For a country that’s dubbed the hub for Asian MMA, there isn’t really a road map for Mixed Martial Artists to turn professional in Singapore. That’s an irrefutable truth that every local hopeful will agree upon.
In North America, there are competitors who make the transition from collegiate wrestling while others try their hand at reality shows like The Ultimate Fighter.
The two biggest trends in MMA lately would be Amateur paths like Tuff-N-Uff in Las Vegas, where notables like current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey, got her start, and the Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts fight league, which only takes in Malaysian-born personnel in its efforts to breed its next generation of fighters.
For fighters in Singapore, however, there isn’t a path or set of rules one can follow to try to one day emulate those who currently trample ground in meteoric promotions like REBEL FC or ONE FC.
Well, REBEL FC made an attempt with its first all-amateur showcase in May, but the promotion’s relative inactivity and focus on professional MMA fighters has left amateurs still longing for a stage to ply their skills on.
Now an ex-fighter, a current coach and wrestler is doing his best to help look out for the next crop of athletes looking to make their way into fighting. Arvind Lalwani, also known as the head honcho of Juggernaut Fight Club, is the brainchild behind Singapore Fighting Championship (SFC), a recently launched promotion fixated on running Amateur MMA fights.
In conjunction with the Wrestling Federation of Singapore, the idea behind the materialization of SFC was to develop Amateur fighters and nurture them towards their goal of going professional.
“I first started helping out the local martial arts scene by teaming up with other gyms to do a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament through Singapore Combat Championship in 2013. But then I noticed there was hardly any support for Amateur MMA. Actually, there was none,” Lalwani told MMASucka.com. “So at this point in time, with SFC, I’m going in the direction of just putting up Amateur MMA competitions.”
For his inaugural spectacle, which takes place on Saturday, Lalwani has brought about a one night 4-man championship tournament format across multiple weight divisions, including Flyweight, Bantamweight, Featherweight and Lightweight. The plan is to crown Singapore’s first batch of national champions, but ultimately, a $300 cash prize and a shiny title belt is what the Amateur fighters can look forward to, and as Lalwani puts it, this is something ‘that’s never been done before’.
“While I wanted to give an opportunity to the best Amateur fighters here before they turn pro, let’s put it this way: Amateurs don’t get paid at all,” he admitted. “The idea is to make the fighters feel like they’ve really accomplished something. So instead of handing out the customary championship belts, we’re giving away cash incentives as well.”
The Amateur fighters that are set to compete include notables Amirul Syafiq, Benedict Ang, Sim Kai Xiong, Jake Gonzales, Nazri Sutari and Henry Yeo. It’s perhaps well-worth noting that some of these starlets have already tasted considerable success in their burgeoning careers. Kai Xiong fought in the amateur portion of Full Metal Dojo and REBEL FC in this calendar year alone, while Evolve MMA’s Benedict Ang is one of the brightest prospects out of the famed Evolve Fight Team.
All in all, Lalwani was thankful of the support he received since embarking on this venture, and believes it all came down to a common interest.
“It wasn’t tough to get the fights together. As soon as I put out word on the competition, we had lots of fighters wanting to compete,” he said. “I think it comes down to the mutual respect between the gyms, and they understood I’m trying to build the sport in the country for real.”
But, it won’t only be the Amateurs taking the spotlight come fight night.
GODS Fighting Championship, a Malaysia-based promotion started by fighters Will Chope and Mark Striegl in 2012, will be brought out of defunctness by Lalwani ahead of Saturday too. The 33-year-old has slated three pro fights to Saturday’s line-up, but was quick to point out that these bouts will theoretically be taking place under the GODS FC banner.
“SFC is an Amateur MMA promotion. But for entertainment value, I wanted some pro Superfights to take place as well,” Lalwani added. “Will (Chope) is with us and with him being the brainchild behind GODS FC, we thought it’d be a great idea to have GODS as the pro banner.”
“So basically the entire event is one, but the pro fighters are fighting under the GODS FC flag while the amateur ones are competing under SFC.”
Highlighting the pro card will be two of Singapore’s hottest MMA commodities in Syafiq Samad (3-1) and Garie Tang (1-0). Samad, 21, is widely recognized as Singapore’s top MMA star having amassed victories in promotions such as DARE Fight Sports and PXC. He’ll lock horns with Brazil’s Silvio Romero Da Silva (0-1), a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace based in Singapore.
Tang, meanwhile, tussles with Fritz Biagtan (0-0) following his pro MMA debut triumph over former ONE FC competitor Nicholas Lee at Ultimate Beatdown 14.
And rounding off the pro card will be a clash between former Team Reign and Joker’s MMA staple Luke Adams (5-8), and Filipino fighter, Wilson Managuio (0-0).
Lalwani has engaged the help of Jon Nutt, the owner of Full Metal Dojo, to help with emcee proceedings and announcing duties at the event. India’s premier gear brand, USI Universal, meanwhile, will serve as the official fighter equipment sponsor.
The pro fights will take place under the Unified MMA Ruleset, with the Amateur ones complying with the Universal Amateur MMA Ruleset. All fights are set to take place in a traditional ring.
After this week, SFC will see its first set of Amateur MMA champions crowned but the hard work only begins thereon in. Lalwani wants his champions to be actively defending their straps, and hopes to put on at least four events starting in 2015.
“We’re different than MIMMA in Malaysia. Their champions only fight once a year. I don’t want that. If the SFC champions want to keep their belts, they have to defend it 2-3 times a year. Then you’re a champion. Because if you don’t defend it, you’re not a champ,” Lalwani stated.
“We’ll look to continue the 4-man tournaments in future events and we’ll have single fights to determine the number one contenders.”
“Basically, the goal is to find an Amateur national team that can represent us in international competitions. Hopefully we can accomplish this within the next year or two.”
Singapore Fighting Championship’s inaugural installment takes place December 20 at the historical Singapore Badminton Hall (now known as Gymkraft).
Check out the full fight card below:
- Syafiq Samad vs. Silvio Romero Da Silva
- Garie Tang vs. Fritz Biagtan
- Luke Adams vs. Wilson Managuio
AMATEUR MMA BOUTS
- *Flyweight Tournament Finals*
- Benedict Ang vs. Sim Kai Xiong (For SFC Amateur MMA Featherweight title) – Finals, original opponents pulled out due to injury
- *Bantamweight Tournament Finals*
- *Lightweight Tournament Finals*
- Henry Yeo vs. Andika Salimi (SFC Flyweight Amateur MMA Tournament semifinals)
- Muhamad Haikal vs. Jake Gonzales (SFC Flyweight Amateur MMA Tournament semifinals)
- Aloysius Toh vs. Muhammad Khairi (SFC Bantamweight Amateur MMA Tournament semifinals)
- Azman Sulaiman vs. Amirul Syafiq (SFC Bantamweight Amateur MMA Tournament semifinals)
- Iswandi Ismail vs. Ron Ng (SFC Lightweight Amateur MMA Tournament semifinals)
- Muhamad Khalid vs. Nazri Sutari (SFC Lightweight Amateur MMA Tournament semifinals)
*Photos credit: Singapore Fighting Championship