Malaysia is sandwiched between two countries with burgeoning martial art scenes in Singapore and Thailand but is not a place which has traditionally been associated with combat sports. That all looks set to change in 2012 when the 10,000 capacity Negara Stadium in Kuala Lumpur will host ONE Fighting Championship and there are signs that Malaysians are starting to show a serious interest in MMA.
At present Muayfit is the only camp in Kuala Lumpur teaching all the various aspects of MMA, although world renowned BJJ black belt Marcos Escobar has a well respected BJJ school called Leverage Combat Academy and there are a couple of places doing Muay Thai.
Paul Teo, the Muayfit owner, has also started promoting some small scale MMA shows which have featured an enormous array of fighters. I was in town for Fight Night 2 last weekend which took place at an upmarket night club in Kuala Lumpur called Vogue.
Impressively there were 18 fights on the card, although the standard was very mixed with participants ranging from BJJ black belts to complete beginners. Despite there being no pre event publicity the night club was packed and a crowd of 300-400 people jostled for a view of the cage.
Mayhem II MMA: Kong Ravy (Cambodia) Vs. Raymond Tiew (Malaysia) apologies for the incredibly annoying advert in the middle.
It was an encouraging sight for Teo who is trying to introduce MMA to Malaysia and offer opportunities to fighters by putting on these amateur events which allow absolutely anyone to compete,
"MMA is catching on in Malaysia and tonight we had 36 fighters from all over the country on the card, with just three coming from Impact MMA in Singapore. When Muayfit first started in 2010 we were just doing Muay Thai and kickboxing, I wanted to do MMA for a long time but I didn't know anyone until someone introduced me to Peter Davis. His classes are very popular, he teaches on saturdays and sundays and gets 40 to 50 people per class."
As well as having a handful of professional MMA fights in the UK under his belt Davis is also a very successful Malaysian actor and model and his presence as an instructor at Muayfit has certainly contributed towards the popularity of the MMA program.
A recent Frank Shamrock seminar at Muayfit had to be cancelled as the veteran decided he didn't want to catch a flight into Bangkok in view of the recent flooding. Disappointed members were compensated when another seminar was scheduled involving ONE Fighting Championship star Eric Kelly, BJJ black belt and UFC veteran Andy Wang and highly rated French fighter Arnaud Lepont.
Over 40 students turned up last weekend to be put through their paces by these three fighters at the air conditioned Muayfit facility on the outskirts of town. The majority are probably more interested in the fitness aspect of the sport than pursuing a fighting career but such an impressive turnout still demonstrates just how popular MMA is becoming in Malaysia.
Eric Kelly taking the MMA class at Muayfit with Arnaud Lepont and Andy Wang in the background
Both Muayfit and the Leverage Combat Academy have signed up to the ONE Fighting Championship network. Teo attended ONE FC 1 and is excited at the prospect of the show coming to Kuala Lumpur on April 27th,
"I thought the ONE FC event in Singapore was very impressive and I couldn't believe how many people were there, it showed how big the sport of MMA is becoming. The Stadium Negara is one of the biggest venues in KL but I think ONE FC will be able to fill it, particularly if they find a few local fighters for the fans to get behind," he said.
Tiger Muay Thai are set to open up a camp in Kuala Lumpur later this year and Muayfit and Leverage Combat Academy are both expanding. A year ago there was almost no trace of MMA in Malaysia but things are happening fast in the country's capital and ONE Fighting Championship should find plenty of fighters and fans eagerly anticipating the April show.
For more information about Muay Fit visit: www.muayfit.com
For more information about Leverage Combat Academy visit: www.escobarbjj.com