Canadian promotion Strikebox is down for the count in Quebec after its debut event ended in a near-riot last Friday at Mel’s Studio in Montreal.
The vision of longtime TKO promoter Stephan Patry, Strikebox proposed to utilize all aspects of MMA’s standup game, but none of the ground aspect. However, the fledging promotion’s guidelines were not approved by the Quebec Boxing Commission come fight night, and the regulatory body said it would not entertain the new rules in the future.
“If [Patry] organizes another Strikebox event, it won’t be under Strikebox rules, but it will be under MMA rules,” said Réjean Thériault, director of communications for the combat sports division of the Régie des Alcools, des Courses et des Jeux (alcohol and gaming division) of Quebec.
Strikebox seemed to have an identity crisis from the onset. The promotion was legally ordered to drop its name after the U.S.-based Strikeforce MMA outlet filed an injunction in the eleventh hour. The newly christened Titans Fighting then ran into another issue come show time –- MMA rules would be in full effect.
Veteran referee Yves Lavigne said he arrived to the venue and was told by the commission that the event would follow MMA regulations. Lavigne proceeded to speak with the fighters backstage individually per his usual routine, answering any questions they had about the MMA regulations.
“My understanding is that they had a gentleman’s agreement, but I’m not sure how it went,” he said. “It seemed like everyone was on the same page to fight and not go on the ground. It is not my business if they do so. If you don’t want to follow him on the ground you have to step back. If you take down your opponent I cannot force you [to get back up]. You have to let it go.”
Lavigne said he was surprised that the Strikebox rules hadn’t been enacted that night.
“The athletic commission asked me to work with the company to establish a new set of rules,” said Lavigne. “A lot of rules in Strikebox were already included in MMA and it was a bit like the unified rules. The day of the press conference of the event I was supposed to represent the commission and the commission, at the last minute, they asked me not to go.”
However, Thériault reaffirmed the commission’s position that no new rules had been confirmed for Patry’s first event.
“In Quebec there are three types of professional combat that are approved by our rules,” Thériault said. “There’s boxing, there’s kickboxing and there’s mixed martial arts. There’s nothing else. This promoter wanted a new style of combat called Strikeboxing. We said we couldn’t because of our rules and we wouldn’t allow it. If he wants to put on a show that’s fine, but it will be under mixed martial arts rules.”
Still, the bouts on Feb. 6 were fought under Strikebox rules, where if a takedown occurred, the fight would then resume standing.
“Some fights were kind of awkward, but they did get back up together without the referee intervention and they did know that on their own,” Lavigne said. That is until the main event between heavyweights James Thompson and Steve Bosse unfolded. Right from the instructions Lavigne gave in the locker room, he thought something wasn’t right.
“Mr. Thompson was kind of confused at the beginning,” said Lavigne. “I don’t know why. The commission was there. [Thompson’s manager] Ken Pavia was there. [Thompson’s] two cornermen were there. I said, ‘Whatever the agreement you have with anyone else I don’t want to know. I’m going to referee this fight like an MMA fight. If you throw your opponent on the ground, get back up and let it go. I will not force you to get up.’ At the end of the meeting my understanding was they knew exactly what was going on.”
But when Thompson and Bosse -- both strikers by trade -- hit the canvas from a Thompson takedown, the crowd turned ugly.
“They hit the floor,” Lavigne said. “If I recall correctly, Mr. Thompson moved to side mount and almost full mount doing a good ground-and-pound and it took not even five seconds for the first beer [can to fly]. I noticed something flying in the cage and I was like, ‘F---,’ and then all hell broke loose.”
Lavigne went into overdrive to do what he was there to do: protect the fighter.
“I asked for a time out,” said Lavigne. “Mr. Bosse tried to hit Thompson and I tried to push Bosse away. Things were flying and I looked to the commission to ask if we were stopping or what. I had to put Mr. Bosse back. He was really p---ed. I think I saw a chair flying -- I don’t know. I had to put Steve’s head down on me because I saw a can flying right at us. My commission gave me the sign to end it. Since Mr. Bosse was the more agitated fighter I proceeded to get him out first. After that I asked security to get Mr. Thompson out after that and then I asked security to help me out.”
Thompson, who spoke exclusively with TheFightNetwork.com earlier this week, seemed to have a different take on the rules.
“Patry was trying to be sneaky,” Thompson said. “There was no clarity on the rules.”
Thompson told The Fight Network that his bout with Bosse was under MMA regulations and no side agreement had been made.
“If there was a gentleman’s agreement made or something of that nature, it would be a different story,” he added.
The Thompson-Bosse bout has been ruled a “no contest.”
Thériault said that the event’s sour ending had a “negative effect” on Patry’s image with the regulatory body and reiterated that any future promotion from Patry would require strict adherence to the rules.
“He has to follow the rules of mixed martial arts 100 percent,” said Thériault.
Attempts to contact Patry and Thompson’s manager Ken Pavia were unsuccessful.