Spectra Place will host a much-hyped live MMA card on Saturday and two local fighters are looking forward to their first competition.
Estevan’s Derek Daku and Wade Baldwin are both scheduled to fight in School of Hard Knocks 16, the card being staged by Calgary-based Hard Knocks Fighting Championship.
The amateur card begins at 7 p.m. and features 10 bouts, ranging from 130 pounds to 265.
Both local fighters will be in the 265-pound class, with Baldwin taking on Devon Smith and Daku facing former Estevan Bruin enforcer Justin Schmit.
Both local fighters said their main strengths are in jiu-jitsu and muay Thai.
“I’m pretty even (between both styles) but I’m comfortable going to the ground if I have to,” said Baldwin, 34.
“I’ll probably feel it out, go out there and see what happens for the first little bit. I’ll probably stand with him but I’m comfortable to go wherever,” he said of the fight against Smith.
Baldwin has been into mixed martial arts for about two and a half years and said Chris Murphy, who used to coach a club in Estevan, got him to go from watching it on TV to actually fighting.
“It’s my first fight. It’s pretty exciting. There’s a little more pressure with lots more people watching that know you. It’s good to have your first one here,” he said.
Baldwin said he’s been trying to get on a card for more than a year and hasn’t had any luck yet
“These guys seem to be more professional and put together than the other organizations,” he said.
His opponent, Smith, has had two MMA fights as well as several kickboxing fights in Thailand. He’s from Swift Current and now trains in La Ronge.
Daku, 45, has been into the sport for three years, although he has a kickboxing background from about 20 years ago.
It’s also his first official card after having opponents cancel at the last minute in the past.
“This promoter is absolutely awesome. They have backups for you. They basically guarantee that the fight’s going to happen,” he said.
Daku said he started training for MMA to stay in shape, but “the competitive part really started to appeal to me.”
While Schmit played in the SJHL from 2003-06, Daku once tried out for the Melville Millionaires and also played in the Big Six Hockey League until about three years ago.
“Justin is very similar to what I was when I was his age. We both played some junior hockey. We were the fighters. It’s his sixth fight, so he does have a little more experience in the ring, but I do have a little size on him so that’s definitely going to help me out,” said Daku.
He said he’s been training for an hour and a half each day for the last eight weeks.
“I’m just excited about it. Spectra Place, they say they’ve got 3700 tickets sold already. It’s a perfect venue for something like this to introduce it into Estevan. I’m just revved.”