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June 11, 2019 - 3:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, news, Batavia Downs, Ground Force Fights, mma, batavia.

Press release:

Representatives from Batavia Downs and Ground Force Fights today announced they will be holding a spot in Saturday’s MMA card at Batavia Downs for the Canadian pop star and American movie star to settle their differences in the cage.

On June 9th, Justin Bieber Tweeted; “I wanna challenge Tom Cruise to fight in the octagon. Tom if you dont take this fight you're scared and you will never live it down. Who is willing to put on the fight?”

Richard Mitchell, owner of Ground Force Fights, responds by saying: “We would welcome both Justin and Tom to compete at Throwdown at the Downs 2.0. Fights begin at 6 p.m. and we’d be happy to fit them onto the card whenever it’s convenient for them, given their busy schedules.”

It is unknown at this time why the 25-year-old Bieber decided to challenge the 56-year-old Cruise to the bout.

“Mr. Bieber hails from London, Ontario, while Mr. Cruise was born in Syracuse, New York,” said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing for Batavia Downs. “Batavia is a perfect place for them to meet in the middle to settle whatever this beef is about.

"Batavia has an airport where both celebrities and any entourages can fly in. If they call ahead we can even send our Batavia Downs Shuttle Bus to pick them up.”

Regardless of whether Bieber and Cruise make an appearance, tickets are on sale now for Throwdown at the Downs 2.0 atbataviaconcerts.com.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m.; event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 for General Admission and $55 for VIP seats closer to the cage.

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.

About Batavia Downs/WROTB

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia. WROTB owns and operates 17 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility.

Since its inception, Western Region OTB has generated more than $215 million in operating and surcharge revenues to the taxpayers of those participating municipalities.

About Ground Force Fights

Ground Force Fights is an amateur mixed martial arts organization based in Western New York. We aim to give the public some of the most exciting talent and amateur mixed martial arts shows. They strive to be the best for not only fighters, but fans as well.

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. 





August 28, 2013 - 9:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, boxing, Hands Up Gym, mma.

This weekend, MMA fighters from Hands Up Gym on Harvester Avenue had a strong showing at a tournament in Jamestown.

Josh McCarthy won his first bout.

From left are, William Rupp, who also won his first kickboxing bout, and fifth from the left on the top row is Shariff Vascianne who won his first boxing bout.

Gym owner Joe Bailey is holding up the Hands Up shirt.

This tournament was an exhibition so it does not count toward their record.

Also pictured, on the right, Alexander Colon Colon, who won a traditional boxing bout. Also pictured is Colon Colon's instructor, Mr. Platt. At the far right is Gaffar Adams who is the owner of the gym in Jamestown.

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