China has a rich history in martial arts. Many have seen the country’s potential as the new hotbed for mixed martial arts. The UFC has openly expressed interest in expanding to the fourth largest country in the world and has already opened up an office there. Despite the forward thinking and initial attempts to bring the sport into the mainstream, mixed martial arts is still in its infancy.
Art of War Fighting Championship is credited with holding the very first professional mixed martial arts event in China back in 2005. Smaller organizations have come and gone, but have not been able to duplicate similar success.
Enter Legend Fighting Championship.
Mixed martial arts continues to grow in China and is slowly gaining in popularity. LegendFC has quickly garnered many hardcore fans around the world. The Hong Kong based organization held three events in 2010 and looks to build upon their success in the New Year. LegendFC was brought to fruition by Mike Haskamp and Chris Pollak.
“Legend started as an idea that my now-business partner Chris and I were bouncing around over a couple of beers back in spring of 2009,” said Haskamp, co-founder and Managing Director of Legend Entertainment Ltd. “Chris and I knew each other from grad school, where we played rugby together. We were both at a stage where we wanted to start something up on our own. We’d both been practicing a variety of martial arts since we were kids, and Chris actually spent a year fighting professionally in North Thailand before going back to grad school.
“We both love MMA, and we thought that there was a big opportunity to develop something new in Asia. I was living in Hong Kong at the time, so Chris flew over for a couple of weeks for us to do some research and see how feasible it would be to establish something here. We liked what we saw, and Chris quit his job to move over here that autumn, and we’ve been working on Legend ever since.”
LegendFC is unique in that the organization only features fighters from throughout China and the Asia-Pacific region. Many known fighters have been refused participation on the previous basis alone. Their strategy is to steadily grow with a talent base that the audience can relate to and rally behind.
“Our goal since starting Legend has been to help develop the sport we love in this part of the world. Outside of Japan, MMA is still pretty far from mainstream in the rest of Asia, but we think that it certainly has the potential to get there,” stated Haskamp. “Our focus will remain on bringing together some of the best fighters from throughout the Asia-Pacific, and putting on great fights here in Hong Kong.”
UFC fighter Tiequan Zhang made history by being the first Chinese fighter to ever compete in the organization. Prior to his Octagon debut, Tiequan added a victory to his previously unbeaten streak at LegendFC 2.
“We started Legend because we love this sport, and we’d really like to contribute to developing it further in this part of the world. We’re focusing on expanding our broadcast footprint in Asia in particular since we think viewers are especially interested in seeing their own national champions fight, and we want to give the fighters a platform to compete at a high level in front of their home country audiences,” explained Haskamp. “We definitely don’t have grand plans for global domination, but we’re making steady progress; more people are coming to our events, more people are watching us on TV, and we’re looking good for an increase in the number of events we hold in 2011.”
LegendFC will hold its fourth show on Jan. 27 at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong. Headlining the card will be a long awaited rematch between Australia’s Adrian Pang and South Korea’s Nam Yui Chul. The two fought to a draw at Legend’s inaugural show. Fans have considered the fight as one of the greatest in LegendFC’s history and throughout the Asia-Pacific.
“Nam was ahead on the judges’ scorecards in January, but was docked a point in the third round for one too many accidental kicks to Pang’s groin. The reason for this is that he broke his hand on Pang’s forehead in round two and basically spent all of round three on his heels, leg-kicking Pang to maintain their distance,” recalled Haskamp.
Since their fight, Adrian Pang has gone on to claim LegendFC’s lightweight championship, while Nam Yui Chul has defeated every opponent that has been placed in front of him. It will be one year since the two have faced off. Will the rematch be just as entertaining?
“I don’t just think they can produce another great fight; I expect it. These guys are both so tough and talented, and with last January’s draw, they’re both looking to prove a point with this fight. Regardless of who wins this rematch, the audience is in for some serious fireworks.”
In addition to two featured title fights, LegendFC 4 will host the first round of a bantamweight tournament. Australia’s Michael Mortimer will take on Chinese wrestling champion Yao Honggang while Indonesia’s Yohan Mulia Legowo faces Jo Nam Jin in the other bracket. The tournament will conclude at Legend FC 5 and also crown the promotion’s first bantamweight champion.
The tournament format has long been popular in Japanese MMA and in the early days of the UFC. Pride Fighting Championships’ pinnacle was highlighted by its Grand Prix events. Fighters who were able to win the tournament garnered great achievement and notoriety.
“We really like the tournament format. Being such a young promotion, it’s a good way to create continuity between events, to get the fans familiar and interested in the fighters, and to award inaugural titles in each weight class. We’re thinking of starting a featherweight and/or a middleweight tournament at Legend 5.”
LegendFC 4 marks another first for the promotion; the event will be broadcast on Chinese television and will also be aired on American and Canadian pay-per-view. Canadian fighter Vaughn Anderson will helm as commentator and many hardcore fight fans will finally get the opportunity to view an entire LegendFC event.
“The U.S. pay-per-view deals just sort of happened; copies of Legend 2 and 3 wound up in the hands of one of the U.S. pay-per-view providers, and they reached out to us about broadcasting our next show,” revealed Haskamp. “We’re incredibly excited about this opportunity and are grateful that North American fans have such passion for the sport and curiosity to check out new promotions and new fighters. We think it’s a great chance for us to raise the profile of Asia-Pacific MMA and its fighters.”
Legend Fighting Championship has quickly emerged into the Chinese MMA scene and is dedicated to growing the sport. The young organization looks to build upon a solid inaugural year and pave the way to many great fights in the future.
“A huge thank you to all of you. With MMA still in its early stages in so much of Asia, your support means the world to us.”
For more information, visit www.legendfc.com