When I first heard news that One Fighting Championship, the biggest Mixed Martial Arts promotion in Asia, I knew that I’d die if I missed it, especially after I found out how stacked the fight card would be. How could I miss an event in which former UFC Champions Andrei Arlovski and Jens Pulver, as well as Japanese star, Shinya Aoki are fighting? Couple that with rising stars Eduard Folayang, Gustavo Falciroli, Bibiano Fernandes, and Eric Kelly! One FC isn’t holding anything back, making hardcore MMA fans in the Philippines explode with so much testosterone.
In the press conference, the promoters and the fighters would make statements before the journalists were allowed to ask questions, take photos, videos, and etc. I expected to only read something about this certain press conference. Little to my knowledge, my journalism professor, Mr. Rick Olivares gave us an opportunity of a lifetime! I, together with 3 other classmates who were available, would attend the press conference. For a few seconds, my heart stopped beating. This was a dream come true!
As one of my classmates and I first stepped foot onto the forty-first floor of Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, we were greeted by such a sight. We were standing right in front of Eduard Folayang, and behind him was a room with Andrei Arlovski and Shinya Aoki in sight! Looking at each other to confirm what we just saw, we almost giggled like teen-aged girls who were invited by Justin Beiber for a date. It was surreal, like I was in a dream. I could not explain it. I felt like Harry Potter entering Hogwarts for the first time.
The atmosphere in the press conference room was electric. There were portraits of fighters, video montages, appetizing food, and so much more. I could not describe how I felt. The room was packed with journalists, tv crews and fans in anticipation of the fighters and organizers. When key people finally arrived, the promoter, Victor Cui made a perfect analogy for what I was feeling. It was the feeling of being in Las Vegas.
Before One FC scheduled its first event in Manila, the country had its own MMA promotion, the Ultimate Reality Combat Championship (URCC), headed by Alvin Aguilar. For 10 years, the URCC has helped the Philippines produce top Filipino talent to go on competing internationally. With the URCC’s vision of making MMA in Asia one of the biggest sports in the continent, it partnered with One FC to bring an event this huge to Manila.
Before the floor was open to questions, One FC CEO Victor Cui gave out information about MMA in Asia and One FC. Dubbed as the fastest growing sport in the world, MMA has found its home in Asia with One FC. In Asia alone, 500 million viewers have seen One FC through their television sets on channels ESPN and Star Sports. This came as a shock to me, because although I knew that MMA was being watched in Asia by the millions, I did not know that there would be as much as hundreds of millions of fans in Asia alone. This revelation made me beam with joy; millions of people in Asia also share my passion for the sport. They are treating their first event in Manila as a milestone; just like when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had their historic fight dubbed Thrilla in Manila at the Araneta Coliseum. As a big fan of the sport, I become like an energizer bunny whenever I think of attending One FC Pride of a Nation on the 31st of August. This is a big step-up for Philippine MMA, thanks to Victor Cui.
All the fighters in attendance showed their enthusiasm to be fighting in the Philippines for the first time.
Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki confidently said that he’s ready to prove that he’s not only the best in Japan, but he’s also No. 1 in Asia.
Andre “The Pitbull” Arlovski enthusiasm to fight in One FC was highlighted by his own version of “THIS IS SPARTA!” when compared to Leonidas by someone in the press.
DREAM Bantamweight Champion Bibiano Fernandes, the most sought after free agent before signing with One FC, told us what we all knew, that One FC is one of the best, if not the best MMA promotion in the world.
CFC Bantamweight Champin Gustavo Falciroli told the media that his fight with Bibiano Fernandes will be something to watch as they both want to entertain the fans.
Dubbed as the “Manny Pacquiao” of MMA, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang only smiled when he was compared to the Philippines’ boxing champion. He said that he’s going to do his best to really become the “Manny Pacquiao” of MMA.
After the question and answer portion of the press conference, we were allowed to talk to the fighters one-on-one, considering that we give time for the other journalists. For me this was the best portion of the event. From the first interview with Gustavo Falciroli, I was already starstruck. I’ve never been that close to a professional fighter, let alone a champion fighter. Gustavo had a calm demeanor when he talked about his fight, saying that he and his opponent both have their roots in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and he’s ready to fight wherever the fight goes. He was very friendly to everyone who talked to him.
After talking to Gustavo, we immediately went to talk to Bibiano Fernandes. I was surprised at his inviting personality. He had a smile as we were talking to him, as he enjoyed the company that fans like us gave him. When I took a picture with him, I could barely contain my excitement, thus making me give an awkward smile. I could not believe how close I physically was to an MMA champion.
Another thing I took from both the Bibiano Fernandes and Gustavo Falciroli encounters was how humble they both were. It may just go to show that humility brings us places, and in this case, humility brought them to one of the biggest MMA shows on the planet!
As we were exiting, we luckily chanced upon Eric Kelly standing by the doorway. We could not let this opportunity pass, so we asked him if we could ask him a couple of questions. He told us that the One FC opens up numerous opportunities for MMA in the Philippines. He also gave a message for aspiring Mixed Martial Artists to train hard.
After the event, I realized that we spent around 2 hours and a half listening and talking to fighters. It was tiring, moving from one fighter to another, but it was worth it as they gave us their own views on fighting, as well as their aspirations. I will never forget the humility and confidence exuded by the fighters I talked to. The press conference was just a prequel to the testosterone filled event heading to the Smart Araneta Coliseum next month.
I still believe that I was dreaming that day. I could not believe that I was part of a historic event for Asian MMA. Nothing I could say can explain what I felt that day. I wouldn’t miss this event for anything in the world, even if it meant delaying my second anniversary date with my girlfriend. As of today, I’m already having the MMA jitters as it would be the first MMA event I’d attend live.
*pictures taken from the One FC Press Kit and from Mr. Rick Olivares