Interview with Brent Yapp of MASMMAA (The Malaysian MMA Association) Words by Caio Lemos There’s a new “Asian Tiger” on the block! In economics, this is the group of countries known in the past for experiencing exponential growth, achieved through investment and education. Now Malaysian MMA is experiencing a similar phenomenon, and the early results are starting to show. One word sums up 2014 in Malaysian MMA: “Boom”. The popularity of the sport is sky-rocketing, the number of gyms and athletes are on the rise and new promoters and sponsors are vying to get into the game. With so much going on at the same time within the country, the Malaysian MMA Association (MASMMAA) is working hard to ensure that Amateur rule sets and safety standards are followed, ensuring strong foundations for national MMA. On top of that, their participation at the first IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA well indicated where they are headed for. The future looks bright for Malaysia, with MASMMAA planning to establish a unified calendar for Amateur events in the country, to organize technical seminars and instigate a whole change to the mindset at the root of the sport. Before long, many more in the world of MMA will bear witness as this young feline claws its way to the top.
Since joining IMMAF in April, what have been the main achievements of MASMMAA?
MASMMAA is proud to have been one of the pioneering nations that send its’ national team to compete at the inaugural IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas Nevada in June to July 2014. For the record, Malaysia also became the first Southeast Asian country to represent the region there.The team and coaches (Cody Stevens and Matt Pellino) did well considering the short duration of training. We hold Mr. Will Elliot and the Tiger Muay Thai and MMA training camp (Phuket) in high esteem for working with MASMMAA to prepare the team. As a result, Keanu Subba became the first Malaysian to win in his debut at the IMMAF World Championships.
Locally, MASMMAA continues to support the growth of the sport in Malaysia by sanctioning various Malaysian MMA promotions such as the world’s biggest amateur MMA event series, Malaysian Invasion(MIMMA) organised by Tune Talk Sdn Bhd, Warrior FC based in Penang and Jesselton Fight League from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
MASMMAA is also working hard with the local MMA community to adopt IMMAF Amateur competition rules at their events.
MASMMAA would also like to connect with other valuable global partners to drive forward the interest in the sport.
How big is MMA scene right now in Malaysia?
We would like to send our special thanks, deepest appreciations and gratitude to the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sports under the exemplary leadership and vision of our Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports, YB Tn Haji Khairy Jamaluddin.
The scene is definitely on the ascension. This sport has risen so quickly from a commercial and promotional standpoint in Malaysia.Thanks has to go to the major efforts of sponsors such as Tune Talk which has brought a lot of mainstream attention to the sports through its successful MIMMA event series and innovative digital media stream; the passion and drive of the pioneering Malaysian MMA members such as Melvin Yeoh and the Ultimate Beatdown team, Paul Teo and the MFC team; Encik Marzuki and the F3 team, Yeow Chet and Legion FC and various trainers who have made a mark in Malaysian MMA such as Professor Marcos Escobar who introduced BJJ to Malaysia, Will Chope, Mark Striegl, Antonio Graceffo, Eric Kelly, Arnaud Lepont, even Frank Shamrock came to Malaysia; the accomplishments of professional Malaysia MMA fighters such as Peter Davis, Gianni Subba, Nik Harris, Ev Ting, Ann Osman, AJ Pyro and Saiful Merican in their MMA organisation. The scene has exploded in popularity as is evident by constant coverage in mainstream media and fans turnout at the MMA events and shows.A special shoutout to Mr Jason Lo from Tune Talk who has done more than most to push the MMA sport forward, not just in Malaysia but globally. He is a real special fan of MMA!
We have also seen traditional gyms with a single martial art discipline transitioning themselves to become more MMA-oriented by incorporating different martial arts disciplines and MMA-fitness training programs.
Over the mainstream media side, we have full access to watch various renowned MMA shows such as the UFC and its related TV shows, Bellator MMA, and Asian promotions such as ONE FC and ROAD FC. A majority of these TV shows are also available via live broadcast.
Our MMA athletes have become more mainstream. Peter Davis divides his time between being a successful model, event host and brand ambassador for various “A” brands. Ann Osman is a new role model for Asian women’s MMA and as a Muslim fighter. She was invited recently as a presenter at TEDYouth, a popular empowerment and leadership forum. AJ Pyro is well known in the Philippines for his outstanding philanthropy. Melvin Yeoh is a schoolteacher and has taken many problematic teens off the streets by giving them a chance to become better persons through training at his gym.
ONE FC, a staunch partner of Malaysian MMA has increased their presence in Malaysia which was duly rewarded with sold-out attendance at their recent Malaysian shows.
Prof Adam Kayoom, a BJJ Black Belt, became the first Malaysian MMA athlete to contest for a MMA world title at ONE FC. Unfortunately he was injured prior to his bout.
More MMA promotions are also being established such as Warrior FC who has a Pro-Am card, and Jesselton Fight League which focuses a lot on grassroots MMA in Kota Kinabalu Sabah. Both these events were sanctioned by MASMMAA. Gyms are reintroducing active smoker events at their gyms dubbed fight nights.
Malaysia had the opportunity to compete at the first World Championships of Amateur MMA, in Las Vegas. How was that experience for everyone involved?
We really would like to thank IMMAF for initiating this historic event.The Las Vegas experience put us in good stead as to what is required to compete at an elite amateur level. Our team did well although we lost by close decisions. Keanu Subba became the first Malaysian MMA athlete to win at the IMMAF world championships.
For one, we sorely lack a good wrestling and grappling training program. With the input of seasoned wrestling trainers working in this region we are drawing up plans to instil this important MMA discipline and seek to inculcate this as a vital module to be taught at the MMA gyms and other such MMA institutions nationwide.
What were the hardest challenges and obstacles MASMMAA had to face so far?
We understand there are various contingents that have their own ideas for promoting the sport. Our task is to reach out and unite the groups. To achieve this, we are constantly engaging with the promoters and athletes an working to promote the importance of safe MMA.There should also be a sense of responsibility in promoting this sport. This sport has tremendous potential to grow and we are extremely lucky to have the full support of the Malaysian government and dedicated stakeholders such as Mr Jason Lo and the Tune Talk team and all the M MA gyms, athletes, trainers and the passionate members of the Malaysian MMA community. Education therefore continues to be a cornerstone of this association.For one, MMA athletes may not be aware or appreciate that if they become a professional MMA athlete without fully having the tools, skill set, mindset and more importantly, the right team behind them, their career will be cut short before it even starts. Compared to a few years ago, the scene is more established today with promoters willing to be patient and give the athletes a chance to slowly get into the sport.
Since this sport is becoming a trend in Malaysia, we see a curmudgeon of gyms opening as MMA gyms. The challenge is ensuring the gym owners and their investors know that there is no quick scheme to get rich in this industry. MMA is a lifestyle and is a sport. The payoff is more than just financial. So, we would like the stakeholders to set themselves a high standard to promote the sport well such as hiring reputable trainers, having the proper training equipment and organising a clear training program.
This trend extends to the event promoters as well. Our key states such as KL, Selangor, Penang, and Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak have seen a significant rise in MMA interest. It would augur well to have the promoters continuing to set themselves a good benchmark to benefit the sport, and in turn we believe this will drive commercial interest especially public interest forward.
Looking forward to 2015, what comes next for MASMMAA?
MASMMAA is working to unify a common MMA calendar to ensure various promoters and amateur fighters are aligned towards maximising the athlete’s appearance in MMA shows. We would continue to work with various stakeholders to advise the aspiring MMA athletes to first take the time to hone their fundamentals by acquiring good skill set in various important MMA disciplines such as boxing, grappling and ground game. The gyms and public demand will drive this factor forward.
We will also work with the community to set standards in terms of event promotion, competition rules, refereeing and judging, education and coaching methodology.We will also like to introduce more technical and scientific seminars to educate the athletes in body mechanics and cardiovascular knowledge programs.We would also like to send a team to compete at IMMAF championships 2015 and hopefully put on a good show.
Finally, we would like to send a massive congratulations to your new CEO, Mr Densign White whom we trust has the ability, drive and ambition to propel IMMAF and set good standards for the sport throughout the world.]]>