Mixed martial arts, a controversial style of fighting is gaining popularity in southern Delaware. A full contact sport, it allows the use of striking and grappling, while standing or on the ground and combines techniques found in other sports like boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and karate.
Originally promoted as a competition, the intention of MMA was, initially, finding the most effective martial arts techniques for real unarmed combat situations and competitors faced each other with minimal rules.
As the sport has increased in popularity, though, many promoters have adopted more stringent rules that increase safety and a more mainstream following.
Brad Dalton is a MMA promoter in Delaware who is working towards mainstream acceptance and growth of a sport that he loves.
A 2005 graduate of Sussex Central High School, Dalton was a football and lacrosse player who started training in mixed martial arts with a trainer and promoter in Salisbury, Md. After three or four years, the promoter moved across the country and with no one left to arrange and promote fights, Dalton decided to take matters into his own hands and create his organization, Stellar Fights.
In November 2010, Dalton hosted his first fight card with the main event being a bout featuring Smyrna firefighter Cheron Gregory.
Held at the Georgetown Fire Hall, the 300-seat event quickly had a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 rooting on their favorite fighters.
“In the year I’ve been promoting, that first fight in Georgetown is one of the best fights I have put on so far,” Dalton said. “It was a lot of action, a lot of back and forth that really displayed all aspects of the game from the ground game to the standing.”
By his second event in January, Dalton knew a bigger venue was needed. The event moved to the Exhibit Hall at the Delaware State Fair, which holds 1,200 and also was a sell-out.
Many detractors of the sport think that these spectators are attending the events to specifically see the brutality that can occur in a full-contact event. Dalton said that this is one of the prevailing misconceptions about the sport and his organization works hard to maintain a record of only minor, expected injuries.
“As a promoter, I have two sets of rules that I must run all my fights by,” Dalton said. “For example, the World Kickboxing Association is our sanctioning body while the Delaware Division of Professional Regulations serves as our athletic commission. Most of the rules match up, but Delaware has a few additional rules that we have to adhere to.”
Dalton added that in the year that his organization has been hosting events, he has not had a single serious injury.
Mike Young, a professional MMA fighter from Baltimore attributes the lack of injury in Dalton’s fights to Dalton’s expertise in matching fighters.
“He doesn’t just try to fill fight cards,” Young said. “But, he’s not like a normal promoter either. He takes care of people and tries to match the skill levels in fighters so that the fight is exciting for the fighter and the fan.”
The fights Dalton promotes are not just for the benefit of the fighters or the spectators either. He holds free military events and has started a nonprofit, War for the Cure, which raises money in honor of his mother, a breast cancer survivor.
“We have raised $2,800 for breast cancer research within the last year,” Dalton said. “My mom is a survivor and it’s important to me to see other survivors as well. As these events grow, my biggest desire is to grow the charity as well.”