Sonora MMA Academy instructor Bill Theofanopoulos (right), trains with Sonja Daniels (left), 14, of Sonora, as she prepares for a kickboxing tournament at Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown on Saturday, Aug. 3. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat
Art of War Productions promote family friendly MMA entertainment
Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat /
Tom Theofanopoulous is trying to do things a different way.
And it's out of the norm, especially when it comes to Mixed Martial Arts and alcohol. For Theofanopoulous, the two don't mix.
"We don't serve alcohol," Theofanopoulous said. "That's a big thing for me. Fighting and alcohol just don't go together. If you want to drink, go to a bar or drink from the venue of your own home."
Theofanopoulous, the MMA promoter for Art of War Productions, is catering their events at Chicken Ranch Casino in Jamestown to provide family-oriented entertainment. Art of War operates under an alcohol and drug-free environment.
"Our fights are about family," Theofanopoulous said. "We wanted to have a venue where families can go and be in a safe environment."
In the past, at other events, Theofanopoulous noticed that serving alcohol to spectators can turn aggressive and violent. Which in his eyes, decreases the entertainment value of the sport.
"A lot of the shows we go to - fights breakout," Theofanopoulous said. "Not really a good family environment. Those cater to more 35-45 year olds."
With an approach of a family-friendly atmosphere, Theofanoupoulous has seen an increase in attendance.
"A lot more families come," he said. "We generally sell out the show."
Art of War will host its eighth show, Tactical Violence, at the Chicken Ranch Casino Bingo HallAug. 3.
The event will feature amateur and professional fighters from Merced, Oakdale and Sonora MMA academies, which are all owned by Theofanopoulous. Mixed martial artists from other areas are also on the fight card.
The 52-year-old Theofanopoulous created and established Art of War Productions with his partner, Roy Arriola, in late 2011, and promoted their first show in January 2012.
Theofanopoulous, who has more than 35 years of Martial Arts experience and holds black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kajukenbo, wanted to provide a convenient location that was close to home after a few of his fighters were left out to dry when a show got canceled at the last minute in 2011.
"It caused a lot of havoc," Theofanopoulous said.
"Our fighters from the area now have an easy venue to go to," he added. "It's just a half an hour from Oakdale and right down the hill for Sonora. Very convenient venue."
Another purpose for Art of War is to give local individuals the opportunity to showcase their skills and for those who are curious about getting into the MMA action.
"Our goal for Art of War is to have a good, safe venue for people who want to start out in MMA whether they're amateur or pro," Theofanopoulous said. "The idea is to highlight local fighters, in a local venue, where it's safe."
Theofanopoulous said that they try to do their best when matching up fighters. Match maker Arriola, who is professionally licensed through the California State Athletic Commission, always keeps it on an even fighting scale. He will, if he can, match fighters that are on the same level of competition.
"We want to treat our fighters fairly," Theofanopoulous said. "Good honest fights."
"We have a lot of more split decisions because our fights are so evenly-matched," he added. "I give that credit to Roy Arriola. He's one of the best matchmakers in all of California. Always fair."
There will also be a kick boxing tournament before the main event, at10 a.m., for children ages 5-17.
"We encourage the kids to participate," Sonora MMA academy trainer Bill Theofanopoulous said.
Bill, son of Tom, said that with children present for most the of the day, Art of War encourages everyone to not use foul language or profanity.
"We try to keep cursing at a minimum," he said." There might be a slip up, but we do our best to stop that."
General admission tickets start at $40. Doors open4:30 p.m., and the first fight is scheduled for