FIL-AM fighter Brandon Vera’s first words to the fans after he delivered on his promise to local mixed martial arts fans that he will not lose here were “Maligayang Pasko,” this after he scored a quick win against undefeated Hideki Sekine in just 1 : 47 of Round 1 to retain his ONE Championship heavyweight title before a full packed Arena at the Mall of Asia.
And the crowd included me, good that I did not go to Resorts World last Friday night after committing a faux pas in my previous piece last week saying that the fight will be held there, my apologies and please forgive a senior writer for that mistake, I did feel bad when I realized the mistake.
But then local fans did not get lost and when I arrived at The Arena at 6:30 p.m. last Friday, long lines had already formed outside the venue confirming that MMA fighting has developed a big fan base here, and I saw the place quickly getting filled up as the supporting bouts, featuring a lot of Filipino fighters from Team Lakay were taking place.
I was even surprised that there were many females among the crowd and since I was seated beside one, I asked her what attracts girls to watch the fight, turned out Mela Orozco used to work with a PR group that was promoting MMA fights here, not to mention her boyfriend is also into the sport. The good thing, she was able to get me a copy of the souvenir program with all the details I needed about the fighters seeing action that night. She also accompanied me to the post fight presscon after the final bout, I ended up reaching home past 1 a.m. already, anyway, thanks a lot to Mela for the help.
It was my first time to watch live an MMA fight, and I saw all the bouts from start to finish, and early on, I was asking myself what I was doing watching two guys seemingly passionately in love, embracing one another on the ground, that is, until they start punching one another and not looking like a lovers’ quarrel at all but an honest to goodness fight between two trained athletes.
Honestly, I enjoyed it, more so that most of the Filipino fighter who saw action , won their bouts aside from Brandon, the fact is, I felt Brandon’s fight, which lasted less than two minutes, was too short though the fans in The Arena simply loved it when Brandon took control of the fight early, determined not to allow Sekine to fight his preferred way on the ground, after getting kneed, it was practically over for Sekine as Brandon loosed a flurry of punches that the referee had to stop the fight.
At the post fight presscon, Brandon said no human being could stand being kneed by him, and after seeing the power of those knees, I truly believe him, he also shared, mostly talking in Pilipino at that, about his uncertain future plans, but he sure does have a lot of plans, including bringing and opening his own gym here to the Philippines, looking at Quezon City as the first site. He believes when it comes to a fighting heart, Filipino fighters are way up there, but that what is lacking are the techniques, thus his decision to put up his gym here.
He also talked about a budding acting career here, and about his desire to become a farmer in the far future, after all, he has decided to move to the Philippines already about five months ago, and just a week ago, he finally got his dual citizenship documents, his father being a native of Tagkawayan in Quezon. He admitted living here in the Philippines has made life lighter and that he loves being here.
And he looked serious when he said he will follow Manny Pacquiao’s path and enter the world of politics, maybe as a senator, and who knows, this might come true the way it did for Manny, Brandon’s idol.
Regarding his future as a fighter, he admitted that he said it before he would retire at the age of 40, which he will reach next year but that right now, he just cannot say for sure if that is what he will do, saying it depends on his body, but once he retires, he promises it will be for good.
In the co-main event fight between world bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes from Brazil and Fil-Australian Reece Mc Laren, it was obvious that the unorthodox fighting style of McLaren gave some trouble to the favorite Bibiano as he could only come up with a split decision in the fight, Bibiano, whose life looks like a Manny Pacquiao life story too, even suffered what looked like a broken nose.
Since I saw all the fights, I could relate to what the other Filipino fighters were saying at the press conference and for the record, the Filipino winners were Mark Striegl who came up with a unanimous decision victory over Bulgarian Sotir Kichukov at the catch-weight division, Mark said he was trying to finish the fight and wanted to have a flashier win to line him up for a title fight in the future.
On his part, Honorio Banario who had a first round stoppage of of Indian Rajindeer Singh Meena at the lightweight category admitted he trained and focused on his grappling techniques and they paid off certainly. Featherweight Edward Kelly emerged another winner amng the Filipinos as he stopped Indonesian Sunoto with a vicious knee to the face in the 3rd round that the referee had to stop the fight to avoid further injuries to the Indonesian.
Unfortunately, two homegrown Filipino lost that night, bantamweight Geje Eustaquio did not even last one round against his opponent, Finnish Toni Tauru as he could not overcome the Finn’s height advantage, was not my night, he said, the other losing local was female April Osenio who said she ran out of wind against Jenny Huang from Chinese-Taipei in their atomweight bout.
Impressive was Danny Kingad but he beat another Filipino Eugene Toquero, Kingas fifnished off Toquero in round one, another guy who impressed me was Brazilian Leandro Ataides who finished off Egyptian Mohamed Ali with a ferocious flying knee to the face in the third round, and just to complete the fights, Cambodian Sim Bunsrun outclassed Chinese Liu Peng Shuai while another Chinese, Xie Bin, fashioned a UD victory over Indonesian Marco Wirawan in the curtain raiser.
Now will I start watching and covering future MMA fights here already, maybe.