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MMA grapples back into the Okanagan

The Okanagan Fighting Championship’s inaugural event will be at the Vernon Curling Club on July 6
Headlining Vernon’s first MMA event in five years is local fighter Rylie (Coyote) Marchand out of Unity MMA and Kickboxing. She will be fighting for the women’s bantamweight (135 pound) championship. (Contributed)

After five long years, mixed martial arts (MMA) is returning to Vernon.

Okanagan Fighting Championships (OFC) will be putting on their first event on Saturday, July 6, out of the Vernon Curling Club.

Vernon’s Alisha Kler is the promoter of the newest MMA outfit.

Kler previously worked for XFC, which organized Vernon’s first MMA event in a decade back in 2019. The sport was banned in 2014 via a city bylaw that prohibited professional and amateur MMA fights within the municipal limits.

Chief among the reasons for banning was the apparent involvement of organized crime in MMA events. However, former Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher had investigated and found that wasn’t the case.

The ban was rescinded in March of 2019, and the XFC event, aptly titled Unbanned, went off without a hitch in August of that year.

“The event went off really well in 2019,” Kler told The Morning Star. “I was not the promoter of that event, but I was involved in the organization of it and we were really excited to do another one and then 2020 happened and that just killed all the momentum.”

COVID restraints severely limited any future events within the city, but OFC has been in the works since then. Kler, as the sole promoter, is taking on all responsibility. She is one of just two female promoters across the province that is officially licensed by the B.C. Athletic Commission.

“As a promoter, my job is to make sure that all the licenses, all the staff, paperwork, etc is all in order so it is a lot of work,” she explained, as her goal is to have all fights feature at least one athlete from the Okanagan. “It’ll be primarily MMA, like UFC style, but we are going to have the focus as much as possible on local athletes.

“My goal is to make it the Okanagan vs. Everybody,” she remarked. “Our event is amateur only, all of the MMA and kickboxing will be amateur and then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) doesn’t really have a pro or amateur ranking, so it’ll be amateur as well.”

Kler remarked that there has been very little as far as showcasing local MMA talent in the Okanagan community and those athletes typically have to go to the Lower Mainland to get recognition.

“It’s important, I think, to acknowledge the different kinds of martial arts that we have in the Okanagan and showcase those and give those athletes an opportunity to compete at that level without having to travel so much,” said Kler as her goal is to put on two shows a year, pending success of the first one.

As for the headliner on July 6, Rylie (Coyote) Marchand, out of Unity MMA and Kickboxing in Vernon, will be fighting for the women’s bantamweight (135 pound) championship. Rylie is the cousin of BJJ stalwart Lillian Marchand.

“Rylie is going to be fighting Stephanie Lehecka out of Akron, Ohio,” said Kler.

The other headliner is Kamloops product (Ruthless) Lucas Taylor who will be scrapping for the men’s bantamweight (135 pound) championship. Other fights are in the works, but Kler hopes for around 15-16 bouts.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the first fight scheduled for 6 p.m. All ages welcome, and tickets can be purchased at There will also be an online streaming option, through

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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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