Filipinos are no stranger to contact sports.
Boxing, being the more popular and commercialized one, has been a crowd favorite especially in the provinces where municipal arenas have regular bouts from resident and visiting pugilists.
There are also numerous competitions for karate, taekwondo, and wrestling.
Filipinos also like to experiment a little, especially when it comes to sports that require bashing down an opponent to submission. One particular contact sport that has been getting the attention of Filipinos is mixed martial arts (MMA).
Filipinos are already warming up to the idea of such an extreme sport, thanks in large part to international MMA events most notably the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
For the past decade, some mixed martial arts enthusiasts have been bringing this sport to the Philippines.
Before any established MMA combat event was held, a few enthusiasts would hold “grudge matches” where they would follow some basic rules of MMA from the UFC and other international fighting events. Most of these activities were underground, meaning they were done in private and away from prying eyes of the public who might not understand the whole concept of MMA. It was not boxing where winning means using a mix of speed, power, and heart.
MMA – as it overtly states – is a combination of fighting styles where you need to take down an opponent as fast and as efficiently as possible. A fighter will employ every aspect of his body, arms, elbows, legs, knees, feet, even the entire weight of the body. It also involved tackling, grappling, kicking, or punching and pounding an enemy until they are knocked out or yield.
Such graphic images, especially when blood is drawn from a cut, might not sit well with people especially the queasiest ones.
Still, the idea of MMA becoming an acceptable public spectacle continued to brew among its Filipino enthusiasts. This was further driven by TV and cable channels that showed the UFC in the Philippines. It didn’t matter if it MMA fights were shown at odd hours of the day, the point was it had a growing audience in the Philippines.
The earliest to professionalize it was the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC), which was officially established in 2002. Back then, it was largely dominated by young college students who mostly followed international MMA rules, including the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts adopted by the United States, as well as rules from the PRIDE Fighting Championships (an MMA competition started in Japan that later merged with the UFC). These rules led to the requirement of wearing gloves in fights, avoiding eye-gouging or hair pulling, no biting, or groin attacks, among others.
It was also during these times that a number of local MMA training camps were developed. These included SPRAWL and Yaw-Yan (created by Filipino Napoleon Fernandez). There were also a few gyms that offered training in muay thai, taekwondo, karate, and the popular MMA fighting style Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Up until 2011, the URCC was the prime MMA event in the Philippines until the entry of the Pacific X-Treme Combat, which has a much wider reach. The PXC is an MMA organization based in Guam that has expanded its operations and stable of fighters across the Asia Pacific region. The PXC centered on bringing Asia Pacific fighters together and developing them for competition against international fighters.
MMA in the Philippines has been around for only a few short years though the main reason for this is because of lack of understanding regarding rules and regulations that govern this. The late appearance of MMA in the Philippines can also be attributed to the traditional and often initial reaction of the majority of the public: it is an extreme form of contact sport wherein participants resort to violent, physical tactics in order to get an opponent to surrender.
But few realize that MMA is also one that develops discipline among fighters. Because of the very nature of fighting itself, a participant has to learn a much wider array of offensive and defensive techniques. An opportunity to win means having to prepare for any situation against another opponent. It may seem violent but it requires a rigorous set of style.
MMA remains to be in its infancy in the Philippines but with more local and international combat events happening, it is likely to become a favorite in any region in the Philippines. Hopefully, Filipinos will get another chance at an international audience against other tough fighters.