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MMA in SA – Letter to the editor

Published by Smacktalk on

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We received this mail from a fan and I was taken back. We at SmackTalk always have and always will support MMA in south Africa, whether it be pro or amateur.

I would love to hear your views send it to granto@smacktalk.co.za

Dear Editor


Let me start off by saying I have no vested financial interest in either Tri Nations Last Man Standing, EFC Africa, Cape Fight League, MFC etc. I am in the end a fan of combat/contact sports, and have been for many, many years.

I felt the need to put pen to paper (figuratively because if I had to write for longer than a minute I am sure my hand would cramp) to discuss and provide my opinion on the Tri Nations Last Man Standing tournament I attended on 28th September. What really spurred me on is the total amount of complete negativity pushed onto the event. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions and feelings, I am starting to believe that these opinions/feelings are driven by a secondary agenda.

There are a lot of people out there who want LMS to fail, from personal to business reasons. I am not one of those people, I am here to support it and make sure that it can flourish and bounce back from its failed debut. Why, you may ask?  Well why not? The current landscape is dominated by EFC Africa, who has done a significant amount of good for local combat sports on a national and international level. By the same token, as with any monopoly, there is a concern building and building amongst even casual fans that there is preferential treatment handed out to a certain Sunninghill based gym (That though is a totally different subject in an even longer and complicated story). Stating of this point is not to bash EFC Africa, but merely putting the facts on the table. I already have my tickets to EFC 16 and of course will be at subsequent EFC events after that.

What I see Tri Nations LMS bringing to the environment is twofold:

  • They introduce a faster, more competitive combat sports that feeds to the casual fans who want to see knockouts.
  • They introduce a new platform for K1 / Muay Thai / Boxers etc. that do not want to go into MMA but want to showcase their striking talents, it also provides current MMA fighters with another platform to increase their financial stability as there is no sustainable way to be a purely Professional MMA athlete in South Africa.
  • While there are many technical strikers, the “Average Joe” certainly will subscribe to some of the highly entertaining rock ‘em sock ‘em fare.

Many people are saying that this is an embarrassment and the worse thing to happen to MMA yet people need to start looking at the facts of the event. The event was fully sanctioned by the WKF and SASCOC, which is a double edged sword, on one side, this was a legally sanctioned and recognised event, on the other side restrictions were imposed, forcing Tri Nations LMS to use their referees / officials.

There were also rule changes regarding amount of time on the ground, takedown’s etc. As Kurt Potts mentioned it is like having a Rugby League and Rugby Union. Secondly, are we forgetting that we have seen many, many bad refereeing decisions in both EFC Africa and UFC?  While there were shades of Ray Charles in regards to the refereeing, the veracity remains, mistakes happen sometimes which can resonate with diabolical consequences. Veteran MMA commentator Mauro Ranallo recently interviewed UFC referee Yves Lavigne who came under fire in the past for sporadic bad calls, most notoriously the Matt Brown / Pete Sell tilt (Google it). Lavigne owned up to his folly and Ranallo stated, “At the end of the day people are human and make mistakes. Mario messed up but for the better part, he is an excellent ref.” I am not saying the ref in question is a good ref, in fact he could have been the worst thing to happen since the creation of crocs but I’m merely saying mistakes sometimes happen (this doesn’t exempt him from accountability though) even at the highest level. The UFC is the upper echelon of MMA and if it can happen there, no event is exempted (Randomly draw any bout that Larry Landless was involved in and you will get a hue of what I am on about)

It is easy to hook onto something and join the negativity around the event, but lay the blame where it is due. If you take the perspective that you are reinventing the wheel then I will point out T20 in Cricket to you. Here we have a century old sport enjoying completely renewed vigour and excitement because of some rule tweaks, and with this new appeal has brought many new fans (and with it a large amount of sponsors waving money around to get involved) MMA in its current form appeals to a number of fans/viewers, yet every event where there is prolonged ground game a chorus of boos begin. As I have ultimate respect for BJJ / grappling etc. I find it frustrating to be enjoying these types of battles where the majority either can’t or don’t want to appreciate the technical chess being played with two human bodies, this is where I believe Extreme Striking will flourish.

The intention of the promoter was by no means a way to use LMS as a motorised conduit to hoodwink the masses. They merely wanted a fresh alternative to the combat scene for obvious reasons

Let’s be honest here and list the issues:

Minor Issues:

– ) A small light failure for almost 5 minutes during the start of the event

– ) A 15 second microphone failure

– ) A freezing venue

2 Biggest issues:

– ) The ring built for the event was not up to standard, breaking twice in the night. In fact this was the real reason that the event was called off, for a professional company to have supplied and installed this to an event boggles my mind and I would hope that LMS takes appropriate action against the suppliers.

– ) The referee of the Chimmy / Brett fight; With a great fight on our hands, Brett takes an incredibly hard knee to the face and is knocked back out cold, landing square on the canvas, where van Winkel moves in and proceeds to strike the downed opponent while the referee just stood watching, and with an estimated 8 or 9 unprotected strikes (with the WHOLE crowd screaming for the fight to be stopped) the referee eventually calls it off. I would hope that the referee in question is sanctioned and held to account by the WKF. Luckily I believe Brett is okay and has recovered.

If you have to take the two issues out, the event itself was very entertaining, with Richie Quan doing the commentating you had someone incredibly respected and knowledgeable on combat sports providing his insight (He even wants to have some of his Muay Thai fighters compete on the card next year although I am sure he will want to first inspect the ring himself though next time…)

Fans were definitely getting excited towards the 5th and 6th fight (I’d estimate upward of 600 spectators were inside at the time of event cancellation) with more and more people flowing in from the Sexpo event next door, This would have definitely increased as the night went on, especially as the it was not even close to the main card yet.

I have seen Tri Nations LMS take full accountability for the issues at hand and singled out they must be held accountable, where I am sure other organisations would so readily deflect any responsibility, where the actual fault’s responsibility lied with 3rd parties, shouldering the full blame and promising to improve is a distinctly positive thing in my book.

With such an extreme case of a steep learning curve, I can only hope the organisers are brutally honest with themselves and that they dissect each and every positive and negative and bounce back stronger.  Some people are already saying they won’t attend the next LMS (if there is even one) but I am not taking that view, I see the positivity around certain parts of the LMS and I will hope that the people on-board for this first one have the faith, integrity and passion for the product offered to also take things in a positive way and assist to make the next Tri Nations LMS a resounding success.

The early UFCs certainly had bigger teething problems, the pre-Zuffa boom era had some dark days but look at where it is today. LMS has a lot of work to do but it doesn’t mean that they cannot be rejuvenated. A new kid on the block provides more options for fans and fighters alike. New blood is good, LMS certainly had great potential, the fact the Richie Quan rendered his expertise is a great denote of that. The tricky bit is mustering that true potential… but it can be done. No lexicon of MMA events exists but there are no reasons not to chase that state. I mean who doesn’t love a beaten underdog bouncing back and winning a fight?

@remybfg10k on Twitter

  • Concerned MMA fan
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    Responding to MMA in SA – Letter to the editor
    I see it very valuable to hear what fans think and seek from Promoters / Regulatory Bodies. I disagree however that one can Compare LMS with EFC, UFC, CFL, ROW or any other MMA Promotion.
    The fact is LMS was not MMA. It was not planned or even when the rules changed the night before, an MMA event. The rules was totally mis-aligned to MMA rules.
    One more other fact is that if it was sanctioned, I would like to know which regulatory body approved these rules?

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