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pakistan

Location: Sub continental Asia Population Density (per square mile): 546

Despite its reputation for orthodoxy, Pakistan’s provided little opposition to a sport that some western detractors still consider barbaric.

MMA’s exploding in the most exotic – and surprising – of places. FO captures the birth throes of Earth’s first truly global sport

Cosmopolitan

Combat As Dana White once said: “I take two guys and put them in an Octagon and they can use any martial art they want – that transcends all culture barriers.” And from the Asian subcontinent to the Pacific islands, from cradles of the sport like Thailand to sports-mad South Africa, he’s being proved correct. We present the most exotic – and enthusiastic – countries embracing Mixed Martial Arts.

“We have gotten none of the human Outside Bashir’s gym cockfighting stuff,” explains Lahore-based Bashir Ahmad, who runs Pakistan’s only MMA gym and sole promotion Pakistan Warrior Challenge. “We’ve had superconservative types with the big beards and turbans watch our events and then immediately come and ask if they can get on the card and fight as well.” Despite the interest, MMA in Pakistan is still in its infancy. Bashir, who has a background in krav maga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, says; “At this point the events are similar to UFC 1, with the whole ‘style versus style’ set up. Pakistan has not seen the evolution of MMA and so it is necessary to follow some of the stages MMA has gone through overseas... People here are stuck in the eighties when it comes to martial arts. Chuck Norris, ninjas and death touches are still alive and well in the martial arts scene here.” MMA is very much a niche, underground sport in Pakistan, a nation slotted in between India and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, is the sole receiver of televised MMA while fans elsewhere make do with internet news sites or downloading video of events. Pakistan is a country with real problems, however. Due to electricity shortages Bashir often conducts training classes by gas lantern, and poverty within Lahore means children begging on the street are commonplace. Wanting to help, Bashir decided to give those children MMA lessons instead of money. RISING TALENT from

pakistan

Waqqar Ahmad 4-0 Although Pakistan’s young MMA scene means that some of Waqqar’s fight experience came against lesser opposition, the ease with which he’s dispatched with them suggests a strong future.

“I have about six street kids starting to train MMA as well as learn their ABCs. My gym notice board not only has the schedule but a big alphabet chart for the kids to learn with.”

The issue of security is omnipresent in Pakistan. Terrorism presents a significant threat and the scream of fighter jets passing overhead towards Indian airspace is standard. As a result, the military forms much of Pakistan’s identity. Bashir’s seeking to channel that angst into MMA. So much so that it’s incorporated in the gym logo – crossed guns with boxing gloves over the crescent and star of the nation’s flag. Bashir explains: “I wanted that image to draw in the individuals and youths most at risk and most wanting to vent their anger. ‘Don’t like India? Screw joining a militant group, put on a pair of gloves and win glory for your country that way.’”

By richard cartey

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GUAM

south africa

“What soccer is to Brazil, that’s what fighting is to Guam,” affirms Joe Duarte, TUF alumnus and Guam’s most successful mixed martial artist.

There are some areas of the world where even MMA’s behemoth organisation, the UFC, fails to fully take hold. South Africa may be one of them. But although the country, perched at the base of the African continent, receives no UFC programming or pay-per-views, the sport’s still managed to explode.

Location: Southern tip of Africa Population Density (per square mile): 104

Location: The Pacific Population Density (per square mile): 839

A 209-square-mile island located in the Pacific Ocean, nationally Guam shares a similar mentality to many great mixed martial artists. “On Guam if you can scrap people respect you. The same goes for Hawaii,” says Joe. Being a territory of the US, Guam enjoys all the same MMA-carrying television channels as on mainland America despite actually being closer to the Philippines. Combined with the welcoming attitude towards fighting, there’s no issue with social acceptance. “Not only is it accepted, it’s encouraged,” confirms Joe. “It gives young kids hope and allows them to fight legally if that’s what they chose to do. It provides entertainment, gives people jobs and most of all it gives us islanders a reason to do what we love to do.” Local events like Rites of Passage are covered by native news outlets, and there’s even been an Enson Inoue-owned Purebred Gym on the island since as early as 1999. Though some successful fighters are unheard of in their home countries, Joe receives great support: an indicator of the strength of the sport in Guam. “Every time I fight I feel like I’m representing my culture, heritage and my island,” says Joe. “To be honest, all I RISING TALENT from ever wanted to GUAM do was make it to inspire other Frank Camacho 10-2 people from Having only gone to decision Guam and show once, fans are always likely to get them they can a show with ‘The Crank’. Seven do anything if TKO victories inside the first they want it bad round suggest they’ll see his hand enough.” raised early.

While MMA fans across the world have become hooked by watching the fighting styles of favourites like Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, in South Africa it’s home-grown fighters like Darren Daniel, Chris Bright and Adam Speechly from top promotion EFC Africa wielding the star power. “EFC Africa is all that the average person knows about MMA,” confirms Cairo Howarth, the director of the promotion launched late 2009. “We promote our fighters extensively: putting them on billboards on freeways, plus on radio and TV interviews. The process has made them into celebrities.” Africa’s top sports channel, SuperSport, shows an hour-long EFC programme every week highlighting three fights and pulling in ratings of around 150,000 people. Broadband speeds in the country are slow, so fans of international MMA don’t even have the option of downloading events and instead often make do with YouTube clips. For this reason EFC Africa’s shows, which draw nearly 6,000 spectators compared to around 1,500 that typically attend a boxing show, have ensnared a strong fan base. Cairo Howarth states: “South Africans love contact sports like rugby so although MMA is relatively new to mainstream South Africa it’s caught on rapidly. It still has a lot of catching up to do when compared to rugby, soccer, cricket and cycling, but at its current pace it’ll soon be recognised as one of the major participated-in and watched sports.” RISING TALENT from

south africa

Darren Daniel 4-1 Having fought both pro Muay Thai and san shou bouts, and competed in China’s Art of War promotion, this middleweight is slowly becoming a star in his home country.

Siberia

Location: North-east corner of the former Soviet Union Population Density (per square kilometre): 4

The Russian Far East is noted for its freezing temperatures – and prisons. But even an area where during January the average daily high is -12˚C cannot escape the lure of mixed martial arts. Organisations like Siberian Challenge and IAFC have all held MMA events in the cities of the harsh terrain. Khabarovsk houses Draka, a federation that holds ‘mix-fight’ events near-identical to MMA. Due to the country’s strong sporting history, a large number of the fighters who compete in events like Siberian Challenge and Draka are from a sambo, boxing or wrestling backgrounds. Oleg Butakov, communications director for Draka, says: “Traditional combat sports have government support, and child sports groups where future professionals start their career. Many Russian professional fighters have passed through that route and achieved success.” Oleg confirms that due to Russia’s success with traditional combat sports, mixed martial arts draws Russians of varying ages and social backgrounds with very little evidence of the sport being frowned upon. Oleg states: “Professional fighters are really very popular and without question I can say that professional fighting has great respect in Russia.” 76

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Before MMA’s recent boom as a result of EFC Africa’s exposure, however, some South African fighters made it overseas. Trevor Prangley fought in the UFC and now competes in Strikeforce. Jan ‘The Giant’ Nortje has fought MMA as well as K-1. With EFC Africa now highlighting MMA to the sport-mad populace of South Africa, expect that list to expand.

THAILAND

Location: South-east Asia Population Density (per square mile): 324

Wentzel Nel training in South Africa

RISING TALENT from

siberia

Magomed Shikshabekov 6-0 Winning all fights by stoppage makes this Russian welterweight’s unbeaten record one to note. That they’ve come from both striking and submissions suggests a fearsomely well-rounded prospect.

Though it has a rich heritage in Muay Thai, currently one of the most popular disciplines within MMA, it’s surprising that Thailand and the country’s fight fanatics only faintly register the sport – so far. Alex Berezovik, who runs the Bangkok Fight Club mixed martial arts gym, explains that despite low recognition the sport is growing slowly in the country.

EFC Africa

Lightweight champion, EFC Africa, Wentzel Nel

“MMA still isn’t very popular in Thailand. Muay Thai takes the crown of the most popular and most watched fighting sport, followed by boxing, while traditional martial arts like taekwondo are popular among middle and upper class Thais.” Alex says MMA isn’t frowned upon nor encountered legality issues in Thailand

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simply because it goes unnoticed by sports officials. “Officially there’s no sanctioning body for the sport here in Thailand and it hasn’t been licensed. But we do have MMA training camps and facilities here and even hold smaller MMA events from time to time.” Indeed, despite popular gyms such as Tiger Muay Thai And Mixed Martial Arts holding seminars with personalities like Royce Gracie and Elvis Sinosic there still isn’t a premier organisation in the country. Alex explains: “MMA is still very new here in Thailand but it is getting more widespread.” Considering the acutely skilled stand-up technicians Thailand must be harbouring on its Muay Thai circuit, many will hope the country that’s already indirectly contributed so much to the sport soon becomes an MMA nation.

THAILAND

Ngoo Ditty 2-2 Though Ditty’s even record may not look imposing, having over 150 Muay Thai fights and a 9-1 amateur MMA record suggest there’s promise in the 23-year-old.

india

Location: Sub-continental Asia Population Density (per square mile): 930

new zealand

hong kong

RISING TALENT from

“A lot of people didn’t know what to expect. Some thought that FCC would probably be some karate tournament,” says Prashant Kumar, the organiser of Full Contact Championships, one of India’s small MMA promotions. MMA fight at Tigers’ gym

Location: South-east coast of China Population Density (per square mile): 16,442

MMA in New Zealand

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hong kong

Kenny Yeung 1-0 A Hong Kong native who trains out of Australia, Yueng may have only just started his MMA career but his background in Muay Thai is likely to serve him well.

Being home to the late Bruce Lee (in essence the original mixed martial artist) combat arts are ingrained into the culture of Hong Kong. It’s something that’s aiding the assimilation of MMA into the county’s culture says Michael Haskamp, one of the men behind Hong Kong’s Legend FC promotion. “MMA’s a sport that’s quickly gaining popularity here. Hong Kong audiences had never been exposed to MMA via any mass-market medium before our first event.” Since it began, in early 2010 with a show in front of 1,500 people, Legend FC has received an overwhelmingly positive response. Michael says: “Hong Kong’s at such a cultural and economic crossroads that people here are constantly being exposed to new things – so they’re very open-minded and forward-thinking. In this regard, one thing we focus on is ensuring that people new to the sport see MMA for what it really is: highly skilled and disciplined athletes who compete primarily for love of the sport.” MMA fans in Hong Kong have just recently been given the ability to watch the sport on cable television but watching the pay-per-view events in a group at a bar is common. “Because of the time difference, most events are shown early on Sunday mornings but that doesn’t stop people from dragging themselves out of bed and heading down to the pub with their friends for MMA over breakfast, even if they’ve had a huge Saturday night. It always draws a big crowd.”

“But after attending my shows, they were Location: Australasia zapped out.” Running since January 2009, Population Density (per square mile): 41 FCC’s found there’s limited awareness of MMA, but those who have been exposed have responded well says Prashant. In a “Coming back home to New Zealand nation that has little time for any sport other after 14 years away was a bit of shock than cricket and no regular MMA television programming, FCC still manages to attract for me,” says Nyra Phillips, who runs NZMMA, an around 300 people per event. “Since I don’t have an advertising budget, MMA retail shop and online portal for the sport in promotions are done through word of mouth and SMS,” the country. explains Prashant. Tigers MMA Academy, in Nashik, is RISING TALENT from the country’s top training facility and held the first event “After living in Hawaii for most new zealand in India during 2004, Clash of the Champions, organised of that time where MMA has by the All India Combat Sports Federation. Since then Rod McSwain 9-1 such a high profile, MMA in the promotion has held further contests and estimates Holding two domestic titles New Zealand was almost to have pulled in between 1,000 and 5,000 spectators. and being the head trainer at non-existent – and that The UFC seems keen on India as a possible location for Strike Force gym in Auckland was in 2007. To put it into a future event but Daniel Isaac, head trainer at Tigers’ suggests that welterweight perspective, that was when MMA Academy, has some reservations. “If the UFC can ‘Hot’ Rod McSwain has the the first MMA cage arrived in pull off an event in India it’d be great. Of course there’d ability to go far. the country.” be some challenges and hurdles since India isn’t a fighting country and most Indians prefer Bollywood and cricket as Though geographically close a spectator sport rather than watching fights.” But Daniel to Australia, a recently targeted territory for the UFC, New Zealand is adds: “In India, MMA still has a long way to go to compete with other sports, still laying the ground work for MMA, something that’s not helped by a but when MMA does become mainstream here it will be ready to rival fragmented attitude towards MMA training, Nyra says. “Gyms are still likely cricket – which is more religion than sport in India.” Prashant Kumar feels to offer stand-up and ground training rather than just MMA, and worse, confident of a UFC event’s success in the country. “India is a country with most still prefer to protect their ‘territory’ by preferring that their fighters the numbers. In a city like Mumbai this is something that the youth would don’t cross-train with other gyms.” Furthermore, television coverage has really look forward to. In fact, MMA cuts across all age barriers, and could been inconsistent. “UFC pay-per-views started in earnest in 2008 but K-1, attract huge crowds and a great response in India.” Dream and Showtime got dropped. Forget about watching WEC, M-1 Global or any other pay-per-view. When The Ultimate Fighter season six came out, Sky re-ran season RISING TALENT from two and never got past season four. I still get people asking india me, ‘Is UFC ever going to have another series?’” Alan Fenandes 2-1-0 However, testament to the grassroots popularity of ‘The Bull’ has represented MMA, there are a string of strong local events like ICNZ India in MMA and BJJ across the and Supremacy in Auckland that regularly draw around world and was the first fighter 500 people. Furthermore over 1,000 people attend from the country to fight mixed Punishment in Dunedin and a recent kickboxing card in martial arts abroad. Auckland featured a headlining MMA fight with Japanese Nyra Phillips Olympic judoka, Satoshi Ishii. used with permission of legend fighting championship

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Article on MMA Pakistan  

Fighter's Only, one of the worlds most widely circulated MMA magazine did an article on MMA Pakistan.

Article on MMA Pakistan  

Fighter's Only, one of the worlds most widely circulated MMA magazine did an article on MMA Pakistan.

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