3 Takeaways from the Quebec Open
The Quebec Open returned for the first time since 2019 thanks to the hard work and vision of David Bossinotte, Claire Cocozza, and Sam Gagnon. They have done a remarkable job following in the footsteps of all-time great promoter Clermont Poulin. I was unable to make it to the event this year due to medical school obligations, but seeing the athletes on stage for that spectacular night show sure made me miss it. Just from watching the show on the UventexTV pay-per-view and hearing a few things about the eliminations, there are three key takeaways that I’d like to share.
We Need More of This
The production of the night show itself and the Uventex PPV stream had a lot of the elements that I have been preaching the entire sport needs for a few years now. Starting with the show itself, they found a way to pack that arena at PEPS de I’Université Laval reminiscent of the massive crowds we saw at the event in the 2000’s. How did they do this? It starts with marketing, convincing people at the event and in the area that this is a must-see show, which they obviously did. However, you MUST have a product that people are willing to watch for more than 2 hours. The back drop, the big screen, the light effects, the fog, everything about the stage production itself was professional and entertaining. It looked like a true professional sporting event. Now for the streaming, I love the fact that Uventex implemented slow-motion replay after every performance and in between sparring rounds. My one area of improvement here would be having more specific replays. There was an exchange in which a fighter went down and was temporarily injured, but the slow-mo in the interim didn’t show the clash that caused the delay. Little things like that can be improved moving on, and I look forward to being on the mic for Uventex’s production of the Diamond Nationals to bring even more professionalism to the stream. My last point regarding the show is the $15 pay-per-view price. I heard a few people complaining about having to pay to watch a night show, but I would argue this is exactly what the sport needs. I have been on my soapbox for some time now about the importance of producing revenue from spectators in the form of PPV and sponsorship opportunities that arise from viewership. If you want to see this sport grow, you should have been first in line to pay the $10 fee and $5 processing charge to watch the sport you love. Most of that money goes back to the promoters to reward them for a great event and enable them to invest more into the event next year including opportunities to increase prize money (which EVERYONE wants). If you want to see our athletes get rewarded more for their achievements, then you should be willing to invest in the process that is going to make that possible.
The Field is Deep
Now, let’s talk about the athletes. There were certainly cases of continued dominance at the event, such as Judah Sagawa’s double grands in youth forms and weapons, Sofia Rodriguez Florez winning both traditional grands again en route to the forms overall, and Mason Stowell winning the men’s traditional forms overall. Other big wins to be mentioned include double overall grand championships for Shane Billow and a first-career overall grand championship for Savannah Agosto in youth girls’ weapons.
However, there are two divisions in particular that highlighted the depth in the sport right now. The first is the junior (14-17) girls in forms and weapons. The forms side saw Jessica Albu of Team Revolution make her first appearance on stage, adding to the depth of formidable CMX forms competitors such as Averi Presley, Isabella Nicoli, and Alyss Groce. Erica Goldt of Team AKA also introduced her name in the CMX mix by placing ahead of some higher-ranked competitors. As for weapons, Samantha Mitling won her first career overall grand championship with an impressive bo form that was a product of Scott Cornelius and Derek Meegan influence. Some impressive rolls mixed in with solid releases earned her the championship, and she joins a deep list of CMX weapons runoff winners in the age group this year including Rodriguez Florez, Routel-Ferguson, and Nicoli.
The other division I want to highlight is men’s forms and weapons, particularly CMX. The overall grand championship for Ben Jones means that all three Competitive Edge boys that were recruited to Team Paul Mitchell last year have won ADULT overall grands (Jones, Tremblay, and Holt). Every time one of these three competitors have been at a NASKA event this year, one of them has come away with the CMX weapons overall grand. Let’s not forget they also have longer-tenured JPM members in the mix like Jake Presley (who continues to dominate traditional weapons) and Alex Mancillas (coming off back-to-back heavyweight sparring overalls). By the way… that’s only the competitors wearing black and white. Rashad Eugene of Team DMND G3 looked fantastic on stage against Jones in Quebec and continues to be a threat to win the overall grand. Brennan Green of Team Revolution made his second stage appearance of the season, after first appearing in the finals at Cowboy Up where Leo Gamboa won the title. We still haven’t mentioned CMX forms where Esteban Tremblay added another overall grand win to his résumé while also winning the traditional weapons grand. The rest of that CMX forms division has Compete Internationals champ Salef Celiz, Mr. Clean himself Dawson Holt, the musical traditional of Diego Rodriguez Florez, as well as Ben Jones and Rashad Eugene who have each been stellar in creative forms. The men’s division is as deep as I have seen it, and the next few seasons will tell the story of which three rise to become the next great triumvirate.
Straight Up Dominance
I’ve said a lot of what I wanted to say already, but I couldn’t write an article about Quebec without talking about how impressed I was with Kevin Walker and Bailey Murphy of Team Straight Up. Starting with KSwift, he looked great in his heavyweight overall grand championship-winning performance. He controlled the first round and could be pretty comfortable up 6-3, but absolutely exploded in the second round to outclass his opponent and earn the victory by 10-point spread. On the lightweight side, Bailey Murphy met a worthy opponent in Tyson Wray of Next Level. Murphy put on a defensive clinic in this bout, landing fadeaway back fists and counter punches as Wray blitzed forward knowing that he needed to erase a deficit. The excellent defense set up blitz opportunities late in the match and Murphy recorded an impressive 12-2 victory via spread. In the Virtual Fight Tour Last Man Standing, which I still believe is one of the best things to happen to NASKA since the pandemic, Walker gave his teammate an excellent match. A relatively high-scoring match was knotted at 9 going into the third and final round, a great position for any fighter to be in after two rounds with Murphy. Despite the effort, Murphy was able to work some of his magic in the third and come away with the well-earned victory. Adding to Murphy’s accomplishments on the weekend, he also won the open weight title and brought Team Straight Up back from a 3-point deficit in the team fighting final to lift his squad over Team DMND G3. I know Joe Greenhalgh had to have driven back to New England with a smile after watching his men perform so well.
In addition to the main three points I have presented above, I have to throw in one more shoutout in conclusion. The Défi Challenge at the Quebec Open is one of the greatest events in all of sport karate. The way that this division showcases martial artists with disabilities is absolutely incredible, and some version of it should be present in every night show on the NASKA world tour. Gaetan Monette was this year's champion, and the award was presented by Défi Challenge GOAT and Quebec Open legend Florent Fontier. Thank you, Quebec Open, for highlighting these athletes in such an amazing way.