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MMASF: Sauer vs Robinson - Event Preview

By Matt Frazier | Knuckle Junkies

With the recent growth in popularity of professional kickboxing, Jim Jenkins and MMASF are bringing it back to the region with an all kickboxing affair Friday at the Heart of St. Charles.

Jenkins, a well-known MMA promoter in the St. Louis area, actually got his start with professional kickboxing and full contact karate almost 20 years ago.

"We were doing pro kickboxing shows back in the last 90's, we had guys that were World Champions like Ernie Kitterman and Steve Snipes, and even a few US champions," Jenkins said. "Robert Tillman Jr and Canton Miller, Bob Biggs were also some of of the big names from that era."

While the sport flourished locally, it only had brief flirtations with mainstream nationwide success.

"Kickboxing got really big for just a brief moment, it was even on CBS. Then it faded off for a while." Jenkins said. "It never took off completely. There were too many organizations, and it was far too fragmented so nobody got any TV deals, but for a while full contact was a pretty big deal."

Today's modern kickboxing is much different from that of his predecessor.

"The old days, it was a lot different." Jenkins said. "Now you see Glory and stuff like that. Kickboxing in those days was a lot different. In full-contact rules, only kicking above the waist was allowed. Then it changed it to "international rules" which included leg kicks. You did not have knees or elbows."

With the rising popularity of pro kickboxing on the national level thanks to organizations like Glory and K-1, Jenkins sees an opportunity to revisit a sport he loves and also give back to some deserving individuals with professional opportunities.

"I've always loved kickboxing." Jenkins said. "The resurgence with Glory has introduced the sport to new people. One of the reason for this is I've been committed to give people who were deserving their pro debuts."

In putting together the show, Jenkins found there was no shortage of people willing to fight.

"I've had a flood of phone calls from MMA guys who wanted a pay day, but I'd rather focus on fighters that want to be kickboxers for this kind of show." Jenkins said. "The pace and the action is fast. The amateurs obviously have to wear headgear and shin guards, but the kind of stuff you'll be seeing will be great."

Jenkins and his partners from MMA Sport Federation will be teaming up with World Association of Kickboxing Orginizations (WAKO), a truly global organization that has hosted events on almost every continent.

"Kickboxing is huge right now over seas, K-1 is huge." Jenkins said. "In other countries, they have fights going on all the time. WAKO has both international and national tournaments which include all disciplines including kickboxing, MMA, and full-contact karate. They have over 3,000 competitors for the upcoming Irish Invitational."

Jenkins believes partnering with WAKO provides even more opportunities for local fighters to fight at the national and international level.

"Coming up this year WAKO has the North American Championships coming up and then the Pan Ams Games." Jenkins said. "The only way to get into the Pan Ams is to go through WAKO, and if you win the Pan Ams you get a free trip to China. "

For Friday's card, Jenkins has pulled together a group of eight talented strikers for what should be an exciting night.

The main event will feature K-1 alum "Dirty" Doug Sauer taking on Jeff Robinson. Robinson is a towering 6-foot-7 beast and will have the size and reach advantage when he takes on the veteran Sauer.

Sauer (9-4) from Troy, last competed in September of 2012 when he traveled to California to take on James Wilson in the K-1 Grand Prix Los Angeles. While things didn't go his way on the night, it is still an impressive notch on the resume competing in an organization that has crowned champs like Remy Bonjasky, Alistar Overeem, Semmy Schilt, and Mark Hunt.

Robinson has had over 20 amateur fights. With the exception of a handful of MMA fights, his professional resume is pretty limited, but Jenkins is confident with the fact he comes from a kickboxing background that he will be well prepared.

"This match-up is the veteran making his comeback taking on a big upcoming kid." Jenkins said.

The main card will also feature three fighters who have similar stories. Kirk Huff, Elmir Kulosman, and Quinton O'Brien were all influenced heavily by local Muay Thai trainer Fuad Keranovic, and some still train with him today. O'Brien and Kulosman will be making their pro combat debuts on Friday against tough opponents.

The Bosnian-born Kulosman now trains and works at Watson Martial Arts as one if it's main striking instructors. Kulosman flirted with MMA in 2013, but after difficulties finding opponents to show up due to his impressive Muay Thai record, decided to make the jump to the pros.

O'Brien, along with Patrick Christie, are the head Muay Thai trainers at St. Charles MMA and Vaghi Martial Arts and have been influential in the careers of the UFC's Josh Sampo among others.

Of the eight pro fighters on the main card, the 32-year old O'Brien is by far the most decorated amateur. Since he begun his career in 2008 he has won the Thai Boxing Association National Tournament three years in a row in his weight class. He has also won the WKA Nationals in K1 in 2013, then traveled to Italy where he took home the title in both K1 and Muay Thai at the WKA / WTKA Unified Worlds.

"Frankly, I'm not getting any younger, but I didn't want age to drive my decision to go pro." O'Brien said. "I wanted to go pro when I'm ready. When you go pro your record resets, there's no more resets after that. I wanted to learn my lessons before going pro, not after I was a pro."

After a long an successful amateur career, O'Brien feels the time is right to make the jump.

"For me it was always part of a long process." O'Brien said. "I could've gone pro two years ago, but I wanted to refine my game. Lots of MMA guys rush to go pro, but Muay Thai is a long process."

During his five-year amateur career O'Brien has racked up a combined record of 24-7 and has fought some of the best in the world.

"I've fought guys who finished in the top three nationally for Golden Gloves, and a guy who currrently fights in the UFC, as well as the current number three middleweight in the world for Glory." O'Brien said.

On Friday O'Brien will be face Frank Sloan. Sloan was 12-2 as an amateur in MMA including wins over O'Brien's teammate Matt Helm and top regional pro Javon Wright.

Another one of O'Brien's teammates, Kirk Huff, will also be on the card. Huff made the jump to the pros last March. In 2013 Huff notched two wins in MMA as well as a victory in pro boxing. This will be the K1 debut for Huff who has stated on numerous occasions that he plans on competing in all facets of combat sports.

On the amateur portion of the card, Cort Wahle and Jake Duff will server as the main attraction on the preliminary card. Wahle has been doing combat sports since he was a kid, literally, and as he approaches his 19th birthday, he could be facing his toughest challenge yet in the form of Jake Duff from Troy. Duff, a teammate of Doug Sauer will bring a lot more experience into the contest, but will have to deal with a younger, quicker version of himself. This fight should be fireworks.

Also on the under-card is a match-up of Erion Zekthi and Garrett Armfield. There is more buzz than a beehive surrounding Zekthi, and he has many in the area excited about his progress as a young fighter. He will get no easy fight with Armfield, a very dangerous striker who according to some reports, has been giving some of the pros at Berger's MMA some quality work.

According to Jenkins, tickets are still available in limited quantities and can be purchased by calling (314) 267-2204.

"We're down to our last 50 tickets." Jenkins said. "Don't count on showing up at my door."

Plans have already begun for a second kickboxing event in May.

"If this takes off, we're looking at May 2nd for a follow-up." Jenkins said.

Here is the full fight card:

Doug Sauer vs Jeff Robinson
Kirk Huff vs Mateo Collazo
Quinton O'Brien vs Frank Sloan
Elmir Kulosman vs Colton Creason

Cort Wahle vs Jake Duff
Garrett Armfield vs Erion Zekthi
Quentin Garrison vs Bryant Hurt
Nathan Dieckman vs Rodell Thomas
Corey King vs Brandon Jones
Jack Elston vs Anthony Hostetler
Bart Johnson vs Jeff Kankolenski
Matthew Evans vs Jarod Overby
Ethan Miller vs Jackson Jarboe

MMASF Presents: Sauer vs Robinson - Pro/AM Kickboxing
Friday, February 21st
Heart of St. Charles - St. Charles, MO