Happy New Year Nation! By now, you’ve probably read our picks for “Promotion of the Year”, “Fighter of the Year”, “Knockout of the Year”, “Submission of the Year”, “Event of the Year” and of course, “Fight of the Year” (and if you haven’t, read them right here). While all these are very important categories, we here at TFN believe that there is more to Asian MMA’s 2012. The industry isn’t just made up of fighters, matches and promotions, it’s also made up of the personalities in it, the gyms, the MMA brands that set the tone for “MMA Fashion” and of course the sexy ring girls.
So without further ado, here’s part two of the TFN Awards 2012.
When it came to gym of the year, we decided to look at the authenticity and quality of the instructor team, the success of the fight team, quality and number of fighters coming out of the gym, and the amount of success the school has achieved in terms of growth and success. The one gym that came in tops in all our criteria was Evolve MMA.
Evolve MMA, which has just celebrated its 4th year anniversary, has been growing at an amazing pace. It currently has 2 state of the art facilities in Singapore and will be planning to open 2 more in 2013. Under the guidance of head coach Chatri Sityodtong and MMA/ wrestling head coach, former Olympic wrestler Heath Sims, Evolve boasts a huge team of instructors made up of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, boxing, no-gi grappling and wrestling champions. They’ve just recently added BJJ world champion and MMA fighter Bruno Pucci to their roster.
The Evolve Fight Team has also seen great success in 2012 with Shinya Aoki most recently beating Antonio McKee at DREAM 18, Rafael Dos Anjos going on a 3 fight win streak in the UFC and Zorobabel Moreira and Leandro Issa defeating MMA veterans Roger Huerta and Masakazu Imanari at ONE FC respectively. While both Moreira and Issa failed to win their ONE FC title fights, both have sworn to get back into the mix in 2013.
On top of all that, Evolve MMA has seen numerous international fighters such as Ryo Chonan, Satoru Kitaoka, Ben Askren, Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson visit their facilities in Singapore to prepare for their upcoming fights or to train.
With 2 state of the art facilities, a team of instructors made up of world class athletes, a fight team that has been extremely active in 2012, Evolve MMA is undoubtedly leading the way in Asia and is 2012′s Gym of the Year.
Honorable mentions: Korean Top Team, Krazy Bee, Phuket Top Team
Eric “The Natural” Kelly
When we were selecting candidates for “Badass of the Year”, we were looking for a fighter who had heart, was as tough as nails, would never quit and probably who would find any way possible to win. It would help too if he could actually kick ass in the cage too of course. Once we knew who we were looking for, it became pretty clear that the winner of TFN’s “Badass of the Year” award was Eric “The Natural” Kelly.
He’s undefeated with a 9-0 record. In 2012 alone he’s defeated one of the best Korean Featherweights, a UFC Legend and he submitted a guy who was way bigger than him while having vision in only one eye. Kelly is without a doubt a man’s man who lets his fist do the talking. If you don’t think this dude deserves the title of “Badass of the Year”, then we seriously dare you to tell it to him in his face.
Honorable mentions: Kotetsu Boku, Mark Striegl
This was a pretty tough choice to make. In fact it was the toughest category to pick a winner for. So many beautiful ring girls in Asian MMA but we could only pick one, how fair is that? In the end it was between ONE FC’s Kim Ha Yul and PXC’s Abby Poblador. While we love Kim Ha Yul, we have to give our “Hot Chick of the Year” award to Abby Poblador. She’s one of the hottest Filipina ring girls around, she’s a media darling in the Philippines and our article on her right here was one of the most read articles of the year. The numbers don’t lie and neither does this pic of her.
Honorable mentions: Kim Ha Yul (ROAD FC/ ONE FC), Pak Si Hyun (ROAD FC/ONE FC), Xanny (DARE)
DARE’s Jon Nutt
It’s pretty clear that while Asian MMA has grown leaps and bounds this year, it’s still lacking those interesting personalities that every industry needs to liven things up. One man who stands out from the crowd is DARE’s Jon Nutt. Nutt is not only the in ring announcer for DARE, he was also a play by play commentator for DARE’s Most Dangerous Game Show. He’s even been known for leaving his announcer duties, gloving up and returning to the cage to fight just because an event had one less fight due to injuries. Jon Nutt is funny, charismatic, peculiarly handsome and he always has a cool beard. Nutt easily steals the show each and every time he’s in front the camera and we think he’s the perfect person to be the face of DARE. He’s easily the TFN “Personality of the Year”.
Notable mentions: Arnaud “The Game” Lepont, Boyet Sison (URCC Ring announcer)
Thailand bans MMA and DARE
There were countless of stories that got the attention of the Asian MMA media in 2012 but no other story raised as many eyebrows as the ban of MMA and DARE in Thailand. The move by the Thailand government to ban our beloved sport was swift and practically no one saw it coming, not even Thailand’s biggest MMA promotion, DARE. Not to be one to back down from a fight, the “Bad Boys of Asian MMA”, DARE, refused to close it’s operations in Bangkok and instead found loop holes in the ruling to continue running its shows. DARE continued to organize its next show under the disguise of a game show and held it at an undisclosed location which no one, not even the fighters, knew where it was.
The story of Thailand’s ban of MMA and DARE still continues today and it will definitely continue to play out throughout 2013. While DARE plans to have 2 more seasons of “The World’s Most Dangerous Game Show” this year and one live show, everything MMA in the land of a thousand smiles is still up in the air.
Honorable mentions: Bibiano Fernandes rejects the UFC, signs with ONE FC, Ray Elbe breaks his penis during sex, Zorobabel Moreira soccer kick KO’s Roger Huerta
With MMA in Asia growing at a breakneck pace, it was only a matter of time before Asian MMA brands began emerging. One MMA brand which stands out from the pack is Jaded MMA. Originating from Hong Kong in 2011, Jaded MMA has been consistently producing high quality fight gear and MMA apparel. Jaded MMA is one of the few Asian MMA brands that have branched out of its native land and are currently exporting their products to Thailand and Singapore as well. The company is also a major sponsor for RUFF fighters Rodrigo Caporal and Irshaad Sayed as well.
While Asian MMA brands have a long way more to go before reaching the levels of Tapout, Dethrone, Affliction, etc, they’re moving in the right direction and Jaded MMA is leading the way.
Honorable mentions: Havokk, AggressionZ
thatmmashop aka TMS, is one of the leading online MMA retailers in Asia today bar none. Based in Singapore, TMS carries the largest collection of MMA brands including Venum, Badboy, Punishment Athletics, Tri-Coasta, Musclepharm Sportswear, Fighters Only, TapouT, Silver Star and Yokkao. On top of that, they’re the only Authorized Retailer for UFC apparel in Singapore and are part of the exclusive ONE FC Network. thatmmashop believes in keeping their prices reasonable and providing customers with the highest level of service possible. It is this level of service excellence that have earned them a stellar reputation. These customer testimonials speak for themselves.
Reasonable prices, a wide variety and top of the line customer service, make thatmmashop.com our pick for “MMA Retailer of the Year”.