Malaysian Invasion, the most ambitious amateur MMA tournament ever attempted at a national level, is approaching the climax of a second season and a field of around 500 entrants has been whittled down to seven overall winners.
They will face off against the Season 1 winners at Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 25 on a card that will also have a few pro fights. The tournament is financed by local telco Tune Talk, which has helped to create a buoyant amateur scene in Malaysia.
MMA gained traction at such rapid speed in Malaysia that up until a few years ago fighters were throwing themselves enthusiastically into pro competitions with little to no relative training or experience, but MIMMA (Malaysian Invasion MMA) has helped to stabilize the scene by ensuring prospective professionals can test their skills in a safer environment.
The man behind it is retired rock star and current Tune Talk CEO Jason Lo and he thinks MMA in Malaysia is going from strength to strength.
“The scene is alive and kicking. It is a privilege for Tune Talk to have been involved in this sport and to build upon the foundations set by trailblazers like Melvin Yeoh and the many gyms which have helped move people towards MMA,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
MIMMA was founded last year, is currently in its second season, and according to Lo the caliber of the fighters is improving constantly.
“The standard is going up without a doubt. More gyms are focusing on the MMA core sports and in MIMMA we saw the exit of previous years semi finalists in the second round to tougher opponents.”
Lo also thinks that the long span of the MIMMA tournaments helps fighters to progress steadily.
“MIMMA is an eight-month program and fighters fight each month to reach the final. This hones athletes to a more professional standard and changes their bodies to conditions which resemble pro franchise cycles,” he said.
Malaysian welterweight Adam Kayoom earned a ONE FC title shot last year, but was forced to pull out of the fight after suffering a serious rib injury. The belt in question has subsequently been claimed by a certain Ben Askren.
With Kayoom considering a drop down to 155 pounds, Malaysia’s best chance of producing one of the first generation of ONE FC champions has probably passed and Lo acknowledges it is difficult for his countrymen to compete with some of their neighbors on the international MMA scene.
“The competition is tough and we have countries like Thailand with Muay Thai as a national sport and the Philippines, which has URCC and a developed amateur base, as well as regulated pro licenses. We have Singapore with advanced trainers at gyms like Evolve that some of the best fighters in the world to like Ben Askren and Shinya Aoki and there’s only so many titles available, so it will be tough.”
However, he sees plenty of potential in Malaysia’s current crop of amateurs and professionals and lists a few names for fight fans to look out for.
“I believe Ann Osman could be a women’s champion and Keanu and Gianni Subba have superb pedigree. Ev Ting is a fierce force and fast as anyone in is his weight category and in MIMMA we have seen the emergence of new talents like Agilan Chandran from Monarchy gym, who beat a Judo Champion to reach the finals, and the giant Daryn Low from Sabah who are both serious contenders to become successful pro fighters.”
The Grand Finale of MIMMA Season 2 will see the winners in each division face the champions from the first season and will also feature a handful of pro fights including an eagerly anticipated bout between Matt Pellino and Will Chope.
It might seem like an odd match-up given that Chope is a 20-7 UFC veteran and Pellino will be making his pro debut, but it is a contest that has captured the imagination of Malaysian fans and Lo says that when the opportunity came to make this fight he couldn’t resist.
“Matt is a young wrestler who has cornered and trained many fighters, he’s the MIMMA announcer, and has contributed a lot to MMA in Malaysia. He is well known on the scene and has a strong ground game. Will Chope has fought for promotions like URCC and Dare, but they both wanted the fight and so why not? It’s a seasoned pro against a young wrestling upstart.”
Pellino is a prominent figure in Malaysian MMA who has been talking up his pro debut for some time and should have a significant size and weight advantage over Chope in this open weight contest, which has drawn a storm on social media, although Lo admits the matchmaking is unorthodox.
“I respect Will for giving a chance to a first time pro fighter and I respect Matt for getting in the cage with a guy this experienced. Both risk something and it’s a bizarre fight which you wouldn’t see on a normal franchise.”
The first episode of MIMMA Season 2 premiered on AXN last Saturday night, a channel that is available all over Asia. It means amateur fighters in Malaysia have a highly public platform on which to perform and Lo says he hopes this will help the country to put itself on the MMA map.
“Tune Talk have adopted this as our official sport and we hope our contribution will help Malaysia become an MMA powerhouse.”
There are already a number of Malaysian fighters on the ONE FC roster with Asia’s biggest MMA promotion heading to Kuala Lumpur for the fifth time next month with a card that will feature local fighters Osman, Ting, Peter Davis, Saiful Merican, Raymond Tan and Marc Marcellinus.
Lo will be cageside to cheer for his compatriots at ONE FC: Roar of Tigers, and is hoping that it won’t be too long before his country has an international champion of its own.
“We’ve always had spirit and diversity in Malaysia, now we have BJJ and wrestling too. I personally hope to see a champion emerge from Malaysia within the next three years and Tune Talk will do our best to make it happen.”
For more information about MIMMA visit: www.malaysianinvasion.com/.
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