Once you’ve watched an MMA match live, you’ll never look at MMA the same way again, whether you are a casual UFC couch potato or a hardcore fan. This, in a nutshell, sums up my first live MMA experience courtesy of the Warriors League Championship (WLC) in their event last June 28. Held at the Gulp Club along Panay Avenue in Quezon City, I was treated to a front row view of artful grappling and submissions, exchanges of bone-jarring strikes, and get-on-your-feet-that-was-damn-impressive knockouts with an air and intensity that YouTube or cable TV couldn’t give. In the 3rd of that night’s 10 matches, a hulking behemoth tossed around and slammed his taller opponent for three rounds. Another match was decided by a standing rear naked choke, reminiscent of Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg.
The main event ended during the 1st round after one of the fighters, who won his previous WLC match via a 12-second first round knockout, got submitted by his opponent. What’s the WLC? The WLC is an MMA tournament spearheaded by several private individuals, including event organizers Michael Maceda and Eric Agulto, in cooperation with the National Muay Thai Kick Boxing Council of the Philippines (NMKBCP). The NMKBCP is headed by its national president, a man fondly called by others as ‘Master Sabrine’.
‘Tune-up’ or exhibition matches have been held every other week since the last week of May and will last until August. Afterwards, the tournament proper’s weekly matches will be held from September 13 until the 20th of December.
One difference first-time goers will probably spot first is the use of MMA headgear. Along with more banned moves as compared to, say, the UFC, this is due to the fact that most of the fights in the WLC Tournament will be classified as ‘amateur’. But the Finals will certainly have ‘professional’ fights, I was assured. But even with the additional safety gear and rules, the action that I saw was still pretty fast and intense. In fact, the co-main event ended when one fighter’s corner threw the towel (for those not familiar, it means they gave up the match) in between rounds because their man had both eyes closed due to the number of powerful head punches which connected.
In Your Face The atmosphere was something that could never be matched by any TV or online viewing I’ve had. Every ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ from the crowd with every powerful takedown, brutal knee in a Muay Thai clinch, and choke hold seemed to amplify the impact of the fighters’ moves. Being seated near the red corner of the ring, I could hear some corner men who seemed more pumped-up than their fighters. Some matches also brought out tension between very passionate fans of opposing athletes. Finally MMA is the fastest-growing sport worldwide. But unfortunately, the average Filipino MMA fan is unaware that there are a growing number of gyms and fighters in the country. The WLC is a step forward in addressing that problem: it allows gyms and fighters to showcase their talent to a larger audience, or beyond the hardcore local MMA crowd and into the general public.
For those interested, check out the WLC’s official Facebook page. The Gulp Club is located at 102 Panay Avenue, Quezon City.