Local circuit fuels fighters’ MMA dreams
By Stu Durando, Feb 17, 2015, St. Louis Post Dispatch
The combination of a desire to learn mixed martial arts and one Google search led Joaquin Buckley to randomly choose a gym for his endeavor three years ago.
He had wrestled at Marquette High School and was curious about a sport he had seen on television since his childhood.
Buckley’s arbitrary selection led him to a position occupied by many other aspiring MMA fighters.
Buckley fights on the Shamrock Promotions circuit, which holds events at three casino properties in Missouri and caters to a high-end clientele.
It’s a far cry from the organization’s start in small gyms around St. Louis in 1997 and is giving guys such as Buckley a glimmer of hope.
“We’re a lot of regular guys right now that fight,” he said during a break at his job at Steak ’n Shake. “We’re not superstars yet and not fighting at the best shows with TV coverage. A lot of guys I train with are trainers, construction workers, painters, you name it. The odds are very small, but this is your lottery ticket. It might not work — but if you put in the work, you might cash out.”
Shamrock president Jesse Finney and vice president Rob Donaker have been plugging away for 18 years. Their affiliations with Lumiere Place and River City casinos in the St. Louis market and Ameristar casino in Kansas City have raised the bar for fighters and fans.
Champs in the Shamrock Fighting Championships earn a contract to compete in Bellator, one of the top MMA series in the country. In Missouri they compete in front of spectators who are 21 and older and who pay from $45 to $175 to watch sweat and blood fly in a cage while decked out in fine evening wear.
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