Here are seven letters that, when arranged in a particular order, you will not see on a poster for Triton Fights: a-m-a-t-e-u-r.
“I don’t like the word ‘amateur,’ ” Triton Fights president Nic Canobbio said. “It implies that they’re not skilled.”
Yes, those who compete on a Triton Fights MMA card — such as the one this Friday at The Space at Westbury — are certified amateur fighters. They do not receive a fight purse. But, Canobbio draws the distinction there. Unpaid doesn’t mean untalented.
“The top 40-50 percent of the card I would say they could probably be pro,” he said. “But they don’t because they can get this competition and hone their craft and learn.”
The role of a regional amateur MMA promotion is just that: give fighters an opportunity to develop their skills and see if this sport is something they eventually want to — and can — make money doing.
Triton Fights 12 on Friday will be the 28th amateur MMA event promoted by Canobbio, who grew up in Lindenhurst.
“We started out in a hotel with a chandelier right here,” Canobbio said, lifting his hand slightly above his head to indicate height. “I think one of the guys high-kicked and I think almost hit it. To where we’re at now. We have B/R Live at our events.”
Canobbio struck a deal for the last Triton Fights card in February to show the event on Bleacher Report’s new streaming service, B/R Live. That exposure helps Canobbio build the Triton Fights brand and potentially attract national sponsors.
It also helps the fighters.
“They’re on the radar,” Canobbio said. “There will be a mid-level promotion who may take notice and say, ‘Oh, I remember this kid, I saw him fight on B/R Live. He’s a good fighter.’ Maybe it gets them a little more of a deal. Maybe it gets them a sponsor off the bat. Maybe it gets them a jumpstart at the next level, and that’s really what we want to do.”
Building up a “star” on the amateur circuit is next to impossible. Of the 26 fighters listed on Friday's fight card, 12 have two fights or less. Another four only have three fights. The bigger their name becomes, the more professional promotions take notice. And given the physical nature of MMA, it’s not always easy for an up-and-comer to turn down a paycheck just to get another few rounds of experience.
But Canobbio still can build up a weight class and crown what he considers a legitimate champion. Vilson Ndregjoni (featherweight) and Kareem Kline (middleweight) of No Limit Kickboxing/Vamos BJJ each defend their titles on Friday. A number of past Triton champions and fighters have turned pro and fought in Ring of Combat and Bellator, including Dennis Buzukja, Jeremy Puglia, Nick Fiore, James Gonzalez and Drews Rodriguez.
Canobbio came up in the boxing world. His father, Bob Canobbio, developed CompuBox to count boxing punch stats. It was at all those HBO Boxing events a young Nic Canobbio attended, sitting in the production truck, watching cageside, absorbing those surroundings, where he learned how to put on an event.
It’s a lifelong knowledge that hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who compete for Triton.
“As an amateur, honestly, they were my favorite promotion,” said Buzukja, now a pro fighter out of Longo and Weidman MMA. “The most professionally ran amateur promotion. With the cage and venue and the production, it’s all ran very well.”
Triton Fights 12 fight card
April 12 at The Space at Westbury, 6 p.m.
Vilson Ndregjoni vs. Zhassulan Khussainov (featherweight title)
Kareem Kline vs. Ryan Charlebois (middleweight title)
Nick Olsen vs. Ibrahim Kallie
Andrew Stock vs. Tim Ring
Alex Brown vs. Rene Pereyra
Jason Downer vs. Pernell Rachel
Estevinson Carmona vs. Dennis Stamp
Sergio Rivera vs. Orlando Ortega
Rebecca Bryggman vs. Alayna DeFranco
Rob Rinck vs. Mike Basile
Felipe Lopes vs. David Garcia
Dale Menendez vs. Al Pringle
Isaac Poteat vs. Christian Alcala