When reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens announced he'd be taking part in a mixed martial arts fight in Hawaii this offseason, there were plenty of questions to be asked. Sure, many football players train in MMA during the offseason, and some former football players have found success in the sport, but a current player competing in an actual MMA fight was something relatively new (although former Edmonton Eskimo Adam Braidwood reportedly did so as well during his time in the CFL), and something potentially dangerous. While MMA workouts can be incredibly useful for players, actual fights carry significant injury risks, and the Toronto Argonauts can ill-afford to lose a star player like Owens thanks to an off-season event. However, the current player contract doesn't ban MMA fights (that may change down the road), so Owens went ahead and the team offered reluctant support. It worked out for them, as you can see from this video of Owens' unanimous-decision triumph Saturday night, one he told Hawaii News Now he emerged from without serious injury:
For a guy who's a football player first and foremost, Owens definitely has strong MMA skills. You can see him controlling the fight throughout in that clip, taking opponent Junyah Tevaga down early and often and then pounding him once he got him to the ground. Owens isn't big (he's listed at 5'8'', 180 pounds, making his "Mighty Mouse" nickname apt), but he's remarkably quick and agile, and he has impressive striking skills as well. Owens earlier said he's committed to the CFL, but wants to explore MMA to see if it might be an option once he finishes his football career. A relatively low-level fight like this doesn't necessarily mean he has a career high-level MMA, especially when you consider the experience gap he'd have against most fighters, but he certainly showed some potential here.
The most crucial element of this for the Argonauts is that Owens came out of the fight without suffering a serious injury, though. That was always the worry here; on many levels, Owens' involvement in this was a great thing for the team, but the risk of injury always hung over the event in Damocletian fashion. Now that he's come out with a win, though, the team can reflect on the publicity they've gained from this; this was a big story at a rather slow point in the CFL offseason, and TSN even sent reporter Farhan Lalji to cover the event in person. It's something that could potentially at least put the CFL in the mind of MMA fans, too; as stated here before, attempts along those lines are extremely valuable given the rising prominence of MMA in Canada. There was always a chance this could have gone quite poorly, given the injury risks of MMA fights, and the Argos were right to be concerned; it wouldn't be surprising at all to see offseason MMA fights (not training) banned in the next CFL CBA, as you can bet teams don't want to have to worry about this too often. However, this one worked out well for all involved, and that carries numerous benefits for both Owens and the Argos.