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Bartlett bar owner banks on hosting MMA fights
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/1/2009 12:00 AM | Updated: 7/1/2009 9:01 AM

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Forget off-track betting, drink specials or a free buffet: A Bartlett bar owner wants to boost business by hosting mixed-martial arts fights.

"In this economy, you've got to do everything you can to keep the doors open," said Murray Friedman, owner of Bannerman's Sports Grill off Route 59 and Stearns Road.

He envisions hosting fights every four to six weeks starting in August and hopes to draw up to 500 each time. His bar is a popular hangout for Ultimate Fighting Championship fans who pack the building to watch its pay-per-view events on TV. Some fighters, including Round Lake native Clay Guida, are regulars, Friedman touts.

An indoor fight costs about $12,000 to host, which Friedman said is comparable to putting on an outdoor concert at Bannerman's. But he said fight fans spend more at the bar, making fights more lucrative.

Bartlett Mayor Michael Kelly said that, assuming health and security issues are addressed, he supports the plan. He said the economy has placed many businesses in a chokehold, and he sees the fights attracting a younger crowd who could shop Bartlett stores.

"Something like this we need to help these struggling businesses," he said.

Village officials have the final say in allowing Bannerman's to host the fights. The matter goes before the plan commission on July 9 and could go before the village board July 21.

Kelly's concerns about security and sanitation were calmed after Friedman explained the state regulates fights. Friedman, who introduced his plan to the village board in June, said he'd hire additional security and have the usual paramedics and fight doctors on hand during the bouts, which would be held on weeknights.

"It's not something we see as a danger," Friedman said. "It's entertainment for the people of the Northwest suburbs."

He also wants the village to allow him to host outdoor fights in the parking lot, which he said could accommodate 1,000 fans. He's already got an outdoor permit for a concert last year.

Kelly said Friedman didn't talk about hosting outdoor fights during the previous meeting, and added he would need to hear more about that proposal before commenting.

Three fight promoters have shown interest in organizing events, Friedman said. Typically, an event would include about 12 bouts, starting around 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

One of those promoters is Mayhem Promotions, which is organizing "Disorderly Conduct 3" on July 18 at the DuPage Expo Center in St. Charles. Mayhem's Jeff Abin said he'd be interested in working with Bannerman's if no other promoter is lined up, though he generally works with larger venues.

"Bars are always tricky when you get a 25-foot cage into a bar which is maybe 30 feet wide," Abin said. "You've got a lot of obstacles, and the layout is a concern."