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Former pro Vargas sees a future in combined boxing-MMA events

For years as a boxer, Fernando Vargas never really liked doing interviews. He preferred to leave the talking to the promoters while he stuck to performing in the ring.

Vargas (26-5, 22 KO), a two-time world champion, only wanted to fight and cut out everything else.

“I wanted to focus and block it all out,” Vargas said.

Now Vargas, a retired boxer turned promoter, has a different mindset. He’s approaching the business side with the same intensity he possessed as a fighter, but for the first time in his career, Vargas has no problem doing all the talking.

“I’m content with the promoting side,” Vargas said. “I was a world champion fighter, but I’m excited about this now.”

His attention has shifted toward attracting attention to his latest professional endeavor — combining boxing and mixed martial arts fights into an all-in-one ticket.

“Now I could do 100 interviews and I have no problem with it,” Vargas said. “I’m doing something now I would never be doing as a fighter.”

Vargas is busy spreading the word about his upcoming event, Worlds Collide, which will debut Saturday at Buffalo Bill’s Resort in Primm. Vargas teamed up with Roy Englebrecht Events for the Worlds Collide tournament, which will bring boxing and MMA fights into the same ring.

Promoters have thrown around the idea of combining the sports into same-venue events, but the proposal has yet to take place on a major scale.

Vargas hopes to change that.

“I get to have my first love in boxing and you get mixed martial arts, so you get the best of both worlds,” Vargas said. “This has never been done before where we’re putting the two sports alternating.”

Worlds Collide, the six-show series that features young fighters with fewer than 10 professional fights, will alternate between boxing and MMA fights during each bout.

The Thomas & Mack Center hosted an event with boxing and MMA on the same ticket last year, but the event featured the boxing fights first and then the MMA fights. Without alternating between sports, few fans stayed to see both.

Vargas and Englebrecht hope the alternating-sport format of Worlds Collide will expand the attraction for both sports.

“I’m definitely interested to see how fans respond to it,” Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer said. “Certain aspects of both boxing and MMA carry over in this sport, so I guess the fan base probably can as well.”

MMA has grown tremendously in recent years, especially with the younger audience. Ultimate Fighting Championship events rival boxing in ticket and pay-per-view sales. Some think MMA will overtake boxing as the marquee fighting sport.

Vargas understands the attraction of MMA, but still thinks boxing is king.

“MMA is the newest craze in the entertainment world,” Vargas said. “MMA is a legalized street fight and everyone loves to see a fight.”

With the attraction to MMA rising, some on the business side of fighting are ripe to the thought of combining forces with boxing. Others argue that the sports have different audiences for a reason, and they attract different demographics.

Vargas says bringing the two sports together would benefit both and also create a mega-event for fans.

“The appeal is there,” Vargas said. “It’s never been done on a big stage so I’m excited about it.” And, if the two sports succeed at bringing together major events, Vargas said, “the interest would be bananas.”

The Worlds Collide Tournament will feature three weight categories for each sport, and each weight class will have eight boxers and MMA fighters. The winner of the tournament for each weight class will take home $10,000.

Vargas last fought professionally in a majority decision loss against Ricardo Mayorga in 2007.

Category: Las Vegas Sun

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