In what seems to be a growing trend, Canadian MMA promoters have been turning to the minor league hockey scene for their talent.
TKO promoter Stephane Patry has been at the helm of the movement, bringing in the likes of Steve Bossé, Jon Mirasty, and Yan Pellerin. Not only do leagues like the LNAH provide promoters with a new avenue for scouting talent, it also provides them with a whole new demographic to sell tickets to.
A perfect example of this is TKO heavyweight Steve “The Boss” Bossé. Before making his MMA debut, Bossé was tearing up the LNAH playing for the St. Jean Chiefs. Regarded as one of the most feared heavyweights in the LNAH, Bossé racked up 927 penalty minutes in 129 games. Over the course of the 2006-07 season, Bossé discarded the gloves 39 times, scoring 8 TKOs. This season fans will only see Bossé play a total of 20 games so he can have sufficient time to focus on his MMA training.
In preparation for his MMA debut Bossé trained with Marc Colangelo (BJJ purple belt) and Stephane Dube. Prior to his fight starting Bossé‘s popularity was evident as many of the fans in attendance were there supporting him. After garnering one of the largest receptions of the night Colangelo said, “I mean he is really the crowd favorite tonight. I believe there is probably 2,000 tickets sold just to watch Bossé fight. There is probably people here who were never mixed martial arts fans in the past but they are tonight.” The training paid off as Bossé stopped his opponent David Fraser early in the first round, utilizing his heavy hands and good sprawl.
In an attempt to further his evolution as a mixed martial artist, Bosse has boarded a plane with Dube to spend a month in Phuket, Thailand working on his Muay Thai and mixed martial arts skills. Whether or not this pays off will become evident at TKO 30: Apocalypse, when Bossé takes on Lance Evans.
Other hockey players making the splash into MMA include Jon Mirasty and Jeremy Yablonski. At TKO 29 Mirasty appeared on the undercard facing Sebastian Gauthier (3-1). It was clear Gauthier was the more experienced fighter as he picked Mirasty apart with strikes and eventually finished him off with a high kick late in the first round. Will Mirasty be back? I doubt it.
Jeremy Yablonski is yet another of example of hockey enforcer turned mixed martial artist. Unlike Mirasty and Bosse, Yablonski appeared in an NHL game in the 2003-04 season with the St. Louis Blues. Yablonski’s presence on the ice was known in his NHL debut as he challenged top tier heavyweight Donald Bashear. After Brashear sent Yablonski packing he tested his luck with Todd Fedoruk.
After his cup of coffee in the NHL, Yablonski returned to the minors where he continued to hone his fighting skills. Earlier this year Yablonski made a successful MMA debut finishing his opponent, Rudy Martin, in 19 seconds at XFS 5: Heavy Hitters. Yablonski was able to up his record to 2-0 on July 14th at XFS: Bad Blood with a 17 second TKO win over Justin Peterson.
So far hockey has been an excellent avenue for promoters to grab talent and gain fans. Keep your eyes out for the debut of Jacques Dubé as he will be making his MMA debut at Ring Xtreme Challenge on September 7th in Quebec City. How about a possible Jeremy Yablonski-Steve Bosse fight in the future? I’d sure watch it.