The most recent ROAD Fighting Championship event was held in Wonju, South Korea on June 22, 2013. In front of the “who’s-who” in Asian MMA, Korean fighters made a case for being the the toughest on the planet. With a backdrop of pyrotechnics, lazer beams, and lighting trusses set up for a 20,000-person capacity arena, ROAD FC staged its most ambitious card to date. Number 012 was a night of incredible action from the start of the Young Guns 8 undercard to the final Bantamweight Championship.
ROAD FC’s hometown Wonju fans and supporters from every team across South Korea packed the Chiak Stadium to 2,500 capacity. The matches were crafted by none other than Founder and CEO Jung MoonHong himself, and were a complementary blend of fighters’ styles and team rivalries. The cheers brought the house down many times during the night. On one side of the arena, UFC title contender Chan Sung Jung, UFC sophomore Kang KyungHo, UFC trumpcard Dong Hyun Kim, and international Korean standouts Choi DooHo and “Parky” cornered and cheered on their competitors. Long time Japanese scene player Joachim Hansen now fighting in ROAD FC was caught in the middle of loyalties as he cornered his girlfriend. Across the cage from them were DEEP boss Shigeru Saeki, Glory matchmaker Martijn de Jong, Haleo boss David Halton, Kazuo Misaki, Hiroyuki Abe, Tatsuya Kawajiri, BJ Kojima, Megumi Yabushita, Gilbert “Durinho” Burns, and Olympian judoka Hidehiko Yoshida.
Some top and emerging foreign proponents were brought in for the Featherweight Tournament, the first women’s match, and the Superfight. Michihiro Omigawa and Takafumi Otsuka made their MMA debuts in South Korean MMA and put on tough three-round wars with well-matched opponents. Otsuka’s original opponent, the ONE FC Bantamweight Champion Kim SooChul, was replaced by Chan Sung Jung “Korean Zombie” protege Lee YunJun with only two pro fights under his belt, and as the trend goes in ROAD FC, the underdog surprised both his opponent and the crowd when he front kicked and broke Otsuka’s eye socket on his way to a decision win. Omigawa’s war with Kwon BaeYoung lived up to the hype as the two judokas traded both throws and strikes through three rounds of nail-biting full-throttle action that also saw the top Japanese proponent fall to the Korean.
Added to the mix were the King of Pancrase Ryo Kawamura, women’s MMA legend Masako Yoshida, and Kyokushin champ Ryuta Noji. Kawamura and Lee DoolHee put on an amazing slugfest, Yoshida came out fast and hard against Celine Haga, and Noji let his fists do the talking on Kim JiHoon. Again the Koreans – Haga being ethnically one – trumped their Japanese counterparts, with the exception of Noji who made for the first finish by KO of the night. This put the Japanese visitors at 1-4. Kosuke Umeda didn’t get the chance to figure into the mix as his bout with Kim ChangHyun was called off because Kim failed to make weight.
Elsewhere on the card, Andrews Nakahara returned to action against former Legend FC Champ Bae MyoungHo in a three-round thriller that ended in a heart-wrenching draw. Young Golden Glory standout Hubert Geven was invited to the Featherweight tournament and paired with Choi MuKyum for the first round, but was edged out by decision. Kil YoungBok shot and clinched for three rounds against Kim WongGi to be the third Featherweight Tournament quarterfinalist. Jo ByungOk made it as a tournament reservist with his win over Chang HyunSong.
As have been all ROAD FC events, number 12 was on television in South Korea with a slightly delayed broadcast on Super Action of the main card, and the Young Guns undercard aired the following night. The main event was also a live PPV on Ustream. Vitor Belfort, tuning in to see his student Nakahara’s fight, complained on twitter all night about the stream, but Golden Glory components and other international viewers didn’t seem to have any problems. South Korea’s stream options are reportedly limited to Youtube and Ustream.
While the fights were action-packed and the production generally flawless, the lone demerit on the event has to go to the officiating. A lackadaisical attitude was exhibited by one referee who leaned on the cage during the Haga-Yoshida fight. In a fight timestopped for a groin shot, the offending opponent was allowed to stand in his own corner. Noji versus Kim can be argued as a late stoppage. One ref signaled a match as a draw before the result was announced and had to correct his own error. The actions of the referees were perhaps more noticeable in light of the Japanese participation as the standard of refereeing in their country is quite high.
As for the judging, the results were once read as the 10-10 must system, then judge by judge, so it was completely unclear as to what method the fights were being scored with, by round or overall. Knockdowns in some fights that ended in decision while Nakahara-Bae ended in a draw raised more than a few eyebrows from both sides of the cage. In our last interview, CEO Jung stated that the officials have autonomy completely separate from ROAD FC so as not to compromise integrity. However, as there is no oversight of this independent group, perhaps it is time for the promotion to step in and raise the caliber of the officials it uses by demanding qualification or by outsourcing officials who will be on par with the higher standard of fights ROAD FC is now taking on.
So, with a new arena getting ready for monthly fights in Seoul, a bespoke stadium in the works for hometown Wonju, a roster that’s building some future Korean stars and adding daily with top international fighters, what does the future hold for ROAD FC? We sat down with Mr Jung and asked him. The answers he gave will shape the future of MMA in Asia.