TKO 41 PRIMER: An in-dept guide to TKO MMA’s centerpiece event airing live on UFC Fight Pass today

Dylan Bowker, MMATorch Contributor

On Dec 8, TKO 41 will air live on UFC Fight Pass. Here is a detailed guide to the card, with exclusive quotes from several fighters.

TKO 41: Ten men, Five belts, and One defining event

TKO 41: Champions caps off a big year for the organization as they make their return to the Bell Centre. With a whopping five title bouts topping the card, TKO MMA definitely wants to live up to their promise of making this the biggest event in company history. In the main event position sits TJ Laramie who has been captivating hardcore fans of the Canadian MMA scene. That similar intrigue is also attached to his opponent Charles Jourdain which makes this bout for the vacant featherweight title so compelling.

“Honestly I’ve never been more confident for a fight in my entire life” TJ said. Laramie has no doubt he will be champion by the end of the week. Charles has tried to engage in some mental warfare before the upcoming title bout at the Bell Centre. Laramie is not biting though and is relishing in the moment of being at the top of a tentpole event. “It’s kind of embarrassing, if anything, on his part…..He’s acting a little bit out of character….It just shows that he’s pretty nervous” Laramie said. The two young killers have been on multiple shows together, sometimes in close proximity to one another at the top of the marquee.

Laramie has been adding some new weight lifting measures to his training. The calculated boosting of his strength has filled out his frame more so for the Featherweight class as he gets older in the game. TJ also spoke at length about the vast improvements in terms of cardio heading into this fight. Laramie is confident with the rounds he’s been putting in at the gym and is excited for the big Montreal title match. Stephane Patry sees the main event as a strong fight of the year contender.

TKO MMA promoter Stephane Patry sees this return to the Bell Centre event as a fitting re-entry to the vaunted venue. It’s where they held their last show before TKO went on a multi-year hiatus. “It’s by far the biggest card in company history” Patry said. Though Fight Network and UFC Fight Pass will broadcast the card, the perception is that this partnership is more of a benefit to UFC. “The reality of the whole thing is the people at UFC they were chasing me for the past seven years to convince me to start TKO again” Stephane stated. Evidently, UFC saw a big decline in Canadian talents coming to their promotion since TKO had closed up shop. “Our top stars right now are ten times better than the guys that ended up in the UFC in the last seven years” Stephane said.

Clearly talent sees the merit of staying with TKO MMA to further galvanize their prizefighter abilities. TJ has resigned for three more fights after this but still has his eyes on stepping to that UFC stage someday soon. “Their slogan is we build champions so it only makes sense to release someone like me to the UFC” TJ said. An event like TKO 41 shows what kind of talent they’re cultivating nowadays and TKO MMA has quite the track record for creating stars. Names like Georges St Pierre, David Loiseau, and Patrick Cote are but a few of the notable Canadian MMA fighters that fought under the TKO (formerly UCC) banner.

The future of the Featherweight division also gets quite interesting regardless of how TKO 41 plays out. Former TKO champion Hatsu Hioki is a prospective contender waiting in the wings but also someone like Alex Morgan could vie for the prize. Morgan did recently pick up a stoppage win over Laramie. Morgan, who competes on the card also, will surely be looking to capture an emphatic win to insert himself in that contender talk. All will be decided from TKO’s comprehensive, unique standings system.

The ground breaking ranking system they’ve established shows TKO as an industry leader. The exclusive standings system lays out as follows:

-* athletes will be allowed competing in ONE catchweight bout per season.
** as of 12/01/2016, athletes who fail to make weight for a bout (according to the signed bout agreement) will not receive any points for a win.

-+2 Points
Athletes will receive 2 points for a win
+1 Point
Athletes will receive a 1 point bonus
for a win by KO, TKO or via submission

On top of that athletes will receive a bonus depending on the quality of the opponents they defeat so the top ranked athletes are the ones that deserve it the most. If an athlete beats an opponent with a record of 10-2 for example he will receive a bonus of 8 points for the win (differential between wins and losses). A win against an opponent with a 0-2 or a 2-2 record will result in no extra bonus for that win.
An athlete with a 4-1 record beats an opponent with a 19-2 record by KO. He will receive 20 points for that win (2 points for the win, 1 point for the KO and 17 points for the differential in wins/losses of his opponent. In the same example, if the 19-2 athlete wins by KO, he will only get 6 points for the win (2 points for the win, 1 point for the KO and 3 points for the differential in wins/losses of his opponent).

“With this ranking system, there’s no flavour of the month” Patry said. For certain fans who decry the modern era of money fights, this meritocracy based system is a breath of fresh air. This is what makes all of theses title matches that much more exciting. Each championship match pits the irrefutable best from the respective weight divisions against one another.

One of those high consequence fights sees TKO looking to crown a titlist at 135lbs on December 8th. Jesse Arnett is widely regarded as the best bantamweight in the country. When TKO resumed their efforts, Jesse was reached out to almost right away. “One of the first five guys I contacted was Jesse” Patry stated. Dimitri Waardenburg has been making a big name for himself within the promotion and welcomes in the celebrated outsider Arnett.

TKO is also looking to put some leather clad gold on some 185ers. Stephane sees an emotional element to the Barriault vs Gavrilovic tilt because there’s a genuine, tangible hatred towards each other. Patry sees the roof of the Bell Centre blowing off during this middleweight title fight and does not see it going the distance.

Lightweight is ubiquitously regarded as a shark tank in every promotion so crowning a champion in this class was a must. Gauthier vs Ronson is a rematch with high stakes attached to it. The TKO lightweight championship is up for grabs and the winner here can make a strong claim to being the best 55er in Canada. Gauthier picked up an emphatic statement win over Canadian mma legend Chris Horodecki and Ronson has been a stalwart among elite lightweights in the great white north.

The Heavyweight championship is also up for grabs as the Black Panther takes on Kung Fu Panda. Bakary Sakho has a relatively low amount of MMA experience but is quite decorated as a kickboxer. Sakho made waves with his last performance in mixed martial arts and it creates a compelling match for highly touted prospect Adam Dyczka who has steamrolled everyone in his path up until now.

125 lb martial artist Tony Laramie will also be on the undercard for his brother TJ. This isn’t something that affects TJ at all but fans are undoubtedly excited to see the Laramies back at it. That same electricity is felt withing the very man who’s promoting this huge card. “When you try to describe what the perfect fighter is, Tony Laramie is a perfect title fighter” Patry stated. Jordan Graham’s Muay Thai proficiency makes for a stiff test for Laramie though. Patry is looking to build the flyweight divisions for both men and women before crowning titlists. There are bouts on this card in both the 125 lb classes that are of significance in terms of creating that hierarchy for each division leading into 2018.

Matar Lo is a varied striker and his lanky frame makes him an engaging featherweight competitor. “The top 45ers in TKO should fight this guy now” Stephane said. Patry posited that in a year or two, Matar will be one of the top featherweights not just in Canada but the MMA world overall. Every bout on the card has it’s own compelling narrative element attached to it though. The new crop of uber talented, Canadian martial artists are coming through TKO and are poised to shine at the Bell Centre.

TKO MMA is a promotion that has made a triumphant return to form. After nearly a decade away from the game, TKO came storming back into the picture in a big way. The promotion refused to rest on their laurels and all involved are continuing to break new ground in the sport. TKO 41: Champions goes December 8th on UFC Fight Pass and you can also catch it on The Fight Network.

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