By Carley Dangona
AGAWAM – Bloody. Brutal. Barbaric. This is how some people describe the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Karyn Wesch, owner of Premier Fighting Championship (PFC), used to think that too, but now she runs a reputable promotion that serves amateur and professional fighters from Western Massachusetts and surrounding areas.
Chez Josef, 176 Shoemaker Lane, will host the PFC 15 fights on April 5. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the bouts start at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20. To purchase, visit www.thepremierfc.com
At press time, more than 15 fights were scheduled, including two title shots. Fighters from across Western Massachusetts and other states are scheduled to appear. The event will also feature an art exhibit by local area artists.
“I’m a mom first. We’re not here to see them get hurt,” Wesch said. “It’s their job. It is a lifestyle, not a nine to five. If they’re running 24/7, so am I.”
Wesch, a native of Enfield, Conn., takes pride in her events having a family-friendly atmosphere. A mother of four herself, she also spends time with the fighters and their families, many of whom are parents. The PFC staff is comprised of people Wesch brought into the business, having already known many of them for years.
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” Wesch said, crediting her success to her employees’ collaboration. “Premier is a team of people. We’re growing because of them. They’re consistent.”
Her parents even help with the PFC events. “Without their support, I wouldn’t have stayed in this business,” she commented.
“I’m so blessed by the whole experience. I didn’t realize that through this league I would meet so many different dynamics of people,” Wesch continued.
She relies on local businesses to support her events and the company’s promotional needs. “Why go big when you can go local?” she asked. One example, Wesch uses a local printer for her tickets and lets them advertise on the reverse side. As PFC grows, Wesch gets more local businesses involved in the process.
“These people [and their businesses] helped me grow. I didn’t get into this to become the UFC or Bellator MMA [the two main promotions in the professional MMA world],” she said.
“In 2003, I really got involved trying to learn the sport,” Wesch said. She and her husband Johnny started the Need 2 Bleed fight wear company and began sponsoring fighters such as Ricardo Funch, a former UFC fighter, of Team Link in Ludlow.
Wesch eventually started managing fighters soon after, but found it was difficult to get them bouts on the fight cards in the Boston area; the only alternative since there was no league in Western Massachusetts at the time.
At the time when Wesch decided to start PFC, MMA had yet to be sanctioned in Massachusetts. “My new life was living at the [Massachusetts State Athletic] commissioner’s office in Boston. I was the first promoter to get a promoter’s license. Since then, we have been off and running,” she said.
The sport was sanctioned by the commission in the summer of 2010.
The first PFC show was hosted at the former Hippodrome in Springfield. “I was overwhelmed by all of the details,” Wesch admitted. “It was literally, ‘Do you know how to run a camera? OK, you’re going to work.’”
Since then, Wesch has grown accustomed to the preparation. “The day of the fights is a MMA party,” she said. In 2012, she became dual-licensed when she added matchmaker to her job description, which means she now handles selecting fighters for each of the matches.
To her, there is much more to the sport than what goes on inside the cage. “I get that there’s a rough side of the sport, but you don’t have to be the rough side of the sport. I will never be the rough side of the sport,” Wesch, whose event attire consists of a dress and heels, stated. Just because the business is fighting, doesn’t mean she has to conduct herself in a gruff business manner.
What’s in store for the future of PFC. Wesch wants to establish her professional championship belts now that she has done so with the amateur ones. “PFC 100 – it’s going to be amazing,” she projected, looking forward to the longevity of the company.
At the time of publication, the event was nearing sold out capacity.