Sidelined for more than a year by the coronavirus pandemic that shut down its fair share of sports and businesses, Triton Fights re-enters the mixed martial arts events space this Saturday with something new for each point on its trident.
New state, new pool of fighters to pull from, new revenue stream.
Triton Fights, led by the Lindenhurst-raised Nic Canobbio, has promoted 17 previous MMA events, all on Long Island and all with amateur fighters. Now, he’s turning pro and putting on an event in Florida.
"I was working for my dad and CompuBox, I would see that Florida, they were doing boxing events," Canobbio said. "We were working on events over the fall. And, you know, me and [Triton matchmaker] Chris [Macchi], we were speaking, and Chris had the idea of let's try doing it down to Florida. It's open, we can have a crowd, we have the relationships."
Canobbio has brought in a good number of fighters from Florida to fill out his previous Triton amateur cards over the past seven years, making that state a logical choice. No matter what other states opened up to host MMA events, the connections already were in place to make things just a little easier to set up the event.
Macchi went to Florida at the beginning of this year to re-establish those connections with the MMA gyms and coaches.
"We built this great brand on Long Island, because of the hard work of us and the fighters too, so it was fuel for me to really make things happen, and go down there," Macchi said. "Really humbly, I met with a lot of local promoters and I think I hit right. I didn't come into a market and say ‘Hey, I'm here.’ For me, it was important to do it like a martial artist, you know, and root it from respect and I'm glad that we were able to get it done."
Triton Fights 18 will take place at WhiteSands Center in Plant City, Florida, about 25 miles east of Tampa. It includes 25 scheduled fights – certainly not the way Canobbio first dreamed it up – with a full 14-bout amateur card followed by a separate ticketed-entry pro card of 11 fights. Tritonfights.com will stream the entire event on its website for $24.99, as opposed to its past events being on PlutoTV and Bleacher Report’s B-R Live.
Canobbio said beginning on Monday, all fighters were to undergo a rapid test for COVID-19, with New York-based fighters being tested before they left, and all fighters being tested again the morning of the fights.
"I told Chris [Macchi] I just want four pro fights," Canobbio said. "Let’s just do four pro fights and then we'll fill the rest with amateurs. Then we reached out to the gyms and everyone wanted to get on."
The marketing and social media posts frame the event as New York vs. Florida. Not all of bouts are that geographically distinct, but it’s pretty close. And as we often are wont to do up in these parts, the size of "New York" on a poster is a bit larger than its taxable boundaries.
"Vilson [Ndregjoni] is from New Jersey, but you know, like the Giants we call the New York Giants, we call Vilson a New Yorker," Canobbio said.
Fighters from some of Long Island’s top MMA gyms – Longo & Weidman MMA in Garden City, Long Island MMA in Farmingdale, No Limits Kickboxing in Middle Island – are scheduled to compete Saturday. Most of the pro fighters have just a handful of fights as they work their way up the ladder. Longo & Weidman MMA’s Dennis Buzukja may be the most known commodity off the island. He fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last summer.
Putting together the cards was more challenging than past events, Macchi said. But, in a way, it was easier as well.
"COVID made a huge problem for everybody in the world," Macchi said. "But in combat sports, it also kind of opened certain doors and guys are taking fights on much shorter notice than they would ever have taken it before prior to COVID. Because scarcity of the ability to fight, right. So where it kind of closed certain doors or made doors harder to walk through, it also opened other doors."
Triton Fights 18: New York vs. Florida
Triton Featherweight title: Vilson Ndregjoni (AMA) vs. Keith Speed (ATT Palm Beach)
Lightweight: Dennis Buzukja (Longo & Weidman MMA) vs. Shaquan Moore (No Limits Kickboxing)
Lightweight: Lenny Rufati (Rufus Sport) vs. John Ortolani (RMU)
160-pound catchweight: Dylan Mantello (Longo & Weidman MMA) vs. Jerome Mickle (Striking 101/Brooklyn MMA)
Women’s strawweight: Glory Watson (Youngs MMA) vs. Ariana Melendez (Jungle MMA)
Lightweight: Justin Montalvo (Longo & Weidman MMA) vs. Charlie Radtke (Masters MMA)
Lightweight: Armando Gjetja (Renzo Gracie NYC) vs. Ray Bohannon (RMU)
Featherweight: Tyler Randall (Syndicate/KOV) vs. Darrius Jackson (American Killer Bees)
Women’s featherweight: Dianna Karavas (Longo & Weidman MMA) vs. Becca Evans (Delaware Dragon MMA)
Flyweight: Danny Maldonado (Team Flashnado/Warriors Nation) vs. Javier Gonzalez (Team Zuvvy)
Lightweight: Ryan Castro (No Limits Kickboxing) vs. Dylan Bryson (ATT Palm Beach)
Triton featherweight title: Tom Picciano (LIMMA) vs. Kyle Blair (Cali Style MMA)
Crimefaces Triton flyweight title: Baby Hulk (Salty Dog Jiu-Jitsu) vs. Royal Bengal Tiger (Warriors Nation)
Lightweight: John Caldone (LIMMA) vs. Hunter Chambers (Smiley Academy)
Welterweight: Devan Worth (No Limits Kickboxing) vs. Pernel Rachel (Team Rachel)
Lightweight: Chris Guariglia (LIMMA) vs. Alex Tierney (Tampa ATT)
Lightweight: Alex Asiryan (Elite Battalion) vs. Tyler Thomas (Cali Style MMA)
Middleweight: Jason Downer (LIMMA) vs. Obi Okonkwo (Blackhouse MMA)
Middleweight: Kareem Kline (LIMMA) vs. Arseni Gatsovitch (D’Angelo’s Fight Zone)
Middleweight: Kevin Prevo (Cali Style MMA) vs. Dowen Pugh (Team Dowen
Lightweight: John O’Dea (LIMMA) vs. Joshua Abrahams (Warriors Nation)
150-pound Catchweight kickboxing: Mike Robinson (Uproar) vs. Joey Defibaugh (Tampa May Thai)
Lightweight kickboxing: Nick Birchwell (No Limits Kickboxing) vs. Oscar Urizar (Tampa Muay Thai)
Featherweight kickboxing: Francisco Garcia (Tampa Muay Thai) vs. Rafael Ortiz (Jungle MMA)