ABU DHABI // At the end of tonight's first round, four men will be left content and dreaming of the Dh1 million grand prix prize, and four will be left battered, bruised and disappointed in the inaugural open class Mixed Martial Art (MMA) Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship. The fighters, eight top-class internationals battling for the main championship and 12 amateurs fighting for pride and to stake their claims as potential candidates on the world circuit, were paraded in a roadshow and official weigh-in at the Marina Mall in the capital last night on par with most high-profile boxing events.
Johan Romming, the Frenchman, will be first in the ring for a showdown with Marcos Oliveira, the burly Abu Dhabi-based Brazilian who is the Pan American jiu jitsu champion. If they prove lucky, the spectators can expect a match-up of epic proportions equivalent to David and Goliath. "He is big, strong and heavier than me, but he can't move as fast as me," said Romming, who weighed in at 94kgs with Oliveira at 117kgs. "Let's see if he has enough gas left in the tank to last the 15 minutes," added the Frenchman. "The height, weight and the strength are all plus points, but you need to be fast mover and think clever as well to win inside the cage."
Thierry Sokoudjou, the California-based Cameroonian who was called up for the injured Brazilian Marcio Cruz, is pitted against Dave Herman, the American who comes in for another injured fighter, Sergei Kharitonov of Russia, in the final fight of the night. They may be replacements but that certainly does not deter of their ambitious streaks. "It's the money," said Sokoudjou. "I don't make as much by working. My body takes in a lot of punishment but its worth at the end of the day. And its big money in Abu Dhabi and you know what to expect in this winner talks all competition."
Sokoudjou, a black belt in judo has been in MMA for four years. The 26-year-old also encounters an opponent almost a head taller but is confident about his chances at a shot for the top title. "They come in all sizes but you need to have a strong mind and smell blood," he said. Przemyslaw Mysiala of Poland fight Neil Wain, the Briton and the American Jeff Monson takes on Shamil Abdurahimov of Russia in between.
The Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship is one of the more unique events on the UAE sporting scene and is expected to draw crowds filled with martial arts enthusiasts as well as those curious enough to try the experience. Soheil Nemri, the I SEE Event organiser, is confident the public will get their money's worth with some thrilling contests and top-class entertainment from the side events to go with this championship.
"The response has been overwhelming," said Nemri. "We are looking forward to providing a lot of entertainment both inside and outside the octagon. We have an excellent programme drawn up and I can assure it will be like no other event of this kind in Abu Dhabi." firstname.lastname@example.org