UPDATE: The next Art of War event takes place July 18, not July 11 as it says below.
Events in China often suffer from a bit of a disbelief syndrome, especially if they claim that some international VIP is going to attend. So I wasn’t really surprised when friends of mine who follow mixed martial arts were skeptical about the promotion of this past weekend’s Art of War Championship in Beijing. Were all of these legends of the sport really going to show up? Would Michael Buffer be there, or would it be his little brother Bruce, who isn’t even licensed to say “Let’s get ready to rumble”?
As it turned out, Art of War 12: Invincible, was the real deal. It was the second fully licensed event for the organizers, brothers Andrew and Konrad Pi. After working out the kinks with a show at the 3,500-seat Chaoyang Stadium two months ago, Saturday’s event at the 6,000-seat Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium was a coming out party. MMA legends including Bas Rutten, referee “Big John” McCarthy and several members of Brazil’s Gracie family were in attendance.
Art of War is backed by Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and he footed the bill for journalists from all over the world to fly in to cover the event, as well as hosting a cheering section from the United Arab Emirates, outfitted in matching gear for the occasion. The sheik himself didn’t show up, but a couple of young members of the royal family were there to hand out the award after the main event.
The night had pretty much everything you can expect from a full card of bouts–a boxing-style knockout punch (Ole Baguio Larson over Shawn David), that crazy young guy who just comes out with a flurry of crazy video game punches (19-year old Yao Qiang over 29-year-old Nemat Bobomukhamedov), a promising fight stopped by the doctors in the first round (Fransino Tirta over Malik Arash Mawlayi), and a referee jumping on a fighter who takes a cheap shot after the knockout bell (Ning Guangyou of China).
Wu Haotian of China won the main event in less than two minutes, beating Yutaka Kobayashi of Japan in a knockout. But the best fight of the night was between Rolles Gracie (Brazil, making his Asian MMA debut) and Baga Agaev (Russia), a pair of impressively fit and skilled super heavyweights. Gracie, weighing in at 110 kilograms (242 pounds) won with a rear naked choke after five minutes.
Oh, and what about Buffer? He emceed the last six fights of the night, delivering the trademarked catch phrase for the main event and nailing the fighters’ Chinese, Japanese, Uzbeki and Indonesian names.
As an aside, ticketing seems to be an area in need of major improvement.Tickets available online through Emma Ticketmaster were sold out early. Sponsors that run Beijing businesses were said to have tickets for sale, but they were hard to track down. Perhaps the large contingent of special guests had something to do with it.
For an interesting look at Art of War’s business position, from inside the MMA world, check out the podcast at the bottom of this entry on NoHoldsBarred.com. Once you get past (skip) the six minutes of really annoying ads, the show is interesting.
The remaining Art of War events this year take place July 11, September 5, October 31 and December 26. For more information, check out Artofwarfc.cn.
Related: MMA in Beijing: Art of War 12
Tags: Art of War, Beijing, martial arts, mixed martial arts, MMA, National Sports Center Gymnasium