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Latino popularizing mixed martial arts in Connecticut

By Brian Woodman

“If you believe in your purpose then nothing is impossible,” said Peruvian-American Bill Vigil AKA “Bill Idol”, who operates AMMO Fight League out of Glastonbury.

Vigil’s organization is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) organization that has held seven events at the Big E, formally known as The Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA since 2017.

The sport combines techniques drawn primarily from Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), wrestling, boxing and muay thai (a form of boxing from Thailand that uses eight points of contact – fists, feet, knees, and elbows). Two participants compete in a chain-linked cage with a referee who ensures that the fighters remain safe and adhere to the sport’s rules.

Bill Vigil AKA “Bill Idol”,
AMMO Fight League

“I have been involved in combat sports all my life,” said Vigil, who has also promoted music for 25 years under the Vigil Clan Entertainment banner.

“As a kid growing up in Hartford, I belonged to the Bellevue Square Boys Club in the North end of Hartford in the ’70s where I use to go to box under the supervision of Johnny Duke. As a teen, I started training in American Kenpo at Silk Wind Kenpo in the South End of Harford where I received my black belt under Ed Parker. Later in life when BJJ started getting popular from the fame and popularity of Royce Gracie fighting in the Octagon in the early years of the UFC I began to train in BJJ where I hold a blue belt.  

While he was training in BJJ during the early 2000s, he said, he promoted a seminar with Gracie and a BJJ competition in Harford.

“I took an interest in possibly holding more of these types of events,” he said. “That sparked the idea to start AMMO.”

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which held its first event in 1993, is perhaps the most visible face of the sport. Other organizations include Bellator (widely considered to be the UFC’s chief rival) and Invicta (a promotion focused on female fighters).

Connecticut houses smaller organizations such as Reality Fighting and Premier FC, but the state did not legalize the sport until 2013 after legislators attempted to do so for five years. 

MMA promotions are held events either in neighboring states or at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos. The resorts are on tribal lands and exempt from the state’s prizefighting statute, which effectively prohibited professional combat sports other than boxing.

Connor Barry vs Jesus Cintron at AMMO “Saint Patrick’s” MMA on March 16th, 2019

In March, CES MMA (which also promotes boxing) promoted a show in Hartford at the Connecticut Convention Center – the first time an MMA event occurred in Connecticut outside of a reservation. The promotion has since marketed two more shows in Hartford this year while Bellator followed suit with a show in Bridgeport.

Vigil and his partners started their company in 2012 as AMO Promotions.

“The only obstacles we encountered was finding a venue that would allow us to hold our events and attracting participants since we were fairly new, no one knew anything about us so we basically had no support from the schools,” he said. “Since MMA was not legal in Connecticut in 2012, we decided to hold grappling events and our first one occurred in July of 2012.”

He is definitely interested in staging shows in Connecticut, he added.
“We have reached out to the Connecticut commission to inquire about the requirements needed to move forward in getting approved to hold an event in the state that AMMO is licensed to do business in,” he said.

The next event is AMMO “Battle of Saint Patrick’s” MMA on Saturday March 14th at The Big E.

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