MMA is big in America, but some wonder if the sport enjoys the same popularity at the other end of the world, for instance in the homeland of martial arts – China.
Battlefield XI "Supremacy", a China-rooted international fight event, recently rocked one of China's top-notch hotels – the China World Hotel—and it became clear to this writer than MMA is making inroads here.
Featuring ten fights, including co-main events and one MMA Super Bout, with two championship belts on the line – a Pacific Rim Title and the Greater Asia Continental Title, the "Las Vegas style" fight show attracted some world-class fighters from seven nations, including the United States, Thailand, Italy, Philippines and Germany.
What impressed this journalist most was an action-packed MMA slugfest with eight-time world Muay Thai champion Vince Soberano pitted against American Bryon Schnell from the King of the Cage promotional group.
Soberano entered the ring with a fierce look on his face. Confidence exuded from every part of his body. With overwhelming cheers from the audience, he stepped through the ropes and danced briskly around the squared circle.
"I'd trained for this fight for three months," Soberano told this journalist after the MMA show in Beijing. "I was fully prepared."
This visual feast brought viewers toe-to-toe action, blows trading and knockdowns. After several action-packed rounds, Soberano ended this war with a TKO victory when he laid down his opponent and unleashed a furious ground ‘n pound session, pounding heavily with and the referee stepped in to wave off the bout.
One interesting scene this journalist witnessed was that after the referee declared the final result, the winner walked to his opponent's corner and fell upon his knees, for a while. It was clearly a means for the Thai-American to show respect to his American opponent, but the warrior from the King of the Cage didn't seem to quite understand that. There was a very unnatural expression sliding over Schnell's face and when Soberano stood up, and both men seemed uneasy.
"I will fight for one more Muay Thai world championship title, possibly the next January in Japan," the 44-year-old Thail-American confided.
Running a fight club in Beijing, the heart of China, the eight-time world champion is dedicated to bring Muay Thai to China and promote the combat sport within this ancient nation.
"The most attractive thing in China for me is its growth. I love China and I am going to marry a Chinese girl. For me, China is my home," Soberano said.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV