Following the blockbuster international mixed martial arts card ONE FC: Roar of Tigers, which packed out Kuala Lumpur’s Stadium Putra on Friday, Malaysian cage fighting fans will get another lethal dose of action this Saturday across town at the Stadium Negara.
Billed as the the world’s biggest amateur MMA competition, Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts will be holding the grand finale of its second successful season, showcasing the current finalists for each weight class against the respective champions from MIMMA Season 1 in all but two divisions. The lightweight and heavyweight titles will be fought over by the top contenders from Season 2.
However, it is the main event of the night that has most tongues wagging with Matt Pellino clashing in an open weight grudge match with fellow American Will Chope.
Pellino has become known as the “the voice of MIMMA” after entertaining local crowds with his live commentary at Malaysian MMA events. However, he will be making his cage fighting debut on Saturday, something he appears to be taking in his stride.
“If you ever have a doubt about losing you don’t belong on the mat,” he told the Post.
“Of course, I will go into the cage with the mindset of getting my hand raised. It is one hell of a debut fight, isn’t it?”
The 21-year-old, who trains out of K-One MMA gym in Penang, expects his strong wrestling background to put him in good stead against the highly experienced Chope.
“Very few people know the discipline and have the mental toughness to wrestle. Wrestling gets you to be mentally prepared even when things do not go your way,” said Pellino.
“I have the advantage in the transitioning aspect of the fight. My wrestling transitioning will be [Chope’s] biggest hurdle to jump.
“Will has fought a lot in Asia has done well on the regional circuits. He beats everyone he is supposed to beat and looked good in his last fight at Rebel FC.
“But I’m a different animal than what he has been put in the cage with. Haven’t seen him in there with a wrestler, which is why this is an exciting match up.”
Pellino admits his job as a trainer and mentor to some of the rising stars in Malaysian MMA has its limitations.
“Wanting to grow myself would be the hardest part in being a trainer. People always come asking for help, but I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I don’t even have 5 per cent of the answers,” he said.
“I want to grow as a martial artist myself, but it’s difficult when you have to dedicate a lot of your time to training people. I never have time to do it myself.”
Pellino says his nicknamed of “Liquid Monkey” comes from his fast and aggressive style on the wrestling mat, although other martial arts skills may come into play in his meeting with Chope.
“My strategy will be to send as many heel kicks at my opponents head as possible. If that doesn’t work, I will try and rely on my karate,” added Pellino.
Will “The Kill” Chope has a professional MMA record of 20-7 and currently trains at Juggernaut Fight Club in Singapore.
“I used to live in Malaysia and coach in KL, so it feels great to come back and fight on the best MMA show in Malaysia in front of my friends and old students,” he told the Post.
The animosity between Pellino and Chope has been well documented leading up to their match, with the latter more than happy to supply some fighting talk.
“I don’t like him and he doesn’t like me. So we have a score to settle,” said Chope.
“I know he is an amateur wrestler, who has lied about his credentials as a fighter ... He says he is a wrestler so I want to show him how to really wrestle. I want to take him down and use the rule set to soccer kick him.”
What the 24-year-old featherweight is giving up in mass to middleweight Pellino, he is making back in reach, boasting a 20cm advantage.
“[I’m] so confident for this fight. I really feel there is no way Matt can beat me.”
Chope was scheduled to fight Diego Brandao at UFC Fight Night 38 in Natal, Brazil on March 23, but was pulled from the card at the last minute after revelations surfaced about his past.
He had been dishonourably discharged from the Air Force and sentenced to five months confinement in 2009 for repeatedly verbally and physically assaulting his ex-wife.
Chope is keen to put such things firmly in the past as he looks to add to his victories in the cage, the majority of which have come by way of submission.
“I am just hoping to get on a win streak and hopefully get the chance to fight for the UFC again,” he said.
The co-main event of Saturday’s card in KL features a mouth-watering bantamweight match-up between Filipino-American Mark Striegl and Kaiwhare Kara-France of New Zealand.
Striegl (12-1), who trains at Fight Corps MMA in his native Baguio City as well as Borneo Tribal Squad in the Malaysian state of Sabah, is looking to mark his return to the cage after a year-long absence with a win. He suffered the only defeat of his career in his most recent bout last year against Kim Jang Yom of South Korea.
“Losing is part of any sport and it comes down to how you take the loss and what you learn from it. I believe that I’ve learned from my mistakes and have become a better fighter and have personally grown as a result,” said the 26-year-old submission specialist.
Kara-France (7-4) said he was “really pumped” to be appearing at MIMMA 2.
“Can’t wait to throw down in KL again. Last time I fought there, it was a war so I’d expect nothing less,” said the 21-year-old.
The New Zealander noted he had started his fight camp at Strike Force Auckland before spending the final four weeks at Phuket-based Tiger Muay Thai. “I am ready,” he asserted.
“The most rewarding aspect is pushing yourself to the limits and seeing how your mind and body can overcome everything you throw at it.”
Fans at Stadium Negara can expect no shortage of homegrown talent on display, with seven different MIMMA divisional titles on the line for the Malaysian amateurs.
Agilan Thani (4-0 amateur record) will take on defending welterweight champion Ooi Aik Tong (4-0), Muhammad Hasrul (4-1) will meet fellow lightweight contender Richie Celestial (3-0), heavyweight Darren Low (2-0) faces off against Muhammad Zulhanizam (7-1), Kenny Yap (4-0) will attempt to retain his flyweight belt against Muhammad Aiman (7-1), featherweight titlist Keanu Subba (4-1) will clash with Joshua Khiew (4-0), Jenarten Radhakrishnan (5-0) will aim to wrestle the bantamweight belt from Prabu Somanaidu (4-1) and middleweight master Jing Yi Chong (4-1) will go toe-to-toe with Stephen Onn (3-0).
Inserted between these amateur title bouts will be a professional lightweight contest featuring Italy’s Massimo “The Zen” Capusella (2-3) and Lenny “The Show Stealer” Wheeler (6-3) of Canada.
A female flyweight pro fight between Malaysia’s Zhen Wei (0-1) and English MMA debutant Rachael Short will kick off the night’s activities.
Action from the Stadium Negara on Saturday can be streamed live free of charge at www.mimmalive.tunetalk.com.