TORONTO — Sunny Sareen is a busy man these days.
The Unified MMA president is in the midst of putting on three fight cards in 15 days, a run that started Dec. 2 with Unified MMA 47 in Calgary.
“An ambitious plan,” Sareen himself said.
Unified MMA 48 takes place Friday in Toronto, the promotion’s first foray outside of Alberta, followed by Unified MMA 49 on Saturday in Enoch, Alta., just outside Edmonton.
“The events are doing well for sales.” Sareen said on the eve of the Toronto show at the International Centre. “The fight cards are strong. We’re just excited, man. It’s going well.”
Sareen started his promotion in 2009 and has outlasted most competitors, holding events primarily in Edmonton and Calgary. He estimates he has almost 100 fighters under contract, with the number doubling since the decision was made to enter the Ontario market.
Unified MMA has served as a platform for fighters like Tanner (Bulldozer) Boser, Mitch (Danger Zone) Clarke, Tristan (Boondock) Connelly, KB (The Bengal) Bhullar and Shane (Shaolin) Campbell to get to the UFC. And Unified shows have a long reach, given their broadcast on UFC’s Fight Pass subscription-based streaming service.
Campbell (22-8-0) takes on American (Hollywood) Darren Smith Jr. (21-12-0) for the vacant Unified MMA Canadian super-lightweight (165-pound) title in Friday’s main event in Toronto.
“He’s a veteran and he’s very wily so I expect a good scrap,” said Campbell.
Campbell has won five straight, including his last four Unified fights, and had his hand raised in 10 of 12 bouts since his last UFC outing in August 2016. He was 11-2-0 when he made his UFC debut in April 2015, losing to fellow Canadian John (The Bull) Makdessi at UFC 186 in Montreal on short notice as an injury replacement.
He bounced back to win a decision over Brazilian Elias Silverio, a former Jungle Fight champion, before losing three straight to James Krause, Erik Koch and Felipe Silva to end his UFC stint.
The 35-year-old Campbell has won all 10 fights under the Unified MMA banner. And he has travelled the world over the years, training with former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at his renowned Nova Uniao gym in Brazil as well as at Kings MMA and Team Alpha Male in the U.S. and Montreal’s Tristar Gym.
More recently he spent several four months training in Las Vegas.
Originally from Ontario, he now calls Edmonton home and, when not fighting, works at Apothec Naturals and Wellness Clinic.
He is returning to action from knee surgery following his last outing in March, a unanimous decision win over Kyle (Killshot) Prepolec at Unified MMA 43.
On Saturday, Edmonton’s Graham Park (8-3-0) defends his light-heavyweight title against American Ty Flores (9-4-0) in the main event of Unified MMA 49.
Park is coming off a KO loss last December to Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz for the inaugural Unified MMA super-middleweight title at Unified MMA 42. Flores is a graduate of Dana White’s Contender Series.
Sareen, who is slated to get on a 6 a.m. flight Saturday to return to Edmonton for that night’s show, expects Ontario to be his next focus after Alberta.
“There’s a lot of different places in Ontario that we want to test out,” he said. “I think you’re going to see that before we go anywhere else.”
Campbell credits Sareen for Unified’s success and longevity, pointing to skilled matchmaking that “creates great fights.”
Unified MMA 50 is slated for March 3 in Alberta.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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