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Counter Culture: 5 Questions with Rebel FC head Justin Leong

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With an excellent line up for their debut event headlined by Rob Lisita and Lion Takeshi, Rebel FC, a new promotion based out of Singapore, is looking deliver on the things they feel are lacking in the region's MMA scene.

"Ruthless" Rob Lisita headlines Rebel FC against a Japanese Legend in Takeshi "Lion" Inoue
"Ruthless" Rob Lisita headlines Rebel FC against a Japanese Legend in Takeshi "Lion" Inoue
Photo by Anton Tabuena

The UFC aren't the only ones set to touchdown in the rapidly growing MMA scene in Singapore. Upstart promotion Rebel FC is also looking to grow and have a piece of that pie in 'Lion City' as they're set to host their debut event this month.

It won't be easy breaking into a market, while also drawing the ire of the country's largest MMA organization in ONE Fighting Championship, but these 'Rebels' have built an impressive line up for their inaugural show dubbed as "Into the Lion's Den". Japanese legend 'Lion' Takeshi Inoue (21-8) and Australia's best featherweight Rob Lisita (12-5), will top the card that will have a stacked main card with 5 professional fights, while also building on the local talent with 7 amateur fights on the prelims.

The main card includes a mix of established MMA stars along with top prospects, with the promotion building an event sure to draw in the hardcore fan base. The top notch line up includes international standouts such as TUF: Brazil vet and UFC KOTN bonus winner Marcos Vinicius (20-5), SRC and Legend FC contender Taiyo Nakahara (13-7), HEAT champion Cristiano Kaminishi (8-1), and BJJ champ and BE Scouting Report inductee Alberto Mina (9-0).

As for local talent, while larger organizations have tapped unlikely candidates to represent Singapore during their events in the country, Rebel has actually managed to pick up a more worthy banner-man, signing one of the top Singaporeans in Syafiq Samad (2-0) who will be competing in the country for the first time after notching impressive wins at PXC and DARE.

Singaporean Justin Leong and the young crew behind the promising upstart promotion have built an impressive card for their inaugural show, and in this short interview with the Rebel FC head, we asked him 5 questions about his debut event on December 21st.

Why did you decide to start an MMA promotion, and what are your goals for this start up organization?

I started REBEL for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m a fan. Like any fan that watches the sport I have my own dream matches, dream cards, dream production, etc. I saw an opportunity to produce something I always wanted to watch, at a time when MMA in Singapore is just beginning to really catch on. Everything lined up. Secondly, I knew from my experience and relationships with both fighters and fans that there some things lacking in the Singaporean fight scene. With REBEL, we’re trying to fill some of those gaps.

What's the story behind the name "Rebel"?

The word "REBEL" in my opinion encompasses almost everything about MMA: The sport, the fighters, the promoters, and the fans. Mixed Martial Arts is a fringe sport, so naturally there is a degree of counter culture involved in attending these events and watching these shows. Fighters are even bigger rebels, in the sense that they rebel against the plan society has for them by going against the grain and forging their own path. When I imagine a "rebel," I think of someone who is willing to fight for their way of life while serving as an inspiration to those that have the same set of principles or goals. That’s why I chose the name.

People have been talking about how you guys will be providing MMA fans with something 'different'. Is that one of your goals, and how do you plan to accomplish that?

Being different just for the sake of being different is never a good thing. What we really want to do is communicate a different set of ideals than your average MMA show, using the most exciting and interesting fighters in the region. Growing up, the martial artists I watched were like supermen: Fedor, Chuck Liddell, Sakuraba; all these fighters seemed larger than life, and the fans loved them for their attitudes both in and out of the ring. For REBEL, we want to capture that same bushido spirit.

In recent years MMA has strayed more and more from the formula that originally made it so interesting, I think. Fighters have become comparable to football or basketball stars and cards are flooded with faces that may or not be remembered. With less professional fights per card, and more emphasis on dynamic matchmaking and personality, we want to make something memorable.

What are your thoughts on ONE FC? With the two promotions not working with each other, or having access to most of the same talent pool in Asia and even in Singapore, is it safe to say there is some sort of rivalry going on?

We’re not trying to be rivals with anyone. I love MMA. Our matchmaker, Chad Sanderson, loves MMA. We do this because we enjoy the sport and want to put on the kinds of shows that we would enjoy watching ourselves. As far as a stable goes, fighters will go where they are treated well. In my experience, people acknowledge fairness and respect.

How will people outside Singapore watch your event?

You’ll find out more about that closer to the event date. I will be able to say though that everyone, no matter what country they’re in, will be able to see the fights for free.

Check out the full Rebel FC Fight Card Below:

Rebel FC 1: Into the Lion's Den
December 21, 2013 -- Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore

Main Card:

Takeshi Inoue vs. Rob Lisita
Syafiq Samad vs. Gyo Pyung Hwang
Crisanto Kaminishi vs. Doo Hwan Kim
Marcos Vinicius vs. Taiyo Nakahara
Glenn Sparv vs. Alberto Mina


Mubarak Abdat vs. Keng Fai
Muhammad Nazri vs. Mah Yong Jian
May Ooi vs. Chloe Li
Amirul Syafiq vs. Loh-Lim Shen Jen
Garie Tang vs. Mohd Amir Bin Ghafar
Azman Azman vs. Sholihin Rahman
He Chong Qing vs. Andy Neo

Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena