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Article updated: 9/4/2013 9:09 PM

Mixed-martial arts in Naperville? No way, council says

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Organizers of a mixed-martial arts fight originally scheduled for Oct. 19 in Naperville have thrown in the towel.

The staff from American Predator Fighting Championship Mixed Martial Arts said Wednesday they will consolidate the fight scheduled for Naperville with an event Oct. 5 in McCook after city councilmen said they will consider banning MMA competitions citywide.

Councilman Paul Hinterlong asked city staff members Tuesday to draft such a ban after hearing a parking request from organizers of the American Predator Fighting Championship event, which was scheduled to take place Saturday, Oct. 19, at Players Indoor Sports Center.

Event promoter Rich Sildal was seeking free use of a vacant city-owned property at 1720 Quincy Avenue to provide additional parking for the event, which was expected to attract 2,000 people. But city council denied the request 8-1, with Mayor George Pradel casting the only vote in favor of allowing the city lot to be used.

"I don't see a concern with the fighting, because it's sanctioned by the state," Pradel said Wednesday. "These are athletes. All they were doing was asking for parking."

Hinterlong said fighting of this kind has no place in Naperville, where the city has worked within the past year to quell bar fights that cropped up on weekends by deploying more police officers downtown, increasing the number of security cameras in the area and better enforcing occupancy limits.

"I don't want that here. Enough fighting already," Hinterlong said. "I don't think it's an image Naperville needs."

The event would have included fighting, music and alcohol for sale -- a combination Councilman Bob Fieseler said is too similar to the conditions that led to the string of bar fights.

"It seems like we're just undoing everything we did in downtown Naperville," Fieseler said.

If not for the request to use a city-owned property for additional parking, the fight could have gone on without city council knowledge or consent, City Manager Doug Krieger said.

But the council is expected to begin considering a ban of mixed-martial arts Tuesday, Sept. 17, or Tuesday, Oct. 1, Krieger said. City Attorney Margo Ely said she is examining options for how to legislate such a ban before bringing proposed language to a council meeting. The state of New York may provide one example, as it is the only state to ban mixed-martial arts competitions.

Pradel said the topic of mixed-martial arts fighting is drawing out strong personal feelings among councilmen, but he hopes the city's elected leaders will review the issue objectively and remember to listen to residents before taking a vote.

"I hope everyone takes a good look at it and doesn't just say 'Well, I don't like it,'" Pradel said.

Mixed-martial arts -- a full-contact combat sport in which participants aim to be the last man or woman standing, beating their competition into submission, knockout or technical knockout -- is growing in popularity among athletes, Sildal said Tuesday. He originally said he wanted to find a way to host the event in Naperville, but announced its cancellation late Wednesday afternoon.

Maxine Appenbrink, owner of Players Indoor Sports, said she had heard positive reactions from facility users to the prospect of hosting a mixed-martial arts fight, and she thinks councilmen would be making the wrong move by banning the activity citywide.

"I think they're going to be surprised," Appenbrink said, "with how out of touch they are."

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