Outside of Japan, which has pioneers such as Shooto and Pancrase that pre-date even the UFC, the URCC has been the longest running MMA promotion in Asia. In a tough sport that has seen countless regional organizations come and go, the Philippine promotions’ longevity has certainly been impressive.
When I first joined Bloody Elbow around 15 years ago, the very first MMA event I covered was a URCC show. Already running for five years back then, URCC still held bouts in a ring, and the card I attended featured young URCC champs and future ONE stars such as Eduard Folayang and Eric Kelly, along with the father — yes, you read that right — of a future UFC fighter.
So much has changed since then with the URCC, the MMA industry, and with me personally. I don’t get to attend as many events as I did as a young contributor, with all the behind the scenes work I do now as managing editor, but I made an exception for this 20th anniversary event aptly dubbed as “URCC 81: Decades of Success.”
The URCC, which has also promoted a couple of shows in the US, held this milestone event in Okada Manila. Now hosting MMA fights in a cage and under unified rules in recent years, the URCC has certainly updated with the times since they first started. Perhaps the current state of combat sports was reflected here, as the card also included three bareknuckle boxing bouts, a hip hop group writing and performing a walkout song to the delight of the crowd, and a couple of popular YouTubers.
The event had a nice mix of good local and foreign fighters, with fresh talent making their mark and securing nice finishes. One of the notable standouts was Filipino BJJ star Eros Baluyot overcoming adversity on the feet to win his MMA debut against a far more experienced veteran in Mark Abrillo.
With it being a 20-year anniversary show, the URCC also made sure to invoke some nostalgia, booking former champions such as Caloy Baduria and Will Chope, along with other longterm stars. The one-time UFC veteran in Chope returned to win the interim welterweight title, his third belt with the URCC, while the OG brawler in Baduria — who also competed in the old card I mentioned above — joined the insane main event 3 vs 3 contest.
These 3 vs 3 team MMA bouts are becoming a trademark of the URCC in recent years, and this iteration had Team Philippines taking on much bigger foes in Team Korea.
These group brawls have always been bonkers, but this edition was particularly bloody and brutal thanks to one of the Korean fighters viciously — and illegally — stomping on the head of a grounded opponent twice.
The blatant fouls got the Filipino crowd angry and livid, but calmer heads prevailed, and the bout continued after a disqualification and an injury eliminated fighters from both teams. It ended up 1 vs 1 as Baduria showed his trademark heart and brawled with a far bigger opponent. It wasn’t enough though, with the referee eventually stepping in for a standing TKO to award Team Korea with the win.
Highlights and results can be seen below.
Full URCC 81 results:
3 vs 3 MMA: Team Korea (Cho Won Tae, Jeong Minhun, Jeon Young Jun) def. Team Philippines (Caloy Baduria, Sugar Ray Estroso, Bullet Manliclic)
MMA: Will Chope def. Arvin Chan by Submission (Rear Naked Choke), R1
MMA: Mariano Jones def. Gester Maglaque by TKO (ground and pound), R1
MMA: Dunlee Stewart def. John Tirona by KO (Punch), R1
MMA: Eros Baluyot def. Mark Abrillo by Submission (Toehold), R2
Bareknuckle boxing: Joseph Cabral def. Raymond Damsa by TKO, R1
Bareknuckle boxing: Dondon Serrano def. Sherwin Niro by KO, R2
Bareknuckle boxing: Mark Jalaron def. Denzel Dimaguila by TKO, R1
MMA: Rhyle Lugo def. Alex Aballe by TKO (Ground and pound), R1
MMA: Kimbert Alintozon def. Junie Kimayong by Submission (Rear Naked Choke), R2