The Butte Brawl makes its return to the Butte Civic Center on Saturday night with 11 mixed martial arts bouts featuring 10 local fighters.
For the fighters involved, it's not just a chance to take on an opponent in front of a crowd. The Brawl is a culmination of all their work to reach this point, a journey made tougher due to many of the fighters working jobs and training in their free time to get in fighting shape.
"That part-time MMA fighter is a real tough position. When you’re full-time and that’s what you do for a living, that’s you’re job," said Kahl Clark, a trainer at the Streets of Butte gym, following a training session this week. "But these guys work one or two jobs or whatever they need to do to make a living. And then, after they get off work, they come in and train for two or three hours.
"That’s that extra opportunity. They’re trying to keep themselves in shape, and training and fighting is the best way to do that. It’s a lot of work to prepare for this to be in the right shape. It’s a lot of work, for sure."
But for the local fighters, it all pays off with the chance to fight in front of a hometown crowd that many fighters acknowledge is as knowledgeable and passionate as any place in Montana.
The Butte crowd's noise and energy gives local fighters who step into the cage an advantage, many of them say, and makes for a better environment to fight in.
"It’s fun because you’re in front of everyone that you know and, when they’re as knowledgable as they are, you know the cheering is authentic," said Butte figher Wes Ogan, who will make his pro debut at The Brawl. "Other places they cheer and enjoy it, but here they know why they’re cheering. It’s definitely a competition to them here."
That knowledge and passion is also why the Fightforce promotion hosts two events in Butte each year.
"Butte’s a great place to fight, the hometown crowd is awesome," Clark said.
"Butte’s a fighting community, that’s just how we are. This is a great place to fight. It’s great for them to be in front of their friends and family to show off all the hard work they’ve put in leading up to this."
The main event of the evening will be a champion-vs.-champion clash, but with just one of the titles on the line.
Butte's Sam Rauch, who claimed the Fightforce 170-pound title at the most recent Butte Brawl, will headline the card with a title fight against Kerry Lattimer of Pocatello, Idaho.
Lattimer will put his 155-pound title on the line, with Rauch dropping weight for the fight. Rauch said 155 is the weight he feels most comfortable at and thinks coming down in weight will give him an advantage against the smaller Lattimer, as will the home crowd.
"I suspect I’ll be the bigger man," Rauch said Thursday. "I’m about as big as you can be at 155. That’ll be nice to have the weight and size advantage, and have the hometown advantage."
But despite those perceived advantages, Rauch isn't taking his opponent lightly due to Lattimer's extensive experience in bigger promotions.
"I’ve watched a few things, I know he’s tough," Rauch said. "He comes forward, scraps and he’s well-rounded. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s fought some big names, and he brings it."
Rauch hope that a win can propel him onto bigger fights and promotions, acknowledging that for all the Butte Brawl has done for him, there is a limit to how far it can take him.
"It’d be nice to be a two-title champion in my home promotion," he said. "It’s a big deal and a step to the next show. I’ve fought on bigger cards and bigger shows and that’s where I want to go. It’s convenient to fight at home, but the cards are only so big."
In addition to Rauch and Ogan, other local fighters scheduled to appear Saturday night are Dan Heick in a bout at 145, Andrew Huckeby, also at 145, Teryn Green of Anaconda in one of two women's bouts on the card, Rober Lester at 140, Alex Sexton at 155, Brandon Brisbo also at 155, and Monty Klistoff of Anaconda who will fight Butte's Joey Murray at 170.
For the rest of the fighters on the card, they're hoping to break stereotypes about MMA and cage fighting not being an athletic endeavor, and hope that fans will come out to experience it for themselves.
"It’s not a brawl on the street or a fight on the street that lasts 15 seconds," Clark said. "These are actual athletes preparing for fights, that’s the biggest thing I’d like to pass along, and to demonstrate how hard they work."
The fights are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, and tickets are available at the Butte Civic Center Box Office.