Fort St. John has a new champion.
Mixed martial arts fighter Ryan Fortin, originally from Wetaskiwin but working on the rigs and training in the Energetic City, was crowned the new King of the Cage heavyweight champion Friday after defeating title holder Raphael Bergmann in a bout stopped at the two minutes and five seconds mark while the challenger rained blows down on the Grande Prairie title holder.
"I feel really good right now. Very exhilarated. It is almost surreal," said Fortin, just moments after defeating Bergmann and carrying the belt over his shoulder.
When standing neither man scored any deciding blows or kicks, although Bergmann being smaller was able to get in some well-placed kicks. But when the fight went to the ground, Fortin, the taller and heavier of the two men, clearly had the advantage.
"He is a lot faster than I thought he would be. That man can kick. I have never been kicked so hard in my life," said Fortin.
"I was going to stand with him a little bit, but I could see that he was fast and I would have to catch him with a counterpunch. But I also didn't want to get caught with a counterpunch myself. We clinched up, and I saw the opportunity to take him to the ground. I felt him kind of let go underneath me, and I took it to him."
And with Fortin on top of Bergmann and raining down blows, there was little the smaller man could do.
"With all that weight, he has 265 pounds on you, and then he gets up on you in the mount, and he climbs up on top. He has a good base because he is so tall. It is just one of those things. It was a difference in leverage and body types," said Bergmann, who would have liked to keep Fortin standing and worked him over with punches and kicks.
"I felt that the standup would have been mine if it was kickboxing, but as soon as he got me against the cage there - he is a big, strong guy and he did outweigh me by about 30-some pounds or 40 pounds, so being that big and strong and tall it was very difficult to work off the clinch. We knew that ahead of time. I tried to keep him standing, and he rushed me into the clinch."
While the two were combatants in the cage and in the introductions both did their best to stare down the other, they clearly have a huge amount of respect for the other as a fighter and person.
Fortin called Bergmann a "super-nice guy" and pointed out that the Grande Prairie fighter was donating his prize money to the Make a Wish Foundation, while Bergmann praised Fortin for his abilities and wished him luck in moving up in the world of mixed martial arts.
Going into the fight Fortin was 6-3 and ranked No. 2 in Canada, while Bergmann was 4-2 and ranked No. 4, making for a rare battle between two of the best in Canada.
"It is quite nice to have two of the top five guys in Canada get in the King of the Cage here and put on a performance. It is a long time since two top-fivers have been together who are heavyweights," said Bergmann.
As the fight was over 125 seconds into the first round, it wasn't the drawn-out classic Fort St. John-Grande Prairie match-up that some may have hoped for. In fact, only one fight on the card went past the first round. That was earlier in the night when Dawson Creek's Logan Jarrel lost to Reece Doherty in a majority decision over three rounds. Doherty took Jarrel down in the first and second rounds and dominated him on the ground. At the end of the second, Jarrel got back on his feet and was pummeling Doherty but the bell saved him. Jarrel also had the upper hand in the third, but says he should have been more aggressive earlier.
"I think I stayed too calm and didn't do what I had to do. He wound up getting the takedown and scoring the points. I figured I should have knocked him out, but I didn't," explained Jarrel.
"I waited too long. The rounds went quicker than I thought, and he came out on top."
There were eight other fights on the card.
* Yannick Pare defeated Jason Townsend four minutes into the first round.
* Brandon Budd won by TKO over Steve McLeod one minute into the first round of their bout.
* Mike Froese submitted Chris Lauzon with an armbar hold at the 50-second mark.
* Tony Bibby ended his bout with Mike Beaudoin when he submitted Beaudoin with a guillotine chokehold about two minutes in the first round.
* Jayson Peck won by TKO over Ian Huskins at 1:18.
* In the shortest fight of the night, Gary Peck won by TKO after pounding Bobby Kalmakoff, and the ref stopped the bout at the 18-second mark.
* Conrad Krzysztan won by TKO over Teejay Klassen near the end of the first round.
* Behrang Yousefi choked Matt Whitten into submission at 2:44.