Shannon “The Cannon” Ritch has been brawling in the valley for 30 years now. Combat sports paid the bills while attending Al Collins School of Graphic Design in Tempe in the early 1990s.
Rich says of those days, “Every weekend, I’d go to Mexico, fight, and win nearly $500. They had dog fights, chicken fights, and then they fight people. That’s pretty much how I put myself through college.”
The mixed martial arts fighter and Hollywood acrobatic man, now living in Glendale, has gone on to fight in more than 200 professional and covert matches for various mixed martial arts promotions around the world, such as Pride Fighting Championship and Barry Knuckle Fighting Championship. He currently holds the title of BKFC International Heavyweight Champion.
But three decades of kicking his ass (and kicking his butt) took its toll on the 51-year-old. Retirement is on the horizon. So perhaps it’s fitting that the next fight he considers likely will be one of the last to have a therapeutic component to it: the cannabis convention.
RUF 44: RUF, PUFF, and RUMBLE will take place this Saturday, October 23 at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix. The fighting portion of the evening will be similar to other MMA events. After about a dozen more matches, Rich will face off against Aaron Brink, a former porn star and longtime competitor, in the main event. They will compete for the RUF Nation World Heavyweight Championship title.
Before the match, though, ticket holders are invited to stroll the Celebrity Theater car park, where about 80 vendors will be posted somewhere to sell their wares. Vendors slated to be there include GreenPharms, Puck’s Cannabis Confections and Mad Terp Labs. David DeCorpo, event organizer with Trap Culture Promotions, says it will be closer to “first weed Friday.”
DeCorpo says, “This is like the first cannabis and mixed martial arts event in the country—maybe in the world. We’ll have a giant pre-match party. The booths that are going to be there will have dab stations, so you can kick people out. They’ll have a flower to smoke, food to try, we’ve got Everything. We produce dispensaries, concentrator lines, edible companies, people who make and sell hemp clothing, hemp plates, and jewelry. We want to bring the entire industry together.”
Food trucks and beer sellers will also be on site for a cannabis fair for attendees who may get snacks or prefer to enjoy a pint of froth, according to DeCorpo. (Note: while cannabis at the fair is OK, no one will be allowed to participate inside.) There will also be jumptronics set up in the parking lot so attendees can watch the fights from the pots exhibit.
RUF Nation CEO Joel Lopez says he got the idea for RUF, PUFF, and RUMBLE after noticing several combat athletes working to promote CBD and THC products aimed at athletic recovery as an additional revenue stream between their fights. He believes that this event will set a direction for future MMA events around the world.
“We’re starting to talk to a lot of fighters, and here’s a lot of fighters who are cannabis lovers, consumers, sellers, sellers – they really are the heaviest in this world,” Lopez says. “We’re merging the world of cannabis with the world of MMA fighting, and I don’t think there’s ever been another event like this.”
As for the fight between Ritch and Brink, it has all the makings of an explosive match. The guys will hit the ring holding a heavy grudge for 20 years dating back to the time they trained with MMA legend Tito Ortiz at his Southern California camp in the early 2000s, according to Rich.
Pride picked me up [Fighting Championships], I don’t know if [Brink] I got jealous or what, but since then he’s been turning his mouth every time he sees me. “At that time I was fighting at 170 [pounds] And he was at 205 [pounds] So we weren’t in the same weight class. As the years went by, Aaron started talking about how his wrestling was better than my jiu-jitsu and he wanted to fight.”
Brink says he doesn’t remember how the problem with Rich started, but aims to settle the outcome once they meet face to face. While both men are now fighting in the heavyweight category, Brink expects Rich to burn himself in the first round due to his increased muscle mass along with his age, he says.
“For over several years, we’ve been on a collision course with each other. I wanted to fight him over some of the comments he made on Facebook. [Ritch] He thinks he can introduce me with jiu-jitsu and he can knock me out in a stand-up fight,” Brink says. [Ritch] He’s getting older, he’s getting a lot older, and so I don’t think he’s going to be in that good shape. I think he’s going out really fast and I don’t see any chance of him at all in this fight.”
Brink, 46, has fought with several professional MMA promotions, including a brief stint with the UFC. While he was only five years younger than Rich, he says he believes his body is a lot smaller due to spending several years between battles to battle methamphetamine addiction, a habit Brink developed during his porn career in the mid-2000s. His struggles with methamphetamine were featured in A&E’s to intervene In 2009 and later on the TV show divorce court in 2011.
“I took a while because I had a drug addiction. But during that time I didn’t have any injuries like the other fighters out there,” Brink says. “I’m forty-six biologically, but my physical form wouldn’t reflect this. I’m actually in great shape. If I had to, I could go 5 rounds for five minutes right now, and I know Shannon wouldn’t be able to do one” .
Rich says he thinks his opponent is underestimating him and he will realize the mistake is coming the day of the fight. In addition to training at his gym, Cannon Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Glendale, Ritch also works with martial arts professor Bob Carmel and Nick Chastain five days a week at Golden Era Muay Thai in Scottsdale.
“I’m not going to go for gas…I can go hard for three rounds, or five rounds, or however long we need,” Rich says. “Aaron is the bigger guy, but I think I’m in better shape, I’m a better athlete, I have better technique, and my applications are better than most. If I touch him, I’ll put him to sleep.”
RUF 44: RUFF, PUFF, RUMBLE
Saturday 23 October
Cannabis fair at 1 pm
The first bell at 5 p.m
440 North 32 . Street
Tickets start at $55
For more information, check out: rufnation.com