Although many MMA fans are already looking forward to UFC 214 in Anaheim next month, they won’t have to wait that long to see a great fight card in Long Beach on June 10. Sure, the lineup for Saturday evening may not be quite as stacked as some of the major national and international cards that come through Southern California, but "Rumble on the Water" is the only place you’ll see some of the top local mixed martial artists duke it out with the Queen Mary in the background.
“This is an event we’ve been working on with the ship for about two years,” says Stephen Soward, General Manager of the Queen Mary. “Bringing MMA to Long Beach is something we’ve always felt would be a great event, and putting it in the upscale seating of the Queen Mary would be a great venue for that. The goal of Rumble on the Water is to provide an upscale experience with local fighters from Orange County and Los Angeles County, and we’re really excited to do this.”
The bouts of Rumble on the Water won’t be the first official fights ever held on the grounds of the Queen Mary, but they’ll be the first ones since boxing matches used to take place on the ship itself during journeys between New York and London. As Soward sees it, Saturday’s fights (which are happening in partnership with the local Roy Englebrecht Promotions) are an update on that historic tradition, which is exactly what the Queen Mary’s current crew is looking to do.
“As we continue to renovate the ship and bring her back to her glory days in terms of the exterior and interior of the ship, we’re trying to program some new events and incorporate some of the things that were done on the ship when she was at sea into our everyday operation,” Soward says. “When we find things like this and we think we can bring them to the new day era of MMA and all of these new types of activities that were not even thought of back then — although I think boxing back then might’ve looked like MMA now — we want to incorporate the heritage of the ship however we can.”
With the fights going down right off the ship in the parking lot, tickets range from $45 to $75, and there’ll be plenty of food and drink to wash down the organized violence. It’s the first of three events planned for this year (the others happening in July and September), with more — and hopefully bigger — bouts next year as well.
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As for the fighters involved, amateurs from many of the top OC gyms will be squaring off for hometown glory. Among others, the unique venue will serve as the host of Kings MMA lightweight prospect Don Walton’s bout against Combat Submission Wrestling’s Ernesto Leyva. On an evening full of somewhat unknown fighters, Walton believes that the lack of footage on his opponent could be a challenge, but his preparation will help him turn it into a benefit.
“I haven’t seen him fight in two years, so there are going to be a lot of unknown factors, but I think that I’ve been staying fresh with my fight game so that’s going to be my advantage,” Walton says of Leyva. “I’m going to come out, react, and show him what I’ve been doing.”
But in all reality, the 25-year-old Walton is most excited for one of the other major benefits of holding fights in Downtown Long Beach. Usually, fighters resort to binging on fast food or boring chains for their post-fight celebration meal after spending weeks cutting weight. With all of the deliciously unhealthy options available in Long Beach, you likely won’t find a line of young combatants outside of Burger King after the bouts.
“I’m most looking forward just to eating after,” Walton says with a laugh. “I’m not going to lie. I’m going to Roscoe’s to get myself some chicken and waffles, and then I’m going to get myself some all-you-can-eat sushi.”