Vancouver Island fight promoter Jason Heit set for first post-pandemic boxing show

Jason Heit says that by stepping aside and supporting Stephen Andrew’s campaign, there is better opportunity to bring balance to the council table. (CTV News)

There's not much Jason Heit hasn't done in combat sports.

As a fighter, Heit competed in boxing, kickboxing and MMA. And away from the cage or ring, he looked after the likes of Drew Barrymore, David Duchovny, Nicolas Cage and Robbie Williams as a bodyguard.

“It's been a wild journey, that's for sure,” said Heit. “Rubbed elbows and looked after every celeb you can imagine.”

These days, the veteran Vancouver Island fight coach is putting his promoter's hat back on. Heit and Champ Promotions are staging a boxing card Saturday at the Roundhouse at Bayview Place in Victoria

The main event on the 12-fight amateur card features Terris Smith, who trains at Heit's Island Boxing Gym, against Vancouver's Saphir Vendroux in the 57-kilogram division. Smith, a chartered accountant, was runner-up at the 2019 Canadian national championships.

“She's right in there as one of the top boxers in the country,” said Heit

The card, titled “Back on Track,” is the first for Heit since the pandemic.

“This card is really to shake off the ring rust and test the market. I haven't promoted in a while and the world is a little bit different coming out post-COVID,” said Heit. “I just want to test the waters with an amateur boxing event. And if all goes well, which it really seems to be The next show will be a pro-am.”

He plans to focus on boxing in the near term but hasn't ruled out staging other combat sports. Either way, he's happy to be back staging fights, given the short shelf life of athletes who have been on the shelf due to COVID-related restrictions.

Heit said while his elite boxers were allowed to train during the pandemic, he had the police called on him when some saw his gym was still open.

Heit got into combat sports the hard way.

At 17, he won the 1990 Island Tough Man Contest by knocking out three men in one night. He turned to amateur boxing and represented Canada at the 1995 Pan American Games.

In 1996 he moved to Los Angeles to train under Royce Gracie, returning to Canada to run a gym in Duncan, B.C., that produced WEC and UFC fighter John (The Natural) Alessio.

Heit had his first pro MMA fight in 1997, before moving to L.A. to pursue pro boxing. That led to a career detour as a bodyguard.

He continued training in MMA, moving back to Victoria in 2007 to open his own gym. He posted wins in the Maximum Fighting Championship and King of the Cage promotions, retiring with a 4-0-0 mark.

His combined boxing, kickboxing and MMA record is 42-5 with 34 knockouts.

In 2008, he founded his own regional MMA promotion called the Armageddon Fighting Championships.

In 2011, Heit and Armageddon co-owner Darren Owen appeared on the “Dragons' Den” TV show in search of new investors. With two fight shows under their belt, they asked for $55,000 for 10 per cent of their company to help fund its growth. They ended up agreeing to $80,000 for 30 per cent with Jim Treliving and Robert Herjavec.

“It was fantastic exposure,” said Heit. “It was really good for helping build the brand.”

But after more than a year of due diligence, “the deal kind of didn't really make sense for anyone because the company had grown and the valuation was different,” said Heit.

Armageddon eventually joined forces with Edmonton-based Aggression MMA and Calgary-based AX Combat in 2012 to become the Aggression Fighting Championship.

In 2013, it was taken over by the World Series of Fighting which operates today as the Professional Fighters League.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022