Rebel FC CEO Justin Leong will tell you that his newly-formed promotion isn’t all that perfect, thank you very much. But the one thing that he’ll admit is that he’s got his priorities right, and settled.
Present at the Rebel FC Amateur MMA try-outs that saw 62 fighters turn up for an opportunity to compete on the promotion’s December 21st event undercard, CEO Leong was taken aback by the number of combatants that showed up. He expected far less.
The 28-year-old is set to bring about a new concept to his promotion’s portrayal of MMA events. A main card consisting of pro MMA fights, and an undercard with amateur ones.
Mixed Martial Arts may not be blossoming in the Lion city but it’s certainly booming in the Asian region. It’d be hence, natural for promotions to rival one another. But for Rebel FC’s Leong, he feels competition isn’t necessarily something he should be looking into right now.
“We’re doing our own thing. They are doing theirs. What we want to do is to create exciting fights, train up the Amateur fighters, develop the platform for Singaporeans to compete, test them against International competition and bring out the humanity from all these athletes,” he said. “The ultimate goal of course is to get people emotionally connected with the fighters.”
And that’s a goal that’s well worth a round of applause. And a tip of the cap, perhaps. Leong’s idea of an MMA promotion extends far beyond than just two people fighting in a cage. He wants them to be seen as superstars, idols and more than just fighters. A reminiscence of PRIDE’s settings back in the day and that’s exactly what Leong is striving for.
“We’re looking to make it entertaining just like in PRIDE, where it was a spectacle and not just a show,” he said, with a smile across his face. “They had pyrotechnics, lights, action, entertainment and the fighters seemed larger than life. Like superheroes, so to speak. Their entrances were made of the stuff you’d see in the movies. That should be the detachment.”
Rebel FC hosts its inaugural installment at the Singapore Indoor Stadium next month. The organization has decided to go big with its first event, securing the likes of Rob Lisita (12-5), UFC vet Marcos Vinicius (20-5-1), Takeshi Inoue (21-8) and local talent Syafiq Samad (2-0) among others for its main card. It’s undercard, however, is set to feature something entirely different. Seven “Malaysia vs. Singapore” amateur MMA match-ups are set to be staged and according to Leong, it’s just another step taken by the promotion to nurture fighters from the grassroots level.
“Specifically, what I saw lacking in Singaporean MMA was that there wasn’t any form of development for local talents,” he recalled. ”Even Singaporeans who have fought in other organizations, they didn’t really have any amateur fights. It’s almost like they’re jumping queues, which honestly, shouldn’t be the case in Mixed Martial Arts,” he continued.
My matchmaker (Chad Sanderson) and I spoke to each and every representative from the various gyms, and we just put the word out that we were looking for Amateur talents to participate in our event. So at the Rebel FC Amateur MMA try-outs, we had Impact MMA, Brazilian Fight Club, Juggernaut Fight Club, Grassio MMA; from commercials gyms to hard-land community centre training, everyone were included. And we basically used the Facebook platform to spread the word as well.”
The try-outs took place in a packed Fight 360 gym, a local MMA facility that also drew the attention of media personnel, fans and supporters. The amateur MMA hopefuls were put through a series of vigorous tasks that enabled them to put on both their striking and mat skills on display. Those assessments culminated in sparring match-ups, which played a pivotal role in determining who was in and who was out.
Leong wants to award chances to every aspiring MMA fig opportunist out in the country. In return, he just wants the best out of each and every fighter.
“It’s not about the competition aspect but the spirit in which they compete. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about how much they leave it all inside the cage,” he said. “In the recent Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez fight, how I see it, there were no losers in that fight. If everyone on my fight card fought like that, I would sign all of them. It won’t matter.”
The fact is, for Leong, starting this “whole Rebel Fighting Championship thing” didn’t occur to him initially. The Singaporean was looking for a gateway to MMA promotions and once that didn’t materialize, he decided to launch his own.
“Basically, my initial plans were to just be involved in the MMA scene, by any means necessary. I applied for a few jobs but when I didn’t get in, I was lost. I mean, I had put in lots of time and effort in trying to get a career started in the MMA landscape.
I was just having a casual conversation with a friend at a bar and I just voiced out my frustration at not being able to accomplish what I had set out for,” he admitted. “Then, my friend just prompted an idea of setting up a promotion of my own. So that’s how this whole thing came about.”
When queried on his upcoming event and future plans, the 28-year-old was determined to take it one step at a time.
“Our December event is already shaping up really well. I’m not going to say the cliché line of the event being the biggest, the baddest and all that. We want to put on fights that will not only be entertaining, but memorable for fans that’ll be in attendance,” he said.
Only when we’re confident with our format and our product in terms of LIVE & TV experiences, will we dare to take it regional. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”
Titled “Into the Lion’s Den”, Rebel FC’s first event takes places December 21st at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Keep it locked to MMASucka.com for more details and updates leading up to the event.