford Road runs junior MMA classes, for four to seven-year-olds, and seven to 16-year-olds, called Little Fishers.
“The classes have a great energy about them,” said Katrina. “It’s a really great sport for kids as you can really see their confidence improve class on class, it’s really rewarding.”
The pro fights on the main card at next week’s Rise and Conquer are Jose Kikumbi vs Lewis Monarch in an 80kg catchweight bout, Jose Garcia vs Tony Mustard in a heavyweight bout, bantamweights Alexander Gudbrandson vs Nathan Haywood and Ryan Taylor vs Paul Hartburn.
*Tickets for Rise and Conquer 11 at Rainton Arena on Saturday, October 1 are £25 for standard, £35 for seated and £50 for VIP table. Tickets are available from Skiddle.