Local Matters

Community Sponsors

Mixed Martial Arts

June 24, 2018 - 2:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mma, Mixed Martial Arts, Batavia Downs, Ground Force Fights, sports.


In the main event at the "Throwdown at the Downs" mixed martial arts event, with 24 fighters on the card, Tom Shelby, of Le Roy, who came into the fight 2-0, was KO'd in the second round by Yuri Panferov.

Panferov, now 3-0, claimed the Ground Force Fights Cruiser Heavyweight title.

Shelby was hurt early in the second round when Panferov wrestled him to the mat against a cage wall and landed a couple of punches to Shelby's head (see two pictures below). Shelby got up and continued to fight but with less energy.

Panfervo landed a punch (above) that sent Shelby down and the referee immediately waved off the fight. Shelby was attended to by a ringside doctor and Mercy EMS personnel but walked from the ring on his own, bloodied but alert.

Paid attendance was 700.

UPDATE: The official results of the fights:

  • Gray Hendershott wins over Zak Sucharski by armbar in the Submission grappling match;
  • Jason Pilkenton over John Gear Gart via Round 1 TKO, 1:11 kickboxing match; 
  • Eric Bonner over Maxeron Dorn via unanimous decision;
  • Anthony Gugino over Kenny Hale via Round 1 Submission 1:17;
  • Brendan Kennedy over Steven Kleckler via Round 1 Submission 1:03;
  • Marcus Dunn over John Doyle via unanimous decision;
  • John Piersma over Benjamin Horton via Round 1 TKO 2:10;
  • Tim Cronk over Alex Carroll via Round 1 Knock Out :15 Heavyweight title fight;
  • Mark Murray over Bert Forney via Round 2 TKO 2:53 Lightweight title fight;
  • Jon Marconi over Travis Streeter via Round 1 Knock Out  :14 Super Heavyweight title fight;
  • Brad Vargasson over Matt Norstrand via Round 2 Submission 1:11 Middleweight title fight;
  • Yuri Panferov over Tom Shelby via Round 2 Knock Out 2:59 Cruiser Heavyweight title fight. 






Local favorite Matt Norstrand, who entered the ring at 3-1, before his Middleweight title fight against Brad Vargasson (5-4). Norstrand, who seemed in control of the fight during the first round, tapped out early in the second after Vargasson got him in a stranglehold (third photo below).





Mark Murray and Bert Forney. Murray claimed the Lightweight title.




John Marconi celebrates with his fans his KO victory seconds into the first round over Travis Streeter. Marconi is now 3-4 and the Ground Force Fights' Super Heavyweight champion. Streeter is 1-1.

May 25, 2018 - 3:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mma, Mixed Martial Arts, Batavia Downs, sports, news.


Promoter Richard Mitchell, of Ground Force Fights, is promising an exciting night of mixed martial arts fights June 23 at Batavia Downs.

"It's going to be fun," Mitchell said at a press conference at Batavia Downs this afternoon. "Be prepared to be excited the whole night and to be on your feet. It's going to be going to be 20 plus exciting fights."

Local fighters on the card for that night include Matt Norstrand, Le Roy, Quentin Marozzi, Caledonia, Tim Shelby Le Roy, Brandon Sarkis, Pavilion, Kenny Hale, Jake Hixenbaugh, and Grady Wall, all from Bergen, and Steven Kleckler, Batavia.

Though the card isn't limited to just local fighters.

"We also have fighters come from all over the world, actually," Mitchell said. "We have about six different states represented and we have a team coming from India to fight on the card."

With the marketing power of Batavia Downs behind the fights, Mitchell said he expects the fighters participating will grapple in front of twice as many fans that the three previous Ground Force-promoted events.

Batavia Downs hosting an MMA event is just giving the venue's patrons what they want, said Henry Wojtaszek (speaking in the top photo), president and CEO of Western OTB.

"We have a lot of the UFC fights here (on TV) and it's a place where people come locally to watch the sport," Wojtaszek said. "We were introduced to Richard and we're very impressed with his organization and his ability to put this card together and so we're very happy to partner with him.

"We've watched the growth of MMA here in New York State and it's very, very popular and we're giving the people what they want to see here at Batavia Downs."

One of the local fighters, Norstrand, who stands at 4-1, will be defending his division's title and he's grateful for the chance to do it in front of a big crowd.

"I've got a long history of trying to fight in New York and with them finally lifting the laws against it, it has helped me out immensely," Norstrand said. "I've got a bunch of fights within the last year and a half and Rich has been a great help and good in lining up fights and good fights for me.

"I'm happy to be here part of a new event for him and a new place to do it. All of my fans are definitely excited to be here."

Marozzi is going to try and grab the title at the 135 pound weight class. He plans on this being his last amateur fight before turning pro.

"I've been training really hard for the last eight months, really focused on being undefeated in this weight class of 135-140, so I really look forward to going back to my class of 135 to show people that first, I've been training, and second, to get this pro going," Marozzi said.

"This is supposed to be my last fight before I go pro, so I'm really trying to bring the heat and show the skills my coaches have put into me."

(For yesterday's press release on the June 23 MMA event at Batavia Downs, including ticket prices, click here.)


Richard Mitchell


Matt Norstrand


At far left is Quentin Marozzi.

May 24, 2018 - 10:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, mma, Mixed Martial Arts, Ground Force Fights.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced that Ground Force Fight’s “Throwdown at the Downs” event will take place on Saturday, June 23rd. A press conference in the Batavia Downs Lobby with local fighters from the event will start at noon on Friday, May 25th.

“We are excited to host our first MMA event on the track,” said Henry Wojtaszek, CEO/president at Batavia Downs Gaming. “Ground Force Fights has a history of putting on exciting shows and we’re pleased to be providing a new space in which they can entertain the passionate MMA fans of Western New York.”

Bouts include: Tom Shelby of Le Roy vs. Yuri Panferov of North Haven, Conn., for Cruiser heavyweight Title; Grady Wall of Bergen vs. Xi Lau of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for the flyweight title; and Quentin Marozzi of Caledonia vs. Teshay Gouthro of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, for the bantamweight title.

“Partnering with Batavia Downs is something we’ve talked about for a long time,’ said Richard Mitchell, owner of Ground Force Fights. “We’re looking forward to putting on our first outdoor show and invite the public to come root on the many local fighters who will be taking part in the event.”

Tickets are $35 for General Admission and $55 for VIP seats closer to the cage. Tickets are on sale now at bataviaconcerts.com

Doors open at 4:30 p.m.; event starts at 6.

Lawn chairs (which are normally permitted for other Batavia Downs events) are NOT permitted for this event. There will be limited chairs and bleacher seating available.

Each concert ticket is also redeemable once at Player’s Club in the three days following the event for $15 Free Play to be used on one of Batavia Downs Gaming’s 800+ gaming machines.

March 27, 2017 - 11:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Mixed Martial Arts, mma, sports, batavia, Le Roy.


Ground Force Fights hosted its second mixed martial arts tournament at Quality Inn & Suites on Saturday night.

Here are the results of the fights:

  • Jeremy Stopa vs. Dave Scerbo -- submission grappling match -- draw at the end of 10-minute match
  • Jim Perl defeated John Gearhart round one, submission due to strikes
  • Nolan Brant defeated Mike Taylor, :57 round one, TKO/ref stoppage
  • Eric Bonner defeated Shawn Henderson, round two, referee stoppage due to strikes
  • Ben Horton defeated Jesse Neal, round two, TKO/ref stoppage
  • DaJuan Robinson defeated Sequoyah Sethi, round one TKO
  • Matt Norstrand defeated Pete Flanagan, ref stoppage -- guillotine choke
  • Matvei Skvortsov defeated Corey Lauth, round one, ref stoppage -- guillotine choke
  • Jillian Decoursey defeated Emme Weber by unanimous decision
Top photo: Cory Lauth, of Pembroke, throws a kick during his match vs. Matvei Skvortsov.

Photos by Richie Casado.


Pete Flanagan, of Batavia, throws a punch during his match against Matt Norstrand.


Emme Weber vs. Jillian Decoursey.


Matt Norstrand, of Le Roy, won the title at 185 pounds.

March 1, 2017 - 2:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mma, Mixed Martial Arts, sports, batavia, news.


Mixed Martial Arts returns to Batavia March 25 with a 16-fight card from local promoter Ground Force Fights at Quality Inn & Suites.

The card includes title fights, including two female title fights.

Three Batavia fighters will be competing. Pictured above are promoter Richard Mitchell and local fighters Steven Kleckler, Kevin James Hodge and Peter Flanagan.

For more information and tickets, visit groundforcefights.com

Previously: Batavia's first MMA event draws capacity crowd

December 17, 2016 - 11:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mma, sports, Mixed Martial Arts, batavia, news, Ground Force Fights.


It's only been a few months since it became legal to hold mixed martial arts events in New York, and one of the first such events in the state drew a sellout crowd in Batavia tonight at the Quality Inn and Suites.

Le Roy resident Richard Mitchell, owner of Ground Force Fights and himself a former professional MMA fighter, was the event's promoter.

First three photos, Mark Murry vs. John Gearhart. Murray won at 1:30 in the first round due to strikes.

In the dual main events, Morgan Cavanaugh vs, Eddie Ortiz Junior. Ortiz won at 1:55 in round 1.  Tom Shelby beat Nick Phelps at 1:55 in round 1.

Previously: Local promoter bringing one of the state's first MMA events to Batavia








Two photos above, Sean Keough vs. Yuri Panferov. Panferov won at 1:15 in round 1 after a verbal tapout by Keough. 





November 23, 2016 - 12:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Mixed Martial Arts, sports, batavia, Le Roy, news.


Since Sept. 1, mixed martial arts competitions have been legal in New York, and Batavia will be at the forefront next month of hosting tournaments.

Rich Mitchell, of Le Roy, and originally from Stafford (far right in photo) is a former professional MMA fighter and for the past five years has judged fights. Now he's moving into the promotional side of the business, sponsoring his first tournament Dec. 17 at the Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

"I’ve been involved with this sport and it was just time (to become a promoter)," Mitchell said. "It’s a natural progression."

There was a promoter in Buffalo, but he's become a deputy commissioner for the sport in New York, so that opened up the WNY market to competition.

Mitchell is planning on promoting six events a year, three in Batavia and three in Buffalo.

At first, the events will be all amateur bouts because professional fights, especially for insurance, are a lot more expensive to stage, but moving up into the promotion of professional fights is definitely part of the plan, Mitchell said.

"It's a little way off," Mitchell said, "maybe a year or two."

The event Dec. 17 starts at 6 p.m. and will feature Morgan Cavanach and Tom Shelby. Tickets are $30 pre-sale, $35 at the door, and VIP cage-seats are $50.

For more information, visit groundforcefights.com.

Top photo: Eddie Ortiz and Pete Flanagan, both on the left, are two of the local fighters who will participate Dec. 17. Joe Loftus, second from right, was originally on the card but will have to sit out because of an injury; and Mitchell.

Bottom photo: Wrestling students and MMA participants at Main Street Fitness, Le Roy.


June 6, 2013 - 1:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, Mixed Martial Arts, boxing.

Wanna box?

Now you can.

For the first time in a decade or more, Batavia has a gym with a boxing ring.

Hands Up MMA, like the name says, isn't just about the sweet science, but owner Joseph Bailey (top photo) said with his lifelong love of boxing and Batavia's once rich tradition of boxing, it was important to him to bring boxing back to the city.

Bailey is a fan of boxing, but his passion is for mixed martial arts and he believes that is a sport that will only grow locally and throughout the state.

"Some people view that sport as gruesome and violent -- those who don't have a full understanding of the sport, but it's just as competitive as rugby would be, or hockey or lacrosse," Bailey said.

The gym, which officially opened today in the Harvester Center, provides a well-rounded workout with bags, ropes, tires, climbing walls, for anybody interested in combat sports.

Several young fighters found the gym while Bailey was still building it and started working out with him. At least four of them are planning to compete for the first time in a MMA tournament in Rochester on Sept. 29.

"We offer training in kickboxing, jiu jitsu, wrestling, boxing and we try to incorporate it all together," Bailey said. "We'll also offer self-defense training and a course on knife and gun disarming that will be taught by a Green Beret."

The gym is already drawing a diverse group of people.

William Sutton is a Purple Heart-decorated Army veteran who honed his fighting skills by training to become an Army instructor in hand-to-hand combat.

During a tour of duty in Korea, he found boxing and MMA were big with the troops there. He was 13-0 as a boxer and 2-0 in MMA.

"Growing up in Batavia, it wasn't like it is nowadays," Sutton said. "Growing up in Batavia, a lot of times we would fight before school. We would fight after school. Fighting was a big part of Batavia. It's a tough town to grow up in. I've been fighting my whole life and I just continued that in the Army."

Sutton was wounded in Afghanistan and is now retired from military service. The injury and his commitment to the Veterans Administration prevents him from ever again fighting competitively and he's limited by military obligations in what he can teach, but working out in a gym of fighters appeals to him.

"Everybody who comes to an MMA gym seems to be just more humble," Sutton said. "People that go to a regular gym, you know, walk around trying to impress each other. At an MMA gym, all that BS is just put aside because we can put on the gloves and go in the ring. Put your hands up. Talking and stuff don't go here."

All his experience and success, though, puts Sutton in a position to help young fighters and he said he's always happy to train with them and answer questions and offer pointers to those willing to listen.

Bailey really hopes Hands Up becomes a vehicle for promoting boxing in Batavia. He plans to hold regular tournaments involving gym members that will be open to the public.

"Boxing used to have a big history in the City of Batavia," Bailey said. "The community is unaware of that and what I would like to do is get members of the gym to spare and promote boxing and hopefully get some viewers in to watch tournaments."

As we spoke, an older gentleman walked past the front windows and you could see his eyes light up as he looked inside.

There was little doubt, he was a boxer.

The first thing Robert Janes (top inset photo) did when he walked in was hit the speed bag. Later, he would say it was the first time in 13 years he punched a speed bag.

A native of Palm Springs, Calif., Janes was involved in Golden Gloves in the early 1970s.

Now living in Stafford and working pouring concrete, Janes was clearly thrilled to be in a boxing gym again and he said he can't wait to start working out there.

"I just want to stay healthy," Janes said. "I want to keep my head right. Any time I was ever in the gym, any time I was ever involved in any kind of organized boxing, I was good. Once I walked way from that, I was in big trouble. Now I'm 60 years old. I want to come back to it. I want to bring my granddaughter and my grandson into it."

NOTE: I want to do a story about the boxing in Batavia in the 20th Century. I have a copy of a book by Butch Zito, but I would like to find old pictures and other memorabilia. Few, if any, of the former boxers are still alive, but perhaps sons and daughters have memories about their boxing relatives to share. Write to me at [email protected]

William Sutton

Tim McCullough, from Batavia, and Sutton.

Also pictured in the slide show training is Josh McCarthy of Batavia (wearing yellow).

Subscribe to




Copyright © 2008-2020 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service

blue button