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Getting cagey

Area MMA fighters on display at Xtreme Fight Night 345

Joel Klamm Photography

On Friday, Dec. 8, Xtreme Fight Night 345 will fill the new 2,700-seat Paradise Cove at the River Spirit Casino on Riverside Parkway near South 81st Street in Tulsa, featuring 12 exciting mixed martial arts (MMA) and kickboxing bouts.

“I think we deliver more than just a fight night; it’s an experience,” said XFN promoter Dale “Apollo” Cook, himself a former fighter (boxing, kickboxing, MMA). “We also bring in some pretty big names sometimes. We’ve had fights going on in Tulsa since 1977, years before UFC, and it’s a very educated public.”

Through the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Cook, now 61, was in his prime as a fighter. He won multiple kickboxing world championships—and even starred in several low-budget martial arts action movies in the ‘90s. He started promoting with his first professional fight in 1977; back then, this was the only way he could get in the ring or cage without leaving Oklahoma. If he wanted to fight, he had to make it happen. He has arranged a total of 345 Fight Nights (hence the event name) over the decades.

It’s not quite the UFC, but the Xtreme Fight Nights spotlights talented, determined, and entertaining fighters. Once held in the 1,500-seat former Event Center at River Spirit, this event has become so popular it requires the bigger, new venue now—and it still gets packed.

“It is an incredibly beautiful venue, and it’s state of the art,” Cook said. “On Fight Night, it becomes a pretty loud, packed place. It has VIP suites, VIP tables cage-side. It’s very plush. Giant big screens in the venue. It’s the perfect place. They’re great partners. I’m lucky to be there.”

The Dec. 8 event features several intriguing matchups.

“It’s a mixed card like always, kickboxing and MMA, and the kickboxing main event is for the [Xtreme Fighting League’s] featherweight world championship, featuring reigning champion Alfred ‘Freight Train’ Walker against the former champion Jarrett ‘The Legacy’ Rouse,” Cook said. “Haze Wilson is also on the card, taking on the King of the Cage heavyweight champion Rob Morrow, and in the MMA main event, Tevin Laskey takes on top contender Jacob Thrall. Both guys are 5-0.”

There will also be a special guest appearance from a local UFC fighter, Monica Stewart.

“She is one of the stars of this season’s ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ on Fox Sports 1. It airs every Wednesday night, and she’s coming in to meet fans and sign autographs,” Cook said.

Stewart is just the latest female fighter to gain such acclaim, as women’s fighting has risen in popularity in recent years, perhaps sparked by the rise (and subsequent fall) of the UFC’s Ronda Rousey. Locally, Jaymee “Ambush” Jones, who is from Tahlequah, has developed a large following at XFN events over the past few years, gaining a reputation as a fierce, technically strong battler.

While Jones isn’t fighting this time, Cook always includes a bout featuring women. On the XFN 345 card, Cara Greenwell faces Rosie Alaya in an MMA fight.

“I think women fight with a level of emotion that, most of the time, is pretty intense,” Cook said. “I think they’re great. They have a lot more dexterity, an ability to be more versatile and not just be a wrestler or a striker. They fight with a lot of emotion. I’ve always believed in the women’s fights and love the local gal, Jaymee ‘Ambush’ Jones. She’s been a pretty big star for us, but there’s a bunch of new ones, like Greenwell, coming up, and I like to give them a platform.”

In addition to Greenwell, who is from Owasso, many of the XFN fighters are local, with Wilson and Laskey hailing from Tulsa and Walker from Muskogee. Cook also owns, operates, and trains fighters at his Apollo’s Mixed Martial Arts studios (located in Tulsa, Bixby, and Owasso)—and believes that the local talent is better than ever.

“It’s really starting to develop,” he said. “Montana, the girl coming in to be our guest, is a big star now and just got a UFC contract—and two fights ago at River Spirit, she won our championship. That’s how she got started. So we are proving grounds and a jumping board for guys to move on, and that’s because of the long history we have. A lot of former wrestlers make great MMA fighters, and we have such a strong wrestling base here that there’s a lot of high-level talent. Those are the guys I’m trying to be loyal to as much as I can.”

Tickets to Xtreme Fight Night 345, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m., are available at River Spirit Casino or online at riverspirittulsa.com/entertainment/paradise-cove.

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