MMA Dreams Come True On Kaua‘i

(from left) Randy Ortiz, Eben Kaneshiro and Vance Pascua. Photo from Vance Pascua

Back in 2005, Vance Pascua decided to take a chance on creating a mixed martial arts event on Kaua’i.

With MMA popularity across the U.S. gaining momentum, the Koloa native took his idea and put it to the test.

“Starting something like this on Kaua’i was really a leap of faith,” Pascua says. “With nothing to go on, nothing or no one to follow, (we) were really rolling the dice to see if anyone would come to watch.”

The first event, held at the Kapaa High School gym, turned out to be a huge success. And that success is what truly inspires this big tradition on Kaua’i.

“We have come a long way since our first show,” Pascua says. “Now (we’re) on our 11th, going from Kapa’a High School’s gym to Hanapepe Stadium and now to Kilohana Mansion.”

The next event i “Mayhem at the Mansion” June 25 at Kilohana in Lihue.

“I’m really proud to see what we have built from basically the ground up,” he says. “What really makes it special is seeing all the people come out and help put this thing together. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of my staff, who are primarily my family and friends.”

His cousin Lono Pascua has a lot to do with the logistics and the technical side of the show. His wife Roxy helps with the production aspects. His friend Larry Dizon handles all the security and safety aspects of the event. Yet another friend, Dom Acain, manages the media side of the business.

“They are my backbones and make my event that much more special and professional,” he says.

Pascua contends that part of the events’ success is built on keeping the shows family-oriented.

“I run a non-alcoholic event, so the people can enjoy the show and focus on what is important: the fighters in the ring who have spent months preparing and training for this day,” he says.

One of those fighters, Eben Kaneshiro, has been an integral part of the process.

“He’s been with me since the beginning, and is still a part of my shows till today,” says Pascua. “He is a great role model for the younger generations, not only in MMA, but as an instructor and as a person.”

Kaneshiro is widely regarded as one of the top fighters on Kaua’i. In March, he earned a state title shot against Oahu’s Ricky Wallace in a bout for X-1 World Events at Blaisdell Center.

Although Kaneshiro didn’t win, the opportunity might not have come without his huge success in Pascua’s events.

“We are co-promoting with X-1, so this way we can give the Kaua’i fighters a direct line to fight in Hawaii’s biggest shows at the Blaisdell,” he says. “These are opportunities the Kaua’i fighters never had before.”

Highlighted matchups for the upcoming “Mayhem at the Mansion” include: Eben Kaneshiro vs. Chris Willems (Hawaiian MMA Hilo); Shane Kahananui (KTI) vs. Bruen Tavares (Hilo); Pono Pananganan (KTI instructor) vs. Jason Lagmay (Kaua’i Pankration instructor).

Other Kaua’i fighters taking part in this event are Tesai Seamster (New Breed), Randy Ogata (No Way Fight Skool), Nalu Hawelu (New Breed), Beldon Gacayan (New Breed), Kapeli Tam (No Way Fight Skool) and Landon Peeren (KTI).

For Pascua, the tradition continues, six years since its inception. The chance he took back then turned out to be a smashing success.