Walking into Club Insomnia on Sukhumvit Soi 12 (on Saturday 25 June 2011) for the first DARE mixed martial arts tournament, I couldn’t help but think I might be walking into some sort of underground illegal fight club. Yet instead of seeing seedy businessmen betting over fights in a dingy basement (as seen in many Hollywood movies), I was treated to one of the most upmarket venues I’ve frequented in Thailand. The 1500 baht ticket was testament to DARE being an exclusive affair, but value for money was left in the ring. New York and Las Vegas were two cities that came to mind, yet Bangkok seemed more than apt, regarding its Muay Thai boxing heritage and that it has often been dubbed “the fight capital of South East Asia”.
More speakers and lighting than a rock concert, made the event loud and energetic and in your face. To be honest, the idea of watching fights had never really appealed to me, but the production was immense, exciting and entertaining; a show like no other.
Fights were three rounds of five minutes and within the rules set by the "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts". According to Jussi Saloranta, organizer of the event, the rules are “designed to protect the fighters. Basically, all techniques that seriously injure an opponent are prohibited. For example, techniques like hitting the back of an opponent’s head or his spine are not allowed. Kicking the head of an opponent who is on the ground or trying to attack the groin, eyes, and fingers of an opponent are also strictly against the rules”.
It was clear DARE made safety its highest priority. Whereas in other promotions fighters are allowed to continue with some injuries, the slightest hint of a fighter not being able to defend himself brought a fight to an abrupt halt. In one instance it appeared that although the ring doctor had given one fighter the OK to continue, the referee stopped the bout. Impressive and admirable – there was a lot of respect shown this evening.
Fighters who won fights advanced to the next stage of DARE, which is one of the first of its kind for Thailand. From what I observed usually the fighter who was well versed in many martial art styles came up as the victor. This seemed to be most evident in the fight against Black Diamond, from South Africa and Ngoo Ditty from Thailand who used various techniques to pin his opponent to the ground and pound him in the face. The South African showed great determination nevertheless and even though he was clearly outmatched his courage showed through as he managed to last 3 rounds whilst some fighters only lasted a few minutes, even seconds!
The announcer for the evening kept saying “this is the best sport in the world” and it was an absolute spectacle to watch. The last few fights were epic and some of the fighters showed such determination that within minutes paramedics were called into the cage to attend to wounds and check for injuries. Throughout the event, fighters showed each other the upmost respect and sportsmanship. Victors often prostrated themselves at the feet of their beaten opponents as a sign of respect.
For a comprehensive review of all the fights and information on the next DARE event check out the official post fight press release.
For more background information on DARE events read the KhaoSanRoad.com interview with Jussi Saloranta, one of the organizers of DARE.
KhaoSanRoad.com will provide updates of when the next DARE events take place and how you can attend them. They are thoroughly recommended!
Matt Wilson is a South African journalist living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. While he’s in the Kingdom, he’s sharing his insights and experiences with KhaoSanRoad.com. He is available for all types of writing and journalism projects and can be contacted by email here.