F-3 Malaysia MMA Fight Experience of a Brooklyn Monk Fighting in Kuala Lumpur

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2012 at 5:51 am

By Antonio Graceffo

Outside of Asia, MMA fans may be aware of Thailand’s Dare FC and Singapore’s One FC, MMA tournaments, but they seem to be largely unaware of the exploding MMA scene in Malaysia. While Dare and One FC are, admittedly, at a higher level than our Malaysian MMA, there are considerably more events in Malaysia than anywhere else in Southeast Asia, except maybe the Philippines. We have several leagues now, Mayhem, MFC, F-3, Ultimate beat down, and the new professional league, God’s FC. If you come to Malaysia you could easily fight every two weeks and stay busy all year.

On February 26, 2012, I fought in F-3, a two day event, featuring both Muay Thai and MMA. While most of the audience is still more interested in Muay Thai than MMA, it was obvious from the crowd’s reaction that the popularity of MMA is growing.

Previously, I had fought in Mayhem and MFC, and had worked as announcer for Ultimate Beatdown. The professionalism of F-3 was very high and the event, held in a stadium, was by far the largest in Malaysia. F-3 had the support of the Malaysian government as well as exclusive TV deal with Astro. Held in Titiwangsa Stadium, and with 4,000 tickets sold, the event was even bigger than Dare.

Before fighting, all of the fighters were subjected to a medical cjheck, which was a first in Malaysian MMA. The doctor told me my resting heart rate was only 70. Normally, it is 60, but before the fight, I was a bit nervous. My blood pressure and blood sugar were all nearly perfect. He said to me, “These are the kinds of numbers we expect from a professional athlete.” So I asked him, “A pro athlete of what age?” Then he remembered I was forty-five. He laughed and said, “Twenty-two.”

My opponent was Aaron Lim, who I defeated in my first ever MMA fight in September of 2011. I have improved dramatically since then, but Aaron apparently wanted revenge. So, I agreed to fight him a second time.

I used Taiwanese pop star, Jay Chow “Ren He” (Ninja) as my walk in music. As I walked in, I did a sexy stripper dance to help me warm up, entertain the crowd and calm my nerves. Everyone was laughing at the funny, dancing, middle-aged white man. When I saw the crowd smile, I knew I had done a good job.

The fight was in a ring, instead of cage. I am used to cage fighting now, and the ring is quite different. You can’t push someone against the ring the same way you do in a cage. So, I had to modify my game plan. But it is good to know how to fight in both. The bell rang. I came out, kicked my opponent, Aaron, with my shin, in the body. It was the first time I have ever thrown a kick in an MMA fight and I think people were surprised. I have a reputation for coming out and immediately shooting for a single leg take down. Next, I shin kicked the inside of his thigh. Then, I moved in close, punched his face twice, grabbed him, controlled his upper body and used a judo throw to take him to the ground. I landed in his half-guard. My corner kept yelling for me to pass the half guard, but in training, I have learned to work just fine from inside of the half guard. So, I based out my free leg, and began pounding him in the face, mostly using hammer fist blows to keep from damaging my hands. As I pounded, I felt his half guard open, and I cleared my leg, taking side control, then judo side control.

I pounded him for a bit, until it looked like the referee would stop the fight. Earlier, both the promoter and the audience had expressed their anger at how short the MMA fights were. At this same event, for the same ticket money, they had Muay Thai fights as well as MMA fights. All of the muay Thai fights lasted five rounds, which means 19 minutes. But all of the MMA fights ended quickly. The first MMA fight of the event ended in 49 seconds. It was like paying for Ali-Frazier III but getting sumo instead.

Basically, if we couldn’t give the people a good show, MMA wouldn’t be featured any more in these events. So, to keep the referee from stopping the fight, I simply stood up, allowing my opponent to get back to his feet.

Once on our feet, I shin kicked his leg again, moved in, clinched, pushed him into the corner of the ring, pushed his head down to my belt level, and hit him in the body and face with knees. I didn’t want to hurt him or knock him out. I was just practicing knees which I would need in my next fight on March 10. I had never done that to anyone in a real fight before, because I never needed to. It was surprisingly difficult to land a good solid knee from that position.

I kneed him a few times, lightly, but the crowd thought I was killing him. So, they were happy. We scrambled, but I remained in firm control. Finally, I used a judo hip throw and took him to the ground. This time, I landed solidly in side mount. I pounded him a bit, lightly, but was still afraid of getting a referee stoppage, so I stood up. On the third go around, I once again used a judo hip throw, took him to the ground and pounded him, till the referee stopped the fight. I didn’t get hit or hurt at all. The whole fight lasted about 4 minutes. More importantly, both the crowd and the organizer were happy.

After my fight, there was one more preliminary fight, then I took the ring again, to fight an exhibition bout against my training partner Kim Lee Tan. Kim used to be a pro MMA fighter with a winning record. He retired from fighting, but then, after seeing one of his former opponents fighting in One-FC, he decided he wanted to make a comeback. He is training with us full time, at the Ultimate MMA Academy in Johor Bahru.

Our Academy has been called everything from a community MMA club to the X-Men school. You never know who will come in, or what special skills they will have, but EVERYONE is required to teach the others. In the more than two months I have been there, I have had sessions with pro boxers, a BJJ brown belt, a JJJ black belt, pro Muay Thai fighters…People with all sorts of skills which they share with me. In return, I teach classes in boxing, MMA and grappling.

Melvin, the coach, is excellent in teaching me Muay Thai, grappling, and clinch, but he is smaller than me. Although he can beat me, I still missed training with someone more my own size. And that is when Kim came in. He has a wealth of experience and is only a few KGs smaller than me. In just a couple of weeks, he raised my wrestling level 100%. I tell everyone God sent Kim to help me prepare for my fights.

Kim had been out of the ring for a few years. The day of the fight, I came up with the idea of having us fight an exhibition bout. I thought it would be interesting for the audience. It would be a good showcase of our talent on TV. Kim would get the feeling of being back in the ring again, without the pressure of a real fight. And the promoter would be getting a free fight. It was win, win, win for everyone.

Because this was arranged at the last minute, Kim didn’t even have his fighting shorts. So, he simply fought in his underwear, making him look like Don Fry or some of those early UFC fighters who used to fight in speedo trunks.

The exhibition fight was much harder and more exciting than my real fight, because I didn’t have to hold back as much. We didn’t choreograph or plan anything. We just did what we normally do in sparring, except, a lot harder. I wasn’t afraid of hurting my opponent. I knew Kim could take it and give it as well. When the bell rang and Kim and I engaged in a bit of Muay Thai, while I was looking for the takedown. His has had a lot of pro Muay Thai fights and I was actually afraid he would keep me at bay, making for a boring and embarrassing fight. Eventually, though, I got inside. Maybe he let me in. We grappled in standing, dirty boxing. Keep in mind, we weren’t wearing boxing gloves. These were small MMA gloves. And yet, people in the third row said they could hear the blows landing on our faces. We were both pretty excited, and swinging for the fences.

Kim got the better of me with knees, hitting me about three to one. With knees, you have to be very careful because even a light knee can put you out of commission for two weeks. Out of pure survival instinct, I knew I had to get Kim to the ground. I managed to throw him and grapple on the ground a bit. We stood up, and had more knees and punches and standing clinch, till I took him down again. The third take down was what is called a high-crotch throw, where you basically shove your forearm between the guys legs and lift him up to about shoulder height and body slam him. The audience loved it. I went for an arm bar, but Kim rolled out of it. As he rolled, I rolled with him and caught an inverted arm bar. I had never done one on a human being before, only on the grappling dummy. I didn’t realize that even a slight pressure in this position is very painful.

I think with all of the adrenaline from my fight and the exhibition, I applied too much pressure. Kim shouted, and I released. Sadly, the doctor said he can’t train for two weeks now.

I feel like a moron because at the end of the day, he could kill me in Muay Thai and probably in MMA, but he went easy to give the people a better show. And his reward for his polite manner is that I injured him. Later, back at the hotel, I offered him a free shot at my elbow with a sledge hammer, but his arm hurt too much to do too much damage. Irony can be so cruel. Maybe after they take his arm out of the sling he’d be willing to injure me in return.

The huge joke of this whole story is: Kim got hurt in a demo, not a real fight. Kim punched me in the face with MMA gloves and it was the first time I had been punched after 6 MMA fights. Kim hit me in the ribs with a good knee, which again was a first for me. People who follow Malaysian MMA said that our fight was one of the best MMA fights in Malaysia. Most people in the audience thought it was real. They had been told that it was a demo, but when they saw us really hitting each other, they began shouting, “Where is the referee?”

For me personally, these fights were significant. These were my first MMA fights where I didn’t shoot a single leg takedown. All of my throws were upperbody, judo or wrestling  throws. It was the first time I punched in standing, the first time I kicked, and the first time I used knees. It was an incredible learning experience, and I am much more prepared for my fight on March 10 with Nik Harris. After the Harris fight, I am fighting someone on March 24 in Johor. But the big even is on April 3, when I will hopefully be facing a very scary 108 kg Taiwanese pro, named Wu Dong Xing in a professional fight, in a new league, called Gods FC.

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