Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The fight between Simone Tessari, left, and Benjamin Brinsa went the distance. Mike Young / The National
The fight between Simone Tessari, left, and Benjamin Brinsa went the distance. Mike Young / The National

MMA: Fight fans turn out to enjoy reality of first Warriors card

Mixed martial arts may give the impression of brutal action, but Osman Samiuddin finds there is more to the sport than violence.

Minutes before the first Abu Dhabi Warriors Fighting Championships began on Friday night, the line that could decipher this sport to everyone came from Will Vanders, the energetic veteran mixed-martial arts (MMA) commentator.

"As a child," he said, "we'd always ask who would win a fight between Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee. Well, in the MMA you can find out."

That sounds like a real seller. And, actually, in 1976, when Ali took on the Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki in a fight under special rules, that idle fantasy first became reality. It was a farce, a drawn fight, and unwatchable, allowing both contestants debatable claims to victory.

Years later, that idle fantasy has become an organised sport, one that insiders regularly claim to be the fastest growing in the world.

That remains an untested claim (one made by many sports) because these things are difficult to measure. But the crowd turnout last night at least points to potentially mass appeal.

The 3,700-capacity Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre hall was more or less full and given the alternatives on offer this weekend - a Formula 1 weekend, remember, with big-time live music alternatives at Yas Island and Abu Dhabi Corniche - that was more than could have been expected. People it seems love a fight.

It is a sport but it is easy to overlook that because fight nights can be slick, choreographed productions.

The lasers and lights, the stage the fighters walk out on to, all manner of fit people pottering around busily, the very loud music and deep-throated MCs: this could be a fashion show or some extravagant spectacle of sound and light.

But once the fights began, there was no escaping the reality of what this is, though that is not what might be expected.

In the mind, the MMA is a brutal and bloody exercise, but on last night's evidence, it is an unwieldy kind of fighting, not always as violently or spectacularly abrupt. If anything, Vanders' Ali-and-Lee quip is a solid visual reference.

The range of styles - boxing, amateur wrestling, Brazilian ju-jitsu, judo, Muay Thai - can be disorienting.

In the night's first fight, between Flavio Serafim and Andrew Nicola, the pair grappled and grappled on the mat, became entangled in a ju-jitsu mess, leverage being sought, switching holds, until suddenly Serafin got his opponent into a submission hold you might have seen Chris Benoit, the late WWE wrestler, practice.

And then it was over, only three minutes into the first round, the words of referee John McCarthy as clear as day, that if you do not call off the fight quickly enough, real trouble is waiting.

Boxing provides a strong base as well, as was obvious in Magomed Magomedkerimov's win over the Brazilian Thiago Vella, who is based as a coach in the UAE. Magomedkerimov knocked down Vella thrice in the first and only round, the final right hook heard and felt far back in the stands.

First-round finishes for the first two fights, but so different in nature you could see why purists of various fight sports tut-tut at the mesh of styles MMA enforces. But at a very base level, how can you not respect - even if grudgingly - what these fighters go through?

MMA might not be pure, but here there could be no doubting how real it is.

 

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates scoring the opening goal in the Champions League semi-final first leg match against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday in Madrid, Spain. Martin Rose / Bongarts / Getty Images / April 23, 2014

In pictures: Benzema propels Real Madrid over Bayern Munich

Images from Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final first leg match at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

 UAE’s Charlie Sargent tries to avoid a tackle by Singapore team members during the one-off Division 1 Test at The Sevens. The Singapore-born winger was making his debut. Sarah Dea / The National

Asian Five Nations: UAE go into rebuilding mode in Division 2

With a new look squad, including five emerging Emirati players, the UAE will hope to restructure and get into the winning habit in more forgiving climes when they drop a level in the revamped competition next season.

 Chris Gayle has been the most feared batsman in the Royal Challengers Bangalore line-up since he joined the team in 2011. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

Parthiv continues to fill Gayle’s big shoes for Bangalore

Indian wicketkeeper-batsman will continue to open the innings for Royal Challengers with the West Indian still nursing his bad back, writes Paul Radley.

 Ian Poulter is fifth on the points list to make the cut in a 12-man European side for the Ryder Cup. Paul Lakatos / AFP

Ian Poulter sees momentum in Europe’s squad-building, with Ryder

Lot of players are striking well to stay in contention for the 12 spots in the team, but there is still lot of time before September, he warns.

 Erykan Bityutsky pulls a 4x4 car during the final day of the UAE Strongman Competition in Dubai. Delores Johnson / The National

UAE Strongman Competition takes weight training to a whole new scale

Two-day competition in Dubai attracts men and women from across the Emirates and proves it takes more than just bulky muscles to win, writes Ali Khaled.

 Benfica's Oscar Cardozo, from Paraguay, lifts the trophy celebrating after beating Olhanense on Sunday at Estadio da Luz. Benfica's 2-0 clinched them the Portuguese Primeira Liga championship. They will play Juventus in the the first leg of their Europa League semi-final tie on Thursday April 24. Francisco Seco / AP / April 20, 2014

Ambitious Benfica ready for Juventus while Sevilla and Valencia set to battle in Europa last-four

Benfica, fresh off clinching their 33rd Portuguese title, are looking to keep Juventus from reaching the Europa League final - which will be played in Turin - while the other semi-final sees La Liga rivals Sevilla and Valencia clash.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National