Israel’s newest sporting craze draws 7,000

The almost entirely male crowd was there to see some good fighting, and those who didn’t deliver were booed out of the arena.

By BENJAMIN SPIER
November 12, 2010 07:25
4 minute read.
MMA fight

MMA fight 311. (photo credit: Eliran Avital/IFC)

The almost entirely male crowd was there to see some good fighting, and those who didn’t deliver were booed out of the arena.

That lesson was learned by American contender Rameau Sokodjuo after his win in the eighth bout. He and opponent Valdes Pocevicius didn’t make contact for the majority of their match, and the fans made their anger crystal clear with boos and downward-pointing thumbs.

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Unlike the judges, they didn’t feel as if they’d seen a winner. Sokodjuo could not say a word about his supposed victory over the noise of the crowd, and walked out of the Nokia Stadium silent.

Seven thousand people came to Tel Aviv’s Nokia Stadium on Tuesday night to see the first Mixed Martial Arts event in Israel. The Israel Fighting Club organized twelve MMA matches for the event titled Genesis, seven of the matches featuring Israeli fighters taking on challengers from abroad.

MMA is arguably the fastest growing sport of the past decade, worldwide. Ultimate Fighting Championship – or UFC – which is the leading American Mixed Martial Arts venue, consistently draws over a million purchases of their fight broadcasts, which are only available for viewing on pay-per-view.

The IFC hopes to professionalize and raise awareness of Mixed Martial Arts in Israel, in the same way the UFC has popularized the sport in the United States since its first event in 1993.

“MMA is not well known in Israel, but in the rest of the world it is a business earning billions,” said IFC CEO Mirit Zernilove.

Mixed Martial Arts is a combat sport that allows for the incorporation of many different martial arts and fighting techniques.

Unlike other combat sports like wrestling and boxing, which only allow for either sparring or grappling, an MMA fighter could be on his feet trading punches and kicks with his opponent, and then within seconds be on the ground implementing a choke hold. The fights are usually fought in a multi-sided cage as opposed to the square rings associated with boxing and wrestling.

At the IFC event, five out of the seven Israeli fighters won their matches against competitors from abroad. One of the most significant wins of the night went to lightweight Jiu-Jitsu fighter Moshe Kaitz, who defeated long-time UFC competitor Hermes Franca from Brazil.

The match lasted all three rounds, and the fight was decided by the judges. Hermes contested the judges’ decision.

“I did more damage to him, and everyone knows who won,” said Hermes after he found out he lost.

The first two rounds of the fight were close; both fighters landed strikes and completed take-downs against their opponent. However, Hermes spent most of the third round on top of Kaitz, hitting him in the head. At the end of the third round, Hermes was so sure of his win that he walked around the cage with his hands in the air before hearing the judges’ decision.

Roy Neeman, a welterweight fighter from Rishon Lezion, was lying on the floor incapable of defending himself at the end of the fight with American fighter Frank Trigg, who won by technical knockout, or TKO.

Trigg had knocked Neeman to the floor face first with two punches to the head, and after numerous strikes on the ground, the referee called an end to the fight when Neeman was no longer capable of protecting his face.

Trigg, otherwise known as Twinkle Toes, fought his last fight only five months ago in UFC 109. He was knocked out by Matt Serra, and later released by the UFC.

An American veteran MMA fighter with 25 years and 220 fights of experience, Shonie Carter said the crowd saw what would probably be his last fight. Carter lost by decision to Israeli fighter Jeremy Knafo.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to Carter who said that Israel is not as scary as depicted on television.

“You all are the sweetest and most down to earth people I have ever met,” Shonie said to the audience after the fight.

The two main matches of the night did not include Israeli competitors and were fought by former UFC heavyweight fighters Jeff Monson and Ricco Rodriguez. Both fighters won their matches against opponents respectively from Russia and Spain.

The IFC event was similar to a UFC show. All of the introductions were made in English by a professional announcer, scantily clad models circled the cage while holding up the round numbers, and fire balls and blaring music signaled the entrance of a fighter.

However, after twelve fights that lasted almost four hours, fans became impatient and began pouring out of the stadium before hearing the judge’s decision for the final fight.

IFC Genesis was meant to both popularize MMA in Israel, and hopefully bring attention to Israel’s fighters.

“When people speak about the event we put on here in Israel, I hope they are able to relay to the UFC what exactly the IFC is up to,” said Zernilove the day before the fights.

She went on to say that like the name implies, Genesis is the first of what will be many IFC events, and fans should look forward to information about another competition in the upcoming months.


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