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Shine Fights Makes New Oklahoma Tournament Site Official

It will have to change course and move halfway across the country to do it, but Shine Fights' lightweight tournament will go on as scheduled.

On Saturday, MMA Fighting was first to report the news that the promotion had been denied a license in Virginia for its Sept. 10 lightweight grand prix at the Patriot Center in Fairfax and would be moving the event to Oklahoma.

On Monday, Shine Fights COO Jason Chambers made the move official on his Twitter account. Less than a week before the event, which is scheduled to air on pay-per-view, Shine will move to the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla.

The event, Shine's third, will be a single-night, eight-man tournament. Opening-round and semifinal bouts will be two five-minute rounds with a three-minute third round if necessary. The championship fight is scheduled for the standard three rounds and five minutes each.

The issue in Virginia stemmed from Shine announcing it would have fans select via e-mail the pairings for the tournament's opening round, with the most popular combinations being used to set the quarterfinal fights. A source close to the promotion told MMA Fighting the Virginia commission denied the promotion a license based primarily on that concept of fans becoming matchmakers. That left Shine Fights in the lurch, scrambling for a state that would sanction the event – some states don't allow single-night elimination tournaments – as well as a venue that could take on an MMA card on a week's notice.

And that venue became the First Council Casino in Newkirk, about 10 miles from Oklahoma's border with Kansas and 75 miles south of Wichita, the nearest city. Aside from playing host to Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn the night after the Shine Fights tournament, the venue regularly hosts MMA events put on by regional promotions.

Chambers also took to "The Underground" forums at mixedmartialarts.com with a response to the Virginia commission's decision, saying: "There really is a Santa Claus. Unfortunately he does not live at the offices of the (Virginia commission). We will not be holding our event as scheduled at The Patriot Center however we have managed to successfully move our entire event to Oklahoma."

Last month, Shine said in a release the fans choosing the pairings was an attempt to become "MMA's most fan-friendly organization."

"Every MMA organization tells fans what fights they are going to see, even though the fans are the ones paying the money," Chambers said in the release. "We are saying, 'You are buying the pay-per-view, you are buying the tickets, so you tell us what you want to watch.' We feel it's one of the most unique opportunities fight fans have been given to date."

But once word reached the Virginia commission, a roadblock was put up for that plan, forcing the promotion to quickly go to work on a solution.

Late Monday afternoon, Shine Fights released a statement also alleging the commission in Virginia also took issue with the promotion's previous event attempt, which was canceled the afternoon of the show.

"I was given verbal approval for our Sept. 10 event by the Virginia state commission 32 days prior to the fight date," Shine Fights CEO Devin Price said. "The commission did not express any problems with our event until certain members of the MMA community accused Shine of having reneged on our responsibilities following the cancellation of our May 15 'Worlds Collide: Ricardo Mayorga-Din Thomas' fight card in Fayetteville, N.C. The Virginia commission was understandably concerned, but instead of allowing us to prove the concerns were unfounded, they refused to provide a license. And we could have proved this since on Friday the North Carolina commission ruled that Shine had met all its obligations from the May 15 event. It is unfortunate things had to end this way; however, I know we will still have a great show on Sept. 10 and we are happy to be working with the First Council Casino."

In May, Shine Fights had a planned pay-per-view featuring a main event between boxer Ricardo Mayorga and UFC vet Din Thomas scrapped when boxing promoter Don King was successful in a court fight to keep Mayorga from participating. Shortly after, the North Carolina commission scrapped the entire event, reportedly because Shine did not meet regulation requirements. Friday's tournament will be the first single-night, eight-man tournament held by a significant U.S. promotion in years. As the MMA landscape widens, the tourney format, used by the UFC in its infancy as well as Pride, appears to be gaining renewed traction. Bellator, launched in 2009, bases its entire promotion around season-long tournaments. And Strikeforce recently held a four-woman tournament in Phoenix and announced plans for a men's middleweight tournament, as well.

Chambers also announced via Twitter first-round tournament matchups of UFC and WEC veteran Rich Crunkilton vs. WEC vet Carlo Prater and Kyle Baker vs. James Warfield. The promotion previously announced a quarterfinal fight between UFC vet Drew Fickett and Pride vet Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett. That would presumably make the final first-round bout UFC vet Marcus Aurelio vs. Dennis Bermudez. Aurelio was also confirmed over the weekend for a non-title bout against Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki at DREAM.16 just two weeks after the Shine Fights tourney.

Shine Fights' official website, as of early Monday afternoon, still listed the Fairfax location, as well as Josh Shockley and Hector Munoz as part of the field. But both Shockley and Munoz had to withdraw from the event.