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Chris Oth | Knuckle Junkies

St. Louis welcomes Titan FC

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Fingers are crossed that under a starry sky at a picturesque venue, Titan Fighting Championships is prepped and set to make a sizeable splash in its St. Louis debut on Friday.

With a national broadcast on AXS TV (formerly HDNET), Titan 25 will take place Friday at Dwight Davis Tennis Center at Forest Park.

AXS TV will broadcast Titan 25 live nationwide starting at 10:00 p.m. ET. It will include six professional MMA bouts and seven amateur fights.

Titan 25 is being put together with the help of Rumble Time MMA.

"Anytime it's on live TV it makes it a huge event," Rumble Time MMA's Jim Jenkins said. "We're looking forward to showcasing St. Louis MMA to not only Titan and AXS but to the nation. We want to show that we have a strong community."

The last time a nationally televised MMA event was held in St. Louis was when Strikeforce came in December of 2010. All signs point to Friday to being one of the biggest, if not the biggest, MMA shows St. Louis has seen.

"I hope so," Titan CEO Joe Kelly said. "We believe it is, but we're a little biased. But this is the first of what are hopefully many big things on the horizon."

Friday will mark the St. Louis debut for Titan. Titan Fighting Championship is a Kansas City-based full-time Mixed Martial Arts promotion. Owned and operated by Kelly, Titan has promoted events since 2006. The goal from day one has been to promote and develop top up-and-coming fighters and provide a platform allowing them to take their respective careers to the next level. Among the fighters who have gotten their start with Titan include Michael Johnson, Jay Hieron, Rob Kimmons, Alan Belcher, Bobby Voelker, Rudy Bears, and James Krause. Fighters currently on the Titan roster that fans may be familiar with include, Jens Pulver, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, Jorge Santiago, Phil Baroni, and Bobby Lashley.

"Coming to St. Louis was a logical progression of our brand," Kelly said. "St. Louis is a great fight town with a rich history."

When it came to choosing a venue, Kelly felt that Forest Park was a special and unique location.

"It's different and it's just a cool area," he said. "We've done outside shows before and it is a little risky."

According to weather prognosticators, there are mixed signals but fingers are crossed that it will be a moisture-free evening on Friday. But if Mother Nature does shake things up, plans are in place to hold the event at a rain-free location possibly Ameristar Casino - so come hell or heavy rains, the show will go on.

And what a show it is.

Titan 25, which includes several UFC and Strikeforce veterans, will feature several of the Midwest's top-flight professional prospects who are eager to let leather fly on national TV.

The main event pits UFC veteran Tommy Speer against Strikeforce vet Zak Cummings. Cummings is looking to take this opportunity to make himself a household name among the MMA community. Speer received national exposure on The Ultimate Fighter 6: Team Hughes vs. Team Serra, fighting as a member of Team Hughes. While on The Ultimate Fighter, Speer defeated Jon Koppenhaver and Ben Saunders, both by unanimous decision. In his semifinal bout, he defeated George Sotiropoulos by KO in the first round, advancing him into the finals on December 8, 2007, to face fellow Team Hughes member Mac Danzig. Speer fought Danzig at The Ultimate Finale: Team Hughes vs. Team Serra, and lost by rear naked choke at 2:01 of the first round. On April 2, 2008 at UFC Fight Night 13, Speer lost to Anthony Johnson by KO in the first round. Speer was then released by the UFC after this loss.

The co-main event features featherweights, Ramiro "Junior" Hernandez versus undefeated Sean Soriano.

Also on the main card, local sensation, Jake "The Protoype" Collier, faces two time UFC veteran, Dustin Jacoby. We spoke with Collier last week and look for our interview with Jacoby on Thursday.

Also on the main card, undefeated Mirsad Bektic will take on Titan vet Kevin Croom.

St. Charles MMA's Zach "The Altar Boy" Freeman, looks to stay undefeated as he squares off with 20-year-old submission stud, Thomas Gifford. Look out for our in depth Q&A with Freeman on Wednesday.

Granite City's Ray Grindstaff faces Tachi Palace vet and recent assistant coach for UFC's Team Cruz, Alp Ozkilic, also from St. Charles MMA. Keep an eye out tomorrow for our interview with Ozkilic. We spoke Grindstaff last week about the event.

"With the quality of local flavor that we have on the card, I think the area fans are excited," Kelly said. "They want to see their hometown guys get their big break on TV."

For Jenkins, choosing which fighters from the area to put on the card was not an easy task, especially with only a handful of slots open.

"We were looking for the fighters who deserved the opportunity," Jenkins said. "We believe in the Gateway region and a lot of people wanted on the card and we understand their disappointment. But we felt like the pros who had six fights or more deserved the opportunity."

The amateur card is chalked full with local talent but due to unforeseen circumstances, some last-minute scrambling has had to be done to finalize the amateur portion of the show.

Tickets are available thru Metro Tix or by calling 314-267-2204. For more information on Titan Fighting Championship, visit

The pro fight card, as of Monday, includes:
Main Event: Tommy Speer vs. Zak Cummings
Co-Main: Ramiro Hernandez vs. Sean Soriano

Main Card:
Dustin Jacoby vs. Jake Collier
Thomas Gifford vs. Zach Freeman
Kevin Croom vs. Mirsad Bektic
Ray Grindstaff vs. Alp Ozkilic
Jeff Robinson vs. Junior Karanta