It certainly wasn't my intention to write my recap 5-days after the event but sometimes you're not left with much choice. Nonetheless, I would have to say it was a great weekend for me for a number of reasons but most importantly I got to support my good friend and BJJ instructor Adam Kayoom. This fight marked his return to MMA after a 7-year absence to focus on Muay Thai and teaching BJJ at BKKBJJ.
Having arrived Thursday afternoon the wife and I made our way to the hotel and quickly got on with our schedule. Unfortunately I had missed the press conference and weigh-ins but caught up with a number of friends at the sponsored hotel as things finished up. Meeting up with the team for dinner, we got to scan a bit of the city finding the Legends poster in the subway and on the street. Not that I needed a poster to make the event any more real for me but it was exciting to see. Called it an early night as I had work to attend to up until the event Friday.
Got to the exhibition center around 5pm, got my pass and was inside in time for sound check. I'll admit this was my first live MMA event I've ever attended and while I may not have much to compare it to, I have to say I was impressed. I've been on the organizing end of large events and exihitions in New York and know firsthand that it's a huge undertaking to coordinate and manage so many people to make it all work. A big congrats to both Mike and Chris as I hear the Legends FC events continue to get better each time. We're still couple hours before people are allowed in so I took my time checking things out and around the ring, backstage and back again. I could already feel the energy building up and began looking for some familiar faces. Right away I found two friends, Thomas Fan (head referee, Kylin BJJ) and Henry Chan (one of the judges, Gracie Barra HK). I don't get to see these guys all that often so it was nice to catch up and hear their take on the whole event. Everyone felt we were in store for some exciting fights. Seeing these guys really put it in perspective for me as we all have a part in making something great with the BJJ and MMA community. I urge everyone to participate now and have a positive effect on how MMA and BJJ develop in Southeast Asia.
By this point people are staring to come in and I get butteflies, my palms go sweaty and I'm not even the one fighting. They separated the fighters into two camps according to their corner, red and blue respectively. Not wanting to risk any conflict I kept to my side, blue and sat back waiting for any updates. Early in, the fighters are already getting ready, warming up which only gets me more edgy so I elect to go ringside and take more pics. Heading back I realize I have to do more than just walk around taking pics so I get in to help with Adam's warm-up. Note to self, the next time I am in someone's fight-corner bring grappling shorts, rashguard, change of clothes, towel and mouthguard. Like a jackass I'm grappling in heavy blue-jeans. Not realizing I would be doing any sort of grappling or spar, I was pretty liberal with the beer and coffee earlier that day and paid for it. Lesson learned. Adam's fight would be the 8th of 9 fights so we had plenty of time. Having finished the first warm-up I get out there to cover the first few fights. Now I apologize for not covering all of them but by the 5th fight I kept to the backstage.
The first between Takuma Wakabayashi (JP) x Choi Yeong Gwang (KR) was an interesting match-up. Coming in I was not familiar with the previous fights some of these guys had been in with Legends 1 & 2. Takuma was definitely looking to bring things to the ground and utilize his jiu-jitsu but Choi had excellent takedown defense. In addtion he kept his distance and often let Takuma return to this feet, not wanting to give up the sweep or top-position. Even when placed in Takuma's half-guard, Choi kept his posture strong and came down with some serious ground'n'pound. Even so, Takuma was relentless and did not fault from his gameplan which was getting the submssion. By the end, Takuma was too often on the receiving end of some heavy strikes and lost by decision.
Backstage I saw another old buddy, Niko Han who was there coaching one of his students to fight in the 2nd match. Johan Mulia Legowo (Indo) x Hardeep Singh (India). First impressions there was a decent size difference between the two, especially in physique with Hardeep delivering some heavy strikes to the face. Johan returns with strikes of his own, looking to close the distance and shoot. Progressively Johan was able to pick his way through with jabs for the takendown in Hardeep's corner. Immediatey upon touching the mat, Johan climbs with a high-guard and locks in the triangle taking 'submission of the night'.
I missed most of the 3rd between Li Jingliang (CH) x Andrei Liu (TW) but got in at about the 2nd slam, which Andrei was on the receiving end. Threatening Li with the triangle it was the 3rd slam that left Andrei in a tremendous amount of pain and trama to the neck. Andrei had nothing left to hold on to and it was clear he was in trouble. Li quickly capitalized with strikes as the ref stopped the fight. It's understood that MMA is full-on contact sport and people do get hurt but it's nothing to take joy in at the end of the day. Taking time to assess Andrei's situation, he was eventually gernied out and taken to the hospital. On all accounts he's doing well and did not suffer any permanent damage.
This was a fight the crowd was definitely amped for as it was the only card with a local fighter. Yang Zhou (CH) x Kenny Yeung (HK). This was a bloody affair as Kenny had a decent sized cut from Yang's elbow. Both fighters deliverying constant action and Kenny looked to take things to the ground. While successfully taking Yang down, he wasn't able to keep Yang from the scramble nor attacking from his back. It was in these exchanges that Yang was able to secure the back and take the RNC for the win at the very end of the 3rd round.
So when I wasn't occupied with taking pics and watching the fights, my nerves only got worse and sitting backstage didn't get any easier for me. Ran through a few more warm-up drills, things were definitely building up for the remaing fighters. Sitting backstage you could guess the pace of things by the crowds' reaction. I would say on the whole the crowd was pretty good outside of 1-2 hecklers. One in particular I didn't appreciate but after looking behind my shoulder and seeing a fat guy in a suit, figured karma had already done its business. JK.
The remaining fights I didn't catch and kept to Adam's side. Getting ready we lined up behind the curtain, waiting for our cue. The time leading up to this point felt like eternity but everything after the curtains opened and Adam walking out to the ring, mere minutes. I've never felt 15minutes go by so fast to be honest. I won't deny that I'm probably biased here but I really believe Adam went out and expressed his game, giving the crowd a great show. Several people have commented that this was the most technical match of the evening as Bae showed excellent wrestling in his takedowns and defense from the submissions while in Adam's guard. I'll defer to the LFC recap:
Kayoom and Bae are two of the best grapplers in the Asia-Pacific, and their match-up proved to be the most technical fight of the night. The Korean chose to stand with Kayoom at first, but the powerful kicks and elbows landed by the Malaysian quickly gave Bae reason to reconsider his strategy. After scoring a huge takedown, Bae went to work with some ground-and-pound, although Kayoom was able to evade the more powerful strikes and countered with several arm-bar and triangle choke attempts. The rest of the fight played out similarly: Bae used his double-leg takedowns to repeatedly take the fight to the mat and wore down Kayoom with punches and knees, while even on his back Kayoom was clearly dangerous, throwing hard elbows and repeatedly threatening to end the fight with a variety of submissions. In the end, with Bae on top and controlling the action for most of the fight, he edged out Kayoom with a judges’ decision.
I'd also like to add that Adam took Bae's back at the very end of the last round looking for the RNC but eventually transitioning to the armbar. Armbar locked in but not fully extended, Bae was able to defend long enough to run the clock and win by decision. Of course it would have been great to bring home the win but I couldn't be prouder of Adam cause he put it all out there on the mat. Look out 2011!
I missed the final fight but in all honesty I was too exhausted. Took our sweet time getting ready and even had some time with Bae backstage. Of course you don't want to like the guy you're fighting but at the end, everyone was very cool with each other and Bae came back to pay Adam his respects as a fighter. On the whole, I think everyone demonstrated a tremendous amount of sportsmanship.
Being on the other side of things I'm sure my appreciation of the event is quite different from most of the spectators. My agenda was to be there for my friend and cover what ended up being a fantastic event. I really have to give credit to the entire production crew and of course to Mike and Chris on a job well done. I have no doubt the next event will be even better and hopefully we can expand the selection of fighters if available from other organizations outside SEA. I hope to make it out to more events like this when time/work allows.
THANKS & CREDIT TO:
LEGENDS FC (Mike & Chris)
TIGER MUAY THAI (Ray Elbe & Co)
TOTAL BODY TRAINING (Matt Cho)
THOMAS FAN (Kylin BJJ)
KOWLOON BJJ (the whole gang)
HENRY CHAN (Gracie Barra HK)
NIKO HAN (Synergy JJ)
HONG KONG JJ (Makoto Aramaki & Brad Ku)