Cage Fury Fighting Championships is coming home Friday.

The highly regarded MMA organization returns to Atlantic City for the first time in over two years with CFFC 104 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

"We're very excited to be back," CFFC owner Rob Haydak said.

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CFFC got its start on June 20, 2006, when former owners Felix and Amy Martinez held a card at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom. A year later, the late Kimbo Slice (Kevin Ferguson) made his professional MMA debut in CFFC 5 against former heavyweight boxing champion Ray Mercer at Boardwalk Hall's main arena, winning via first-round submission. Slice, who passed away in 2016, was supposed to take on Tank Abbott in his next fight, but financial difficulties forced CFFC to cease operations.

Haydak, Felix Martinez's wrestling teammate at Vineland High School, bought the company in 2011 and resurrected it as a regional promotion focused on developing East Coast fighters for bigger outfits such as UFC and Bellator.

Atlantic City was the site of most of the fights. CFFC held 36 cards there between 2011 and 2019. However, Friday's soldout card at Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena marks the company's first show on the Boardwalk since it held CFFC 79 at Hard Rock on Nov. 16, 2019. Four months later, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, which prompted Atlantic City's casino properties to close.

CFFC was ready to return to action in August of 2020, but New Jersey delayed in approving the return of combative sports, prompting the company to stage cards in other locales. It's held 22 shows in the 16 months in Philadelphia; Memphis; Tunica, Mississippi; and Tampa, Florida.

CFFC's milestone 100th card took place at Tampa's Seminole Hard Rock Casino on Sept. 16.

"We love working with (Hard Rock Atlantic City President) Joe Lupo and his staff," Haydak said. "We just had to wait until it made sense for them and for us to come back. We're in the process of reviewing open dates for 2022 and hope to have three or four shows in Atlantic City next year."

Eleven fights are scheduled for Friday's card, including a pair of championship bouts. In the main event, Collingswood's Eddy Torres (4-0) will meet Blake Bilder (4-0) of St. Paul, Minnesota for the CFFC featherweight title. In addition, New Brunswick's Phumi Nkuta (4-0) will defend his CFFC flyweight title against Jason Eastman (7-3) of Coconut Creek, Florida.

Notes: In other news, it looks like big-time boxing is finally poised to return to Atlantic City. On Jan. 22, WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell, Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, is scheduled to defend his belt against unbeaten Mark Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) of the Philippines, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. The fight, which is being promoted by TGB Promotions, will be televised on Showtime. It will be the first world championship fight held in Atlantic City since Claressa Shields won the WBC and WBO women's super-welterweight titles by beating Ivan Habazin at Ocean Casino Resort on Jan. 10, 2020.

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