#LocalMMA Monday: NAAFS & Driven MMA

June 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Local / Regional MMA, News

The first installment of IntimidationMMA.com’s #LocalMMA Monday features perhaps the biggest name in all of Local MMA, as the co-branded NAAFS/Driven MMA organization kicks us off. Based out of Canton, Ohio, the North American Allied Fight Series was founded in 2005 as “Gladiator Fighting” with current CEO Greg Kalikas in conjunction with veteran kickboxer Duke Roufus. NAAFS in the FlatsSince then, the organization has promoted more than 125 live events in the Midwest and has become one of the most respected amateur leagues in the country.

Kalikas’ NAAFS developed into a powerhouse on the local scene, holding the majority of their events in Canton, Akron and Cleveland before eventually branching out from events in Northeast Ohio to hold events all over the state. Then the organization was one of the first promoters to hold an event in West Virginia when the state regulated MMA in 2012. Over its nearly decade as an organization, the NAAFS has come to be known as a leader in amateur MMA, women’s MMA, and producing top talent for the UFC, Bellator MMA and other national organizations.

Stipe Miocic UFCThe list of names that have competed inside the NAAFS cage reads like a who’s who of MMA, including current welterweight top contender Matt Brown, current UFC heavyweight contender Stipe Miocic, women’s MMA star Jessica Eye, UFC veterans Jason Dent, Forrest Petz, Ben Rothwell, Dave Herman, Phil Davis, Donny Walker and more along with current TUF 19 star Dan Spohn, former Bellator MMA Featherweight Champion Daniel Straus, Bellator knockout artists Brian Rogers and many more.

In addition to its top names, NAAFS has come to be known for featuring women’s MMA, spearheaded by the first woman of Ohio MMA, Jessica “Evil” Eye. Eye competed in the first women’s bout in NAAFS history, headlined the first all-female card, became the first female amateur NAAFS champion, and became the first female to headline a card featuring men for the organization as well. NAAFS has also featured other top female talent, including Aisling Daly, Carina Damm, Rebecca Heintzman, Jessica Zomcik, Tamikka Brents and more.

Donny Walker NAAFS ChampionOn top of all of this, the NAAFS is one of a limited number of Local MMA promotions to co-promote events with Bellator MMA having worked together  on Bellator 51 in Canton and Bellator 66 in Cleveland, Ohio and Bellator 71 in West Virginia.

While the pro fighters brought fans to NAAFS events, it has been the astounding amateur talent that has kept them there. The NAAFS National Amateur Series is a true proving ground for amateur fighters who want to make it to the next level, and many top names have claimed NAAFS amateur gold before turning pro. Those names include Isaiah Chapman, George Comer, Nick Duell, Jessica Eye, Jerrell Hodge, and many more.

“It is hard to deny the resume that the NAAFS has built in the past decade,” stated Luke Jernigan, President & CEO of Intimidation Clothing, LLC. “Now with Driven MMA they put on the cards that everyone else in the Midwest looks at and wishes they could duplicate. Few organizations have done more to further Local MMA in the USA, especially East of the Mississippi, as the NAAFS.”

The organization promotes many must-see events, including the annual “Fight Nite in the Flats” and “Rock N Rumble” summer events at Jacobs Pavilion in Downtown Cleveland, as well as their annual “Night of Champions” to award amateur titles.

John Hawk & StrongStyle wearing Local MMAIn 2014, the NAAFS became an all amateur series, with the berth of a new wing of the organization, Driven MMA. Driven MMA debuted in March 2014, and Driven MMA One was the biggest MMA card to hit Ohio in years. The event featured an all-pro lineup that showcased top fighters, including Bellator MMA veteran Dan Hornbuckle, UFC veteran Rodney Wallace, former NAAFS champion Frank Caraballo, and rising local stars like Chapman, Comer, Kyle Rozewski and more.

Now, the two wings will team up for the first time, as Driven MMA presents NAAFS: Fight Nite in the Flats 10 this weekend in Cleveland. The card features both professional and amateur talent, and it is headlined by Frank Caraballo taking on UFC veteran Tommy Hayden in a featherweight match-up. Also included on the card are several familiar names for Ohio MMA fans including Chapman, Rozewski, Hodge, RJ Buck, Dave Lastafka and more.

 

By David McKinney
Intimidation Interactive Media Staff Writer