Today's interview is with Legend FC's creators/producers, Michael Haskamp & Chris Pollak. A unique opportunity to hear the concepts that have lead these two gentlemen to bring MMA to Hong Kong with a focus in cooperation and incorporation of HK's deep martial arts history. -Luke

For those who aren't familiar with Legend FC, please share with us its history and aim for Hong Kong and potentially all of Southeast Asia.

The idea for an MMA organization based in Hong Kong came from a conversation we had last spring, when we were talking about how Hong Kong – one of the world’s great cities and home to so much martial arts history – has such a strong martial arts community but no MMA tournament of its own. And so we decided to organize one.

Our goal is to give the Asia-Pacific’s best MMA athletes a platform on which to showcase their abilities and develop their skills. In the process, we want to raise the profile of MMA as a sport and give these men the credit and recognition they deserve as some of the most hard-working, talented competitors in the sporting world.

What do you feel differentiates Legend from other MMA promotions in Asia outside of Japan?

We are fans of all of the other MMA promotions in the region, and go to their shows when we can. From our perspective, this sport has enormous growth potential, and the more opportunities athletes have to earn a living from their hard training, the better they will get, and the better MMA will be to watch. For our part, we are focused entirely on building awareness of MMA in Hong Kong as an ethical, professional, world-class sport.

On the website you reference Bruce Lee's influence in martial arts and what may have evolved to become MMA as we know it today. How do you see events like this affecting the more traditional martial arts community in Asia? Is there opposition or acceptance?

We often refer to Bruce Lee because he was one of the pioneers of the idea of incorporating the most effective techniques from a range of martial arts in order to develop the most powerful integrated system – the “style of no style,” as he referred to it.

The response from the traditional martial arts community has been positive since most people understand that the development of MMA in Asia will be beneficial to the overall martial arts community. As people become more interested in MMA as spectators, a desire to actually learn and engage in the martial arts will naturally follow for many of them.

Very few people will ever have first-hand experience organizing such an event. What do you see as the major challenges to overcome?

Our largest challenge is Hong Kong’s low awareness of MMA. We have a long road ahead of us in terms of building a reputation for MMA here as an international professional sport on par with football and rugby, but that is exactly what we aim to achieve.

Do you feel there are any stigmas about MMA and its fighters that you would look to change or promote to this new public?

As the readers of BJJ Asia know, the sport earned a bad reputation in the US in the 1990’s for marketing itself as a “no holds barred” competition in the early years, among other missteps.  Fortunately for us, because no one has previously organized a professional MMA event in Hong Kong, we have the opportunity (along with the rest of Hong Kong’s martial arts community) to help build the sport’s reputation from the beginning among the people of Hong Kong, who are not yet familiar with the sport. For our part, we hope that we can establish the sport’s reputation as one conducted under a strict set of rules to maximize athlete safety; as a contest between high-level professional athletes; and as a new and exciting sport with broad appeal.

What do you look for in the competitors you have in your events? Is there a specific criteria and how does one go about securing a fight-card spot at Legend FC?

As avid MMA fans, we make matches that we are excited to watch. We look for tough competitors with aggressive fighting styles. We attempt to create dynamic, balanced bouts where the competitors are well-matched against one another. All other things being equal, we would sooner have an athlete with fewer wins but most of them by knockout or submission than someone with a better record whose victories come primarily via judges’ decision.

While MMA experience is important, we also look at athletes who have a strong competitive background in other martial arts and who have made the crossover to MMA more recently. We’re constantly looking for new talent, so athletes interested in competing at Legend should contact us through our website with an introduction, their stats (e.g. height, weight, etc.), a link to their Sherdog record, and links to video footage of them in competition for us to get a sense of their skills.

Is there anything you'd like to share with the readers of BJJ-ASIA?

Yes…buy your tickets to the event! January 11, 2010, at Star Hall in Kowloon Bay – tickets are available now through HK Ticketing (www.hkticketing.com) and Tom Lee music stores.

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