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AFC 16 Uprising on tap Saturday night: Proving the experts wrong

After a career-ending prognosis, Curtis Demarce returns to MMA

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In the days after the crash, Curtis Demarce lay in a Toronto hospital bed and listened to doctors break the bad news: His right arm wasn't just broken. It was shattered, there was nerve damage and he'd never fight again.

Sometimes experts are wrong.

On Saturday, just over a year since the Toronto car accident that left his arm hanging only by its skin, Demarce will enter the cage at the Winnipeg Convention Centre for his bout at AFC 16 Uprising, the latest MMA extravaganza to hit Winnipeg. It's the first time the Brandon product, who is 12-10 in his career, has fought since November 2011.

It's a fight that wasn't supposed to happen.

Flashback to the crash, in March 2012: Demarce was in a car driven by a friend as it drove through a Toronto green light. Another driver made an illegal left-hand turn, entering the intersection at exactly the wrong time. There was a bang, and there was pain, and when it was over Demarce's humerus had been shattered in seven places, his radius and ulna severely damaged.

He was in hospital in Toronto for a month, they patched his arm back together with pins and steel plates.

"At the beginning, the surgeons were talking about amputation," Demarce said this week.

"It was pretty bad. Obviously at that time, negative thoughts were running through my mind... that I wouldn't be able to compete again, that I'd be lucky if I was ever able to use my arm."

For eight long months of rehab -- much of it back home in Manitoba -- Demarce still heard the wrist wouldn't fix. Instead, he kept up his cardio, started working more on his wrestling instead of the boxing and muay thai he's known for. And one day, not all that long ago, his wrist started getting its old range of motion back.

Now he has a fight, and it feels great. "I just kind of needed my sanity back," Demarce said. "I missed fighting. Your body's amazing and can overcome."

Demarce will be taking on Saskatoon fighter Adam Lorenz at AFC 16, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday. It isn't the only exciting local storyline on the fight card, which will also see Winnipeg's Curtis Brigham make the second fight of his comeback career, as he goes up against Mike Adams for the AFC's first bantamweight belt.

Brigham, a local MMA community vet, says the surge of interest in MMA in Manitoba -- and the big reveal of UFC 161, slated for the MTS Centre this summer -- comes at the right time.

"Our scene is fully developed," said Brigham, who took eight years off fighting to focus on running his own gym --Winnipeg Academy of Mixed Martial Arts. "We have the gyms in place, we have great fighters. We have a lot of pros that are striving to hit the big league, and having shows like AFC gives us a platform to show people what's happening here."

Four other fighters from WAMMA are on Saturday's fight card, including Brigham's student Louis Fisette. Fisette will fight Brent Fryia for the right to be the top bantamweight contender. If both Brigham and Fisette win, "he would have the next shot at the title, which would put us both in a strange position," said Brigham, laughing.

But hey, whatever helps spur local interest in the game. If attendance numbers at smaller MMA shows could creep up from 2,000 to pushing 5,000, Brigham said, that could attract more and bigger fighting events to Winnipeg.

"We need butts in the seats," he said.

"I hope having a big (UFC) show here will get people who have never been to a live fight before out to a fight and supporting the smaller shows... More people should know how great some of these smaller shows are."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 C8

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