Entering The Cage: UFC comes to Korea
More than any other sport, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) reveals a kind of truth. While most spectator sports showcase amazing feats of athleticism and skill, these feats are somewhat arbitrary. Who can best bounce a ball and shoot it through a hoop? Who can dangle a puck on a sheet of ice using a wooden stick? These are somewhat frivolous questions. Fighting, however, along with sports like running and swimming, answer fundamental questions that have mattered in the real world since there have been humans on the planet. If there were no sports and no spectators, the question of who is the greatest fighter would still be, well, fought over.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)’s unfair reputation for brutality and barbarism was likely formed during the UFC’s early years. The original incarnation of the UFC cage fighting event was devoid of many rules or conventions; consequently, matches were often truly brutal. The sport of MMA as it exists today is highly evolved. All fighters are trained in multiple martial art disciplines. Many rules and practices have been adapted to protect combatants from unnecessary damage. Accordingly, the number of injuries and incidences of head trauma in MMA actually compares favorably to the NHL or NFL. In addition, fighters in the UFC show an astonishing degree of respect and sportsmanship, often giving high fives and sometimes even hugging in the middle of fights.
And now the UFC has finally come to Korea. MMA is not new here, with several local fighters and gyms as well as Road FC. As expected, Korea’s first ever UFC Event, Fight Night 79, will feature local fighters such as Dong Hyun Kim, Doo Ho Choi, and half-Korean half-Japanese fighter Yoshihiro Akiyama. Korean-American Benson Henderson, the former lightweight champion, will headline the event. The preliminary fights will feature several more local fighters.
Former lightweight champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson lobbied the UFC to let him compete in Seoul. This is his second fight since moving up in weight class and he fights the 13th ranked welterweight fighter Thiago “Pitbull” Alves. Alves, who once challenged George St. Pierre for the welterweight championship, is looking to move back into the top ten. Meanwhile, Henderson has suffered some recent losses since losing his belt, but if he wins in convincing fashion against Alves, he should leapfrog into the top ten of the welterweight division.
The co-main event is a match-up between former Croatian Special Forces officer Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and American fighter Anthony “Freight Train” Hamilton. Cro Cop was once one of the most feared heavyweights on the planet. Although now past his prime, Cro Cop is still a dangerous veteran known for his brutal head kicks; his right leg is known as “hospital” and his left leg as “cemetery.” Both fighters have aggressive and active styles which promise to make for some fireworks.
Busan native Dong Hyun “The Stun Gun” Kim is arguably the most successful Korean-born MMA fighter, currently ranked 7th in the welterweight division. Kim is fighting unranked Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal. Clearly a match-up for Kim to show his stuff in front of the home crowd, anything less than a convincing victory would be devastating for The Stun Gun considering all three of his losses have come against highly ranked fighters.
As the UFC continues its global expansion, a successful event here in Seoul could be the beginning of many events in the ROK. Considering all the young talent, the growing popularity of Road FC, and the emergence of MMA gyms across the country, Korea is ready to be a big player in the MMA game.
“UFC Fight Night Seoul: Henderson vs. Alves presented by Bodyfriend” is in Seoul on November 28 at 6:45pm
Location: Olympic Park Gymnastics Arena, Olympic Park Station, Exit 3
Groove Korea website