The fight game might be living in an MMA world now, but long before mixed martial arts became The Next Big Thing, Michigan-founded Toughman competitions featuring amateurs stepping into the ring to prove they were tough enough, were the thing in fighting. Kalamazoo was one of the sports hotbeds and claimed a spot on the national stage when a 90s era event from Wings Stadium was widely covered.

Toughman was founded in Bay City by promoter Art Dore. The fights featured local pugilists - competitors had to live within 100 miles of the host city - and featured 3 one-minute rounds.

Rob Van Dam Fights at Kalamazoo Toughman

Toughman lore tells of legends like Mr. T and Eric Butterbean Esch who found fame in the Toughman ring. But did you know that pro wrestler Rob Van Dam was the runner-up at the 1990 Kalamazoo Toughman?

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Van Dam, who has done stints in ECW, TNA and WWE is a native of Battle Creek. Born in 1970, Van Dam would have been 20 when he entered the ring in Kalamazoo. That's the same time frame he was working the independent circuit around Michigan.

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If you still remember the pre-fight call of "Get it! Get it! Get it!" and being in the stands at Wings Stadium, check out these archived photos of a Kalamazoo Toughman competition from 1998.

When Toughman Competitions Ruled Michigan