MALAYSIAN INVASION: MMA TAKES A GIANT LEAP IN MALAYSIA

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Malaysian Invasion MMA Holds its Amateur Competition Quarterfinals Throughout an Exciting and Successful Weekend.

by John Merva, Malaysia Correspondent for MMA-in-ASIA

There’s something about combat sports that makes people want to stop and stare. In my time in Malaysia I’ve seen lion dances at malls, I’ve seen futsal competitions, and I’ve seen models on the catwalk, all right in the middle of some of Kuala Lumpur’s biggest shopping centers. However, until I saw MMA tournaments in malls I have never seen people so entranced by the spectacle that they seemed to forget their shopping and just stood by the railings of the overlooking balconies and gawked for hours, even if they weren’t entirely sure what they were looking at.

Following up on an idea started by Muayfit’s Mayhem 2 – Hell in a Cage event which was held at Sunway Pyramid shopping mall all the way back in 2011, MIMMA (Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts) sponsored by Tunetalk held the quarterfinals of its inaugural tournament in Paradigm Mall, Kelana Jaya over the weekend of April 20th and 21st, 2013. The Malaysian Invasion is only open to amateur MMA fighters from Malaysia and the incredible turnout at the initial tryouts (over 300 fighters vying for a place) showed that MMA is not only enjoying a boom internationally, but is definitely finding a home here in Malaysia.

Malaysia is a country which is very proud of its multi-cultural heritage. It’s a country where people of Indian, Chinese and Malay heritage live together under the banner of the country’s ‘1Malaysia’ slogan so it is fitting that the theme for Malaysian Invasion is that of unity. Speaking to Alex Wong, who is leading the organization, this is something he is particularly keen to stress, saying, “On my own, I have only 10 fingers and 10 toes, so there is only so much I can accomplish. By working together with gyms and organizations around the country, there is so much we can do to grow the sport here in Malaysia.” In fact, the tournament does not promote the names of fighters’ gyms, preferring instead to announce the region of Malaysia they come from, thereby emphasizing that this is not about individuals, but a joint effort from all of Malaysia’s fighting gyms and this certainly seemed to be true.

The first day of the tournament was very slickly run, with fights happening on time and no hiccups at all that I could see and this was almost certainly down to the tireless efforts of Alex and his team, consisting of Brent Yap, Jack , Henry Goh and Tammy and countless others, all of whom could be seen stalking around the cage area yelling into collar mics to make sure that fighters were in place and ready to go to war. The event was ably MCed by the larger than life character of Matt Pellino, who not only introduced the fighters, but also provided expert and often humorous commentary on the fights, whilst also managing to find time to pose for thousands of photos, assist the corners of some of his fighters, and generally run around with an energy that would have made Bas Rutten look tired. By the end of the day, it was clear that all members of the organizing team were exhausted, but they were glowing from what was definitely a great success. Jack and Tammy also seemed to think I was looking a bit thin as they were determined to make sure I was fed and watered – perhaps they didn’t realize that in recent months I’ve gone up about two weight classes!

MMA is greatly different from boxing in that it requires a much larger understanding of multiple disciplines in order to perform capably in the cage. It’s not like a ‘white collar’ boxing event, where you can simply train for three months, learn how to put your hands in front of your face and strap on a pair of gloves to get in the ring, and this can be a concern when watching fledgling promotions. Certainly fighters will have a decent mastery of at least one discipline, but do they have an understanding of striking, the ground game and everything that comes in between? On that score, MIMMA showed that, whilst fighters are not quite UFC caliber yet, there has certainly been a huge improvement in athletes who are engaging in actual MMA fights, rather than kickboxing bouts with the odd bit of falling on the floor.

In fact, as someone who trains in BJJ, it’s usually the ground game that I look at to see the evolution of a fighter, especially in countries with rich striking traditions, and I was quite impressed at the improved understanding of this aspect that I saw yesterday. Six out of the 15 bouts on display ended with submissions and there were some very capable groundfighters. As Aaron Goh, co-owner of Leverage Combat Academy, based in Mont Kiara said, “Whilst fighters are still not perhaps getting the finer points of grappling as a chess match, we’re certainly seeing huge leaps in groundfighting in Malaysia and this is encouraging.”

With that said of course, like every MMA fan, there’s a bit of the JUST BLEED man inside me and MIMMA certainly didn’t disappoint in that respect with 10 of the 15 fights being finished inside the distance – which must have been a very easy day’s work for the ring girls who had to wait all the way to the fourth fight before they got to break out the sign with the big three on it! There were some great fights on the card as well, with a very nice mix of slugfests, technical standup battles and a few nasty submissions and back-and-forth jiu jitsu. All the officials did a great job of looking out for fighter safety, as well as making sure each fight went smoothly and the action was allowed to flow. Judging at the event was also very capable, with very few questionable decisions.

Keeping with the theme of unity and to encourage the understanding that the fighters are all martial artists in their own rights, there were also displays of various arts from around the world – samba, sanshou, karate – and these were well-received by the crowd. This is is a nice and possibly necessary touch to establish links between traditional martial arts and MMA and making sure that the competitors aren’t viewed merely as mindless thugs beating each other in a cage. Again, it also allowed gyms from around the country to push the sport and their presence, hopefully encouraging further growth.

Whilst I’m sure it would be easy to pick holes in certain aspects of the event and to point out that while the level of MMA is increasing in Malaysia it’s still got a long way to go, I do feel that this would totally misrepresent the impact and importance of MIMMA – it is certainly a great step in growing the sport. Some of the big problems for grassroots scenes in any country can be political infighting among gyms, so-called ‘McDojos’ growing up around a trendy sport, and simply a lack of exposure and chances to compete for people wishing to develop themselves in their chosen avocation. In Malaysia, MIMMA is taking huge steps to decrease these problems as far as possible and I am very hopeful for the future of not only the organization, but also MMA in Malaysia. As Brent mentioned to me, “There are a lot of hidden gyms and talents in Malaysia and we (MIMMA) hope to give them a platform.” Taken in these terms, MIMMA is a great success and I, for one, can’t wait for the semis.  All that being said – it was also a damned good show!

Following the quarterfinals, MIMMA continues to the semifinals which will be held again at Paradigm Mall on May 18, 2013. The final will be held at Stadium Negara on June 15. A total of 150,000 RM will be given out as prizes during the competition.