Cal Pacino and Anth Hopper have teamed up to launch the Northern Submission event, akin to a boxing card, which is showcasing the wealth of talent in Jiu Jitsu in Sunderland and beyond over a series of 10-minute matches.
Their first event at the Roker Hotel in May proved hugely successful, attracting hundreds of people to watch fighters from Wearside as well as further afield.
It proved so popular they’ve had to move the next event to the larger The Point in Park Lane, which will include a whole fight card as well an eight-man tournament which will see someone take home the first ever Northern Submission belt.
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Cal, who trains at Roker Rough House, says it’s great to see the sport – which is focused around ground fighting, control and submission – get the recognition it deserves.
"We had 23 fights on the last card and it was a great event with people flying in from Belfast, Scotland and Wales,” he said. “As a sport, it really doesn’t get enough coverage, especially as the talent is world class. Ours isn’t your typical grappling show, it was a proper spectacle.
"We knew we were going to smash it, but the support was unreal.”
Speaking about why they decided to start the event, Cal added: "Sometimes with this sport, people enjoy doing it, but they struggle to watch it because it can be a slow pace. But with our event we made it submission only, so you’re not fighting for points and worried about losing position, which quickens the pace.
“The sport is massive in America, but we really want to create stars from our area, to create a breakthrough name. Moving forward, we’d love to get more sponsors involved and take it international. We have big plans and would love to get a ranking system in place.”
In the meantime, the pair are planning to stage around four events a year in the North East, with fighters able to compete with or without Gi (a uniform associated with the traditional form of the sport).
Cal is also known for his success in MMA where he fought professionally in cages across the globe with Bellator, one of the biggest promoters in the world, but the dad-of-three has long had a passion for the art of Jiu Jitsu too.
Anth, meanwhile, has staged many events across the city, from Clubland to sporting nights.
Northern Submission Series is one of many big shows lined up at The Point which reopened last year after the lockdowns following a £150,000 investment to reconfigure the main hall, install a high-tech light and sound rig and to make the venue more accessible for people with disabilities and impairments.
:: Northern Submission Series 2 takes place at The Point in Park Lane, Sunderland, on Sunday, August 28. Tickets for adults are £20 in advance from Skiddle or from Roker Rough House in Roker Avenue, or £10 for children on the door.
Fights can also be viewed on the Northern Submission Series YouTube.