By Khidhir Kassim at the Singapore Indoor Stadium
The real coup in the War of the Lions promotion by ONE Fighting Championship on 31st March was not the thousands of Mixed Martial Arts exponents and enthusiasts that turned up. It was in the lay men and women who came, without a clue to the terminologies and philosophy that make up the sport.
A true measure of success for the series would not be the fact that the 8000 seater Kallang Indoor Stadium was sold out, nor that hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide were engaged via free live streaming of the event.
Success would have to be measured from the maelstrom of reactions throughout the globe.
Days after the War of the Lions, the promotion has gone viral. Fans have been flooding the forums with requests for details on upcoming events and the buzz around the biggest MMA promotion in Asia looks set to get even bigger.
Led by effervescent owner Victor Cui, the series looks set to bring the Titiwangsa Stadium in Kuala Lumpur to its feet in May later this year. An amalgamation of the Pride FC and UFC promotion rules, ONE FC wants to fuse the best elements of MMA.
"The rules are taking the best of Pride FC and the best of UFC," Cui explains.
"For me, I just want to put on exciting fights with the best Asian fighters that MMA fans want to see. I want KOs and submissions. I want real action. I want to see the purity of MMA, with stomps and soccer kicks and elbows."
Like his fighters, Cui is a straight shooter who has big ambitions.
"I'd like to think of myself as the one and only Victor Cui." replied the MMA magnate when compared to legendary World Championship Wrestling owner Vince McMahon.
"Kuala Lumpur better be prepared for us when we come down because the sport of MMA is not for the faint hearted."
Quite rightly too; as proved when burly Dutch Melvin Manhoef's open wound - the grisly gash on the giant screen prompting shudders from the audience - , ended his fight with Japan's Yoshiyuki Nakanishi. Shudders were quickly followed by boos, as the referee called the fight to a close even as the two warriors were trading massive blows.
Drama ensued in the Filipino showdown when Ole Laursen upset the crowd with his win over Eduard Folayang via split decision, even though the latter looked better during an exchange of leg-kicks before forcing a takedown following the Laursen's kimura submission attempt.
The highlight was a spinning backfist from Folayang followed by strikes on target before Laursen ended on top in the third round. The crowd showed their contempt with the final decision but chivalry finally won with meager applause for the controversial winner.
Nationalistic pride also made its mark with the return of the Kallang roar for Singapore's first female MMA fighter Nicole Chua when she overcame India's national kickboxing champion Jeet Toshi via submission with the rear-naked choke in the first round.
The pioneering princess in the burgeoning blood sport, Nicole intelligently brought the fight to the ground when her strikes did little to overcome Toshi's leg kicks and made a body-lock takedown before mounting her opponent for her first professional win.
Felipe Enomoto entered the octagon in style, clad in traditional Peruvian headgear and Japanese manga mask in homage to his parentage, before Zorobabel Moreira appeared to rapturous applause and Brazilian fervor.
Enomoto kept Moreira at bay with strikes and leg kicks but fell after a couple of especially damaging hits to the knees, yet bravely hung on until the third round where the Brazilian took him to the ground, mounted and switched to an arm-bar.
As the stunning Korean ring girl Park Si Hyun handed over the prize, one could not help but stay mesmerized by the intensity of the occasion.
From the elegantly dressed socialites armed with a drink at the lounge to the rabid fans getting signatures off the shirt on their backs, this caravan of exquisite and thrilling violence now moves on to Kuala Lumpur on May 26th.
Are you ready to be entertained?