MOBILE virtual network operator Tune Talk is all set in developing and promoting mixed martial arts (MMA) more aggressively in the country.
To its chief executive officer Jason Lo, the Malaysian Invasion MMA (Mimma) is the exact testament to such commitment.
“Just like how CIMB Bank has adopted golf and Maybank badminton, we’re taking up MMA, which is a fast growing sport in the world. In fact, it has taken over wrestling,” he told reporters after kicking off the championships’ Kuching leg at The Spring Shopping Mall yesterday.
The amateur tournament is the brainchild of Lo and his longtime buddy, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, both of whom previously teamed up for the hugely successful reality football talent search show, MyTeam, a few years back.
The first season began last year with tryouts in Kuala Lumpur in February, culminating into the grand finals at Stadium Negara in mid-June, where seven fighters emerged triumphant in their respective categories.
“When we started, the tryouts were centralised in Kuala Lumpur,” said Kuching-born Lo.
“I understood then that for teams from Sarawak to go for Mimma, it would be very costly.
“Now, however, we have gone nationwide. The Mimma2 tour is part of a nine-month programme that runs till the grand finale in October.”
Also at the very beginning, Lo said his team did not know what to expect.
“Once we realise that there are 250 registered gyms in Malaysia that teach competitive mixed martial arts, plus with the establishment of Malaysian Mixed Martial Arts Association, we want to continue setting the stage for MMA, which is basically a gathering of personalities and disciplines such as silat, muay thai, taekwondo and other combat sports.
“As far as Mimma is concerned, we really cannot see the vastness of it unless we go from state to state, and we have invested heavily on this knowing the huge potential it has.”
For this year, Lo wanted to see more Sarawakian fighters having a go at the two-day Kuching event, which ends today.
“We really want to see a new kind of crowd that is different from that in the peninsula, for the new season.
“Sarawak is the land where the people are tough and they persevere in many difficult situations. They are natural-born fighters. What better place to find MMA talents than in Sarawak?” he said.
“Let’s see if we could ‘headhunt’ some new, raw talents here,” the 39-year-old quipped.
For Lo, the tournament aimed at reaching out to the people, especially youths, giving them a healthier outlet to display their skills rather than taking them to the streets.
“We want to maintain our status at amateur level so that anyone who is passionate about martial arts can come in and if they fare well, they could go professional.
“Tune Talk is very proud for being able to be involved in this fashion.”
On the Kuching tryouts, Lo said he would be very happy to see 100 to 200 exponents going for the pre-qualification.
“I believe we have enough people. From the two days, we will shortlist a bunch of names and aggregate their points together before pooling 120 fighters for the ladder matches.
“Next there will be the quarter- and semi-finals. After that, we will have the pre-title bouts where the best of the best will slug it out to book spots in the ultimate showdown,” he said.
Highlighting the MMA community as an “honourable lot whose members would fight against each other fiercely inside the cage but once outside it, they’re brothers”, Lo wanted
the title belts to mean something special to the holders.
“The Mimma champions can only retire their belts if they decide to go for professional associations like the One FC or UFC,” he stressed.
Mimma2 offers RM5,000 prize money along with bout title for each of the seven categories. The Kuching leg is the fourth stop of its
nationwide tour, which began early this month.
Over the next two weekends, it will proceed to 1st Avenue in Penang and KB Mall
in Kota Baru, Kelantan respectively, before
concluding at Paradigm Mall in Selangor on April 19-20.
The organiser Tune Talk operates under Celcom Axiata Bhd and Tune Group Sdn Bhd, the latter of which is jointly owned by AirAsia
founders Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun.