What’s all the fuss about mixed martial arts (MMA) and why is DB becoming something of an MMA hub? Elizabeth Jerabek sits down with a couple of local cage fighters to find out.
Destiny is a common thread running through martial arts traditions from all over the world. For example, in 1958 Bruce Lee won both a boxing tournament organised by local Hong Kong schools, as well as the Hong Kong Crown Colony Cha-Cha Championship. Think how different the world would be if he had gone on to pursue the cha-cha instead of continuing his kung fu training in Wing Chung with Yip Man.
Bruce Lee’s hybrid martial arts style Jeet Kune Do is often credited with paving the way for mixed martial arts (MMA), the full-contact combat sport in which just about anything goes and exhibitionism is encouraged. Famously described as ‘human cockfighting’ in 1996 by US Senator John McCain (initially only eye gouging and biting were forbidden), MMA is one of the most popular spectator sports in the world.
Enter The Dragon
Without Bruce Lee not only would there be no MMA, but there would also not be a MGK Fight Club in Discovery Bay. “I watched a lot of kung fu movies, a lot of Bruce Lee, when I was a teenager growing up in Marseille,” opens DB resident and MGK founder Marc Guyon, 36, who started training in Wing Chung aged 15.
Marc got his first taste of MMA at the Ultimate Training Centre, the UK’s premier MMA facility, when he was working in Birmingham as a young graduate. Two years later, he made his way to Hong Kong and over the past eight years he has built his career and reputation as an MMA fighter. His first professional MMA fight (which he won) was in September 2014 in Hong Kong.
Marc competes on the mainland and throughout Asia but, here in Hong Kong, you’ll often find him on the fight card at Just MMA. Founded by Andrew Chan and Tony Au, Just MMA organises professional MMA fights as well as amateur feeder programmes and semi-pro undercard events. “We provide a platform for fans and practitioners alike to have access to exhilarating events featuring upcoming and internationally acclaimed fighters,” says Tony.
For professional fighters, intensive training usually starts two to three months in advance of a fight. To prepare for a fight, Marc trains at least twice a day and the regimen includes a mix of aerobic conditioning, strength training and working on martial arts techniques.
“And, of course, you change your diet,” says Marc. “I like to eat everything, but when I am preparing for a fight, I have to be more careful in order to cut weight to fit into the [bantamweight] division.” Marc’s fighting weight is 61kg, and he fasts and goes without water for several days before a fight.
MMA fighters weigh in the day before a fight, which allows them to recover from their efforts to make
weight. “It’s for safety reasons, and to be fair, and also so that the fighters can put on a good show,” says Marc. “Because MMA is also a show business, it’s not just fighting.”
Coming from a traditional martial arts background, Marc says he didn’t immediately take to the show business aspect of MMA – but time has changed that. “In traditional martial arts training, you practice a technique over and over again, and when you get really good, and have mastered a lot of techniques, the repetition can get a bit boring,” he explains. “But in combat sports, like MMA, the training also includes finding the strategy for a fight with a specific opponent – what is their personality, their style – and that lends itself to putting on a show. It is also what makes it interesting to train in MMA; the
focus is on the fight and not just on the technique.”
When it comes to finding your destiny, sometimes luck also plays a role. And that’s certainly the case for Maleek Mathiesen, 22, who grew up in DB and started his training in MMA and Brazilian jiu jitsu in 2019 at Hybrid MMA & Fitness in Central. His job as a trainer at MGK came about after a chance meeting on the ferry last year. “Marc told my dad that he was looking for trainers for his new studio,”Maleek explains. “And I was looking for a job…”
Talking about what it’s like starting out as a young fighter, Maleek says: “I liked how humbling it was to get into the ring and get smashed by the other person. I am a very competitive person, so I immediately was like, ‘I want to get good enough to do that to someone else.’”
After his first fight at a white-collar boxing event in the summer of 2019, Maleek was hooked. “As soon as I exited the ring I wanted to fight again,” he says. “I would train all day, every day, if I had enough training partners to spar with.”
Maleek is hoping for his first amateur MMA fight early this year. “I tried to get down to a fighting weight of 70kg,” he says. “But it was just too hard and I was only focused on losing the weight, and not focused on training for the fight. So I’ve settled on a fighting weight of 77kg, in the welterweight division.”
If all goes well, Maleek could have 10 to 12 years ahead of him as a professional fighter. “I think MMA is the most pure form of fighting because you can do anything, you can use any technique,” he says.
Like Jomar, Maleek says MMA has given him discipline and direction. “When you learn to fight, you learn compassion,” he concludes. “You learn how to handle your emotions and reactions so you can see the bigger picture.”
Photos by Baljit Gidwani & Just MMAin focus, MMA