Contender Promotions Fight Federation’s promoter and former kickboxing champion Garry Bell sat down with FightBook MMA and talked about his promotion and the upcoming K-1 event scheduled sometime in December. Check out the conversation with FightBook MMA below.
Here’s a little back story on Contender Promotions Fight Federation. The promotion was established in 2009 by Garry Bell who had the vision to deliver high-quality Mixed Martial Arts events to the UK and abroad.
Bell runs Contender Fight Academy on Yarm Street in Stockton, he got the opportunity to share the ring with Andy Souwer for three rounds in a prestige exhibition match. This event featured a 3-1 win for Romanian fighters over their English counterparts and several undercard contests.
CPFF strives to put on exceptional, exciting events for fans by bringing over international fighters to fight UK fighters on CPFF both at the amateur and professional level, offering all our supporters the very best martial arts action.
The promotion has hosted World 4 Man GP tournaments; these are held in all weight divisions. After each tournament, the winners will fight together on one major CPFF event to be crowned The CPFF Grand Champion. This is set to be an incredible night of K-1 action, with an electric atmosphere for both Fighters & Supporters. So far the company has promoted 35 K-1 events in a range of cities. Notably, they co-promoted with Super Kombat to host the world try-out series in Middlesbrough, England.
Garry Bell (Head of CPFF) won the best promoter award from Super Kombat for the best world try-out series. Additionally, they co-promoted with Valor fight series in America to hold our world GP 4 Man tournament. Contender Promotions Fight Federation also held CPFF fight star hunts in the world-famous Vos gym in Holland & in Ireland Dublin, where CPFF signed some incredible fighters, who fought on their UK Shows.
CPFF signed UK fight legend Paul Semtex Daley who is one of our champions and has also featured most recently on Bellator. CPFF has also been supported by The K-1 Legend Andy Souwer, who attended CPFF34, and took part in a K-1 Exhibition Bout against Garry Bell. Here is the conversation Garry had with FightBook MMA.
Gary thank you for taking time out of your busy day to talk to us. Can you tell the fans who you are and how you got into martial arts, what have you accomplished in the fight scene.
I started training in martial arts from around age 7 years old I am a British k1 kickboxing champion. Over the years, I have trained in lots of disciplines from Kung-Fu, Akido, Karate, Boxing, MMA, etc. But I really fell in love with the style of K-1 kickboxing watching it on Eurosport watching the legends like Ernesto Hoost, Andy Souwer, Remy Bonjasky, Ray Sefo, Gago Drago, Melvin Manhoef, the fast action fighting got me hooked from the first fight I watched.
I have loved martial arts from a young age I would sneak in my local community sports center to train as I could not afford training sessions. My Cousins, brothers and I were around the same age and used to all train together. We trained on the local playing field and loved combat sports so much, every day we would watch watching movies like Rocky & Kickboxer for motivation then train and recreate them.
I then started coaching from around 18 years old helping out at Stockton kickboxing gym, where I trained. I always enjoyed helping with the junior classes.
Later in life, I received the martial arts hall of fame award for top instructor award at the UK martial arts show 2019.
Talk to us about Contender Promotions Fight Federation. What was the sole reason you wanted to start this promotion?
I started contender Promotions in 2009, due to there not being K-1 kickboxing promotions around really at that time, it was more full contract kickboxing & Muay Thai. But I just believed that I could help grow K-1.
I always tried to make my events look like the big events on a smaller budget, and give the fighters the chance to fight the best fighters from around the UK. I feel that it is so important to make the fighters feel appreciated when they are on our events and really try to help them further their fight career with other promoters also. We have so much more to come and are only just getting started.
Who do you have signed under the banner and why?
We have currently been working on fight contracts to sign up fighters on 3 to 5 fight deals with CPFF. So watch this space as we will be signing some top up and coming K-1 kickboxing talent from around the UK.
You run Contender Fight Academy, what’s the reason behind this and how important is this to you?
I love martial arts it’s my life I don’t think of it as a job or hobby it’s just part of me. I started contender Gym in 2006 at the time they were no K-1 kickboxing gyms in my area. When I first opened my gym it was called Brawla, although I decided it was not the best name for the gym if I wanted parents to bring their children to train. So I changed the name to Contender Gym as we always had a saying that every champion was once a Contender- so the name naturally fitted.
It’s not been easy at all I only started out with a room only 14 square feet the size of a training boxing ring. I have just worked hard to build it as a business we now have a great coaching team on board that works together to help out members and fighters and improve them. We have also trained a range of fighters from area champions to world champions amateur and professional.
Five months ago you step in the ring on one of your Contender Fight Federation’s show and took on K-1 superstar Andy Souwer. How was that experience like?
Yes, this was a total honor for me to have this experience. It’s crazy thinking how I used to watch him on TV he was an idol to me like a superstar as I was a huge fan of him and his style of fighting.
Andy and I first met at my friends Melvin Manhoef’s event in Holland on the WFL Promotion, he was fighting top fighter Mohamed Kamal for the WFL and title Andy won the fight. I then got talking more with Andy, we kept in touch for a few months before I invited him over to teach seminars in England at my gym. We get to know each other really well. To be honest, we just clicked, he’s a normal guy and extremely down to earth.
I phoned him one day asking if he would fight me in an exhibition fight on my promotion for 3 rounds- in my head, I was thinking: “if he says yes am I going to get my arse proper kicked on my own event”. He’s a real arse-kicking machine (laughs).
So I started my training camp to get in better shape so I could move a few rounds, Andy was preparing for hi’s fight on one Championship so I knew he would be in good shape.
Fight night came around and it was a cool experience, I actually wrapped Andy’s hands up & he did mine also. I still have one of the wraps I saved from fight night in a frame now.
It was time to go out and do the 3 rounds I was not nervous, if am honest Andy took the edge off when we warmed up in changing rooms.
We got in the ring to fight both touched gloves then moving about working each other out both throwing counter shots he’s movement was very slick. Round 2 & 3 was nice technical sparring with flowing combos & counters from us both Andy did land a nice right cross on me but I got him with a few shots also.
It was all fun & great for the fight fans to meet & get signed autographs & photos. Plus to see Souwer in the ring fighting LIVE at Contender Promotions Fight Federation. Massive thanks to Andy again for giving me the opportunity to step in the ring with him doing an exhibition fight.
You have a K-1 event coming up in December, can you tell us where this might take place and do you have any names you can drop that’s on the card?
Our next event will be in Leeds on the 1st of November, working with my friend and one of our CPFF champions, David Sa. He’s helping with matchmaking.
We will also be doing a show in Middlesbrough on the 15th of December, tickets will be on sale & all fight announcements will be made very soon. We have been working on lots of things behind the scenes with Contender Promotions and can’t wait to share them with you.
I can’t announce who will be on the card just yet as the fighters we are hopefully singing on a multi deal contract. We have lots of big news to announce but will let you guys drop it once we are ready to release!
What other plans do you have brewing in the pot for your promotion this year and next year?
For this year we have 2 events planned but next year we will be a lot more busy as we venture into new areas plus Signing more top fighters giving them the opportunities they deserve
Hopefully, we can secure some type of big TV deal in 2020 also to enable the sport to be more in the public eye and give our fighters the exposure they deserve. But we have lots of ideas to put out there- 2020 will be a big year for us.
What has been the key ingredient for having such a successful promotion company?
We are far from where we want to be but on the right path, we have an amazing team now with 3 new members who have joined us. I believe if you are fair with fighters & coaches and they trust you and they will always support you.
On Contender, we want to take away the home advantage, and ensure that the best man on the night wins. While also giving the fighters the spotlight, as they are the stars of the show and help to get their name out there.
But I think just treat people fair, it doesn’t cost anything but can go a long way, not only in the fight game but life also.
Gary thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Any last words you want to say about Contender Fight Federation and anyone or sponsors you want to shout out the floor is yours.
We are ready to grow CPFF & the sport massive shout out to my wife supporting me from the start. My team from Contender Gym & the promotions team. Shout out to our sponsor mittego, bolo fight gear, sidekick fight gear, Fight Show Photography, classic ink company and anybody who has helped in any way support contender Promotions Fight Federation Thank you.