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Ceg_ 07-09-2009 09:53 AM

Yakima Avenue will be fight venue

POSTED ON Wednesday, July 08, 2009 AT 10:30PM

Yakima Avenue will be fight venue
A block of Yakima Avenue will close for ‘street party’ featuring cage fights

by Phil Ferolito
Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Fights will literally stop traffic along Yakima Avenue on Friday night.

At noon Friday, Yakima Avenue will be closed to traffic between Fourth and Fifth avenues to allow a fighting cage to be set up for about a dozen amateur bouts.

Organizers expect about 500 people to watch the competition, which begins at 7 p.m., and Dream Girls baristas will be on hand to serve beverages. Those wanting the closest view of the cage fights will have to pay $300 to sit at the VIP tables.

"The idea was to have a street party," said fight promoter Julie Guerin, co-owner of Yakima Mixed Martial Arts. "We're right off Yakima Avenue, in the heart of Yakima, and I just thought 'Let's show Yakima what we're about."

In May, the martial arts club began planning the state- sanctioned event dubbed Combat Cage Warriors: Taking It to the Streets, and has secured required permits from the city to close the street in front of its gym at 419 W. Yakima Ave.

Two off-duty Yakima police officers will provide security, Guerin said.

"I'm doing everything I have to do to be in compliance," she said.

Four local bands will provide entertainment and there will be a beer garden and food vendors, she said.

Recruiters from the Army office in Yakima will bring out a rock wall for folks to climb, and provide additional security.

About 10 area businesses will also be on hand, supporting the event and promoting themselves, Guerin said.

Yakima Police Capt. Greg Copeland said Wednesday that mixed martial arts competitions have been held at Yakima Valley Community College and at Speakeasy Sports and Spirits on Third Street without problems.

"We never had any major incidents such as fights (among spectators) and stuff," he said.

This is the first time the martial arts club has sought to close a city street for a competition.

City Council members Micah Cawley and Kathey Coffey said they were not aware of the event. Permits for such events are normally approved through the Yakima Police Department.

Cawley said he doesn't think the cage fighting will reflect badly on the city's image.

"It is a sanctioned event, so it's not like it's crazy," he said. "If they're approved, they're good to go."

But Coffey said she'd like to know more about it.

Promotional fliers posted around town note that Dream Girls will be on hand to serve beverages. The Dream Girls work at one of the Yakima espresso stands that have drawn controversy for their baristas' provocative clothing.

"I have to say that I would certainly want more information if it were my responsibility to approve it, and I would have some concerns," Coffey said of Friday's event. "Knowing nothing about this, it's really hard for me to comment."

It won't be the first time a stretch of Yakima Avenue will be closed to traffic. Every summer, sections of Yakima Avenue and North Third Street are closed for a two-day, three-on-three basketball tournament.

Guerin said she's held more than 30 mixed martial arts competitions, including ones at YVCC and at a Tri-Cities restaurant and brewery.

She said the fights are all sanctioned by the state, and fighters are carefully matched. The martial arts club has secured insurance for Friday's event in case anything goes awry.

It won't be anything like some of the backyard fighting or non-sanctioned events that lack regulations, she said.

"We want to let everyone know that there is a legitimate way to participate in this sport," she said. "What upsets me is these kids that just want to get together and go at it in a backyard somewhere."

* Phil Ferolito can be reached at 509-577-7749 or

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