CANMORE – A local martial artist's MMA debut is on pause following the cancellation of the fight card that was a few weeks away.
The Oct. 23 Rumble in the Cage 63 (RITC) on Tsuut’ina First Nation was called off last week and Canmore's Travis Erlam was to fight in an amateur middleweight (185 pounds) bout against Jason Kotlewski. The 35-year-old brown belt in jiu-jitsu was devastated by the outcome.
"Seriously sucks," said Erlam. "I wanted to go out and show what the small club in the mountains can do. Hopefully we can get another card together, I know Jason is up for taking the match whenever it comes up, hopefully sooner than later."
According to fight promotion RITC, the promoter tapped out of the event 16 days prior due to an updated venue requirement where fans, fighters and coaches attending RITC 63 at Seven Chiefs Sportsplex would need to provide proof of vaccination and that a 72-hour negative rapid test would no longer be allowed.
"We know that fighters and fans wouldn't have time to get a vaccine done now and meet the 14-day immunity timeline," RITC stated in a social media post on Oct. 7.
"RITC feels this is too restrictive and does not provide our athletes and spectators the proper time to make their own decisions on how they wish to proceed. With no other available venues, we are regrettably unable to proceed with RITC 63 at this time. ... We sincerely apologize and stand by our stance that people should have a choice."
The promotion added purchased tickets or cageside tables would be refunded.
In an email to the Outlook, Wayne Sugai, general manager of the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex, said RITC's event was cancelled "due to the promoter not having a fight permit 30 days before the event and he was not going to follow the facility and Nation COVID protocols."
Tsuu'tina's emergency response implemented a mandatory vaccination for everyone attending events on the nation.
"He was trying to run an event in 14 days and had no fight permit," Sugai said.
Tsuut’ina has its own combative sport commission and guidelines.
Lee Mein, promoter of RITC and Canadian MMA pioneer, said the way the guidelines are set up, the promoter needs approval from local police and fire departments to be issued a permit.
"We were waiting on them to get their part done to finalize everything. This is a very backwards process but we were working with the commission to make it happen," Mein said in an email.
Mein added that when the updated vaccination requirements occurred and voided the original agreement, he didn't agree to the last-minute change.
"Members on the commission weren’t happy about the change either, especially since it’s not a provincial or federal requirement," he said. "I don’t feel we need to be bullied to comply so I made a stand; they didn’t like it. Coercion can’t be allowed. So we will do our event another time and place. I wish them their best on future events."
Alberta's Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) allows for one shot and/or a negative COVID test to enter sports events until Oct. 25 – two days after the event would have been completed.
Prior to the event being cancelled, RITC 63 had 18 bouts scheduled, including Erlam against Crowsnest Pass' Kotlewski.
It's the second time a scheduled MMA bout between Erlam and Kotlewski was axed in 2021.
Founded in 2000 by Mein, RITC is Canada's longest running MMA promotion. Due to COVID-19, the Lethbridge-based company hasn't hosted a fight card since Oct. 2019, which Erlam competed on in a combat jiu-jitsu bout.