Martial arts expo losing fight in Metro Vancouver

For the second time in a week, a mixed martial arts expo planned in Metro Vancouver is without a venue.

Organizers initially planned to hold the event at Abbotsford's TRADEX arena on April 10 and 11, but city officials cancelled the show last Tuesday amid concerns that rival gang members would clash inside.

Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition stepped in to salvage the expo, but refused to allow exhibition fights – even two-man grappling demonstrations – at the event.

Organizer Gerald Chopik, who is planning another martial arts expo in Toronto in June, opted to cancel outright.

"I couldn't possibly deliver a show in good faith where people walked in, having paid their admission, and all they found was booths with people selling t-shirts. It's ridiculous," he said.

But Chopik says his real frustration remains with the City of Abbotsford. He says he was blindsided by an email informing him the show he had been putting together since October was cancelled.

"I didn't even have an opportunity to address their problems. I was tried in absentia, found guilty and sentenced," Chopik said.

Abbotsford Mayor George Peary told that an unsolved, gang-related murder at a MMA training facility in 2008 contributed to the city's unease.

"Our police department is singularly focused on gangs," he said. "Given what's happened in our community, we did not want to give any mixed messages."

Now, organizers and exhibitors say they are on the hook for booked airfare and hotels, printed signs, advertising, shipping fees and even paid celebrity appearances.

But the fight isn't over. Despite his troubles, Chopik says he has not given up on hosting a show in Metro Vancouver -- and that he is considering legal action against Abbotsford.

"If he wants to drag us into court, fair enough," Peary said. "We'll let a judge decide."

By: Andrew Weichel,
Date: Monday Mar. 29, 2010 12:24 PM PT

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