Saturday (March 31) is fight night in Singapore and the anticipation is already building ahead of a show which will be the biggest the country has ever witnessed. ONE Fighting Championship is gaining momentum at a remarkable rate and 7,000 tickets have already been sold and the online audience is expected to be measured in the hundreds of thousands.
By the time the first bell sounds at ONE Fighting Championship 'War of the Lions' on Saturday the Singapore Indoor Stadium will be completely sold out and the decision to stream the entire show completely free of charge on YouTube means that the online audience will be enormous.
The fighters have already started to arrive and today saw a series of open workouts hosted all over town. I attended the one at Evolve MMA which has no fewer than five of it's fighters on the card. Every time I visit this place I am absolutely blown away by the facilities which are on a par with a five star hotel and this was no exception.
Muay Thai legends like Attachai Fairtex and Orono Wor Petchpun were doing the pad holding as Zorobabel Moreira, Eddie Ng, Fabricio Monteiro, Yodsanan Sityodtong and Nicole Chua were put through their paces alongside other fighters including Mitch Chilson, Brian Choi, Leandro Issa, Shinya Aoki and Rafael Dos Anjos.
Coaches Chatri Sityodtong and Heath Sims kept a careful eye on proceedings and the latter will have been watching out for his Team Quest student Richie Whitson who has also been preparing for his ONE FC fight at Evolve MMA.
Here, in pictures, is this afternoon's session:
Nicole Chua works with former Lumpini Champion Orono Wor Petchpun. Chua is Singapore's first ever female mixed martial artist and the 50 or so photographers and journalists in attendance were much more interested in her than in any of the male fighters.
She is a former Muay Thai fighter who started training MMA fairly recently and will be up against 1-0 Indian Jeet Toshi on Saturday. Interestingly enough Orono is also rumored to be training MMA and hoping to make his competitive debut later this year.
Eddie Ng works on his kicking with another former Lumlpinee champion, Attachai Fairtex, who was two time fighter of the year in Thailand. Ng, from Hong Kong, is one of the rising stars of Asian MMA and is also becoming very well known in Singapore and has attracted a lot of media interest.
He is best known for his BJJ but will be up against Malaysian Muay Thai champion Jian Kai Chee so is probably looking to get some last minute stand up practice in.
Yodsanan Sityodtong is 37 years old but still fights at the same weight he won his first title at aged 22. He has never smoked or drank alcohol and trains every day regardless of whether he has a fight booked or not.
The former WBA Super Featherweight world champion is taking on Jian Long Yun who is much more experienced in MMA. It will be a real test for the 'Thai Tyson' who has 47 KOs in his boxing career but he has a reputation for working tirelessly in training and three days out from fight night is only a couple of kgs away from his target weight.
Zorobabel Moreira is a man who probably wishes he was only a couple kgs away from his target weight. He is 6"3' and cuts something like 10 kgs over a period of weeks to get down to the lightweight limit. He is also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and showed no signs of ill temper despite undergoing a potentially grueling weight cut.
Zoro is another fighter who is making waves in Asian MMA and appeared on ESPN's Sports Centre last night, along with Evolve MMA owner Chatri Sityodtong, to discuss his forthcoming fight with Felipe Enomoto. This match up will be the main event and is the biggest fight of Moreira's career by far.
He is a BJJ world champion who was named number seven in a list of the top lightweight prospects in the world earlier this year and he says that his weight cut is going smoothly and he will be within the lightweight limit at Friday's weigh in.
TUF veteran Richie Whitson is a member of Team Quest and is managed by Evolve MMA's wrestling coach Heath Sims who got him a contract with ONE FC. He has an 11-2 record and is looking to really make a name for himself fighting in Asia.
The lightweight division is the most competitive in ONE FC and all three events so far have been headlined by 155 lbs fighters. Whitson believes there are some big fights out there for him but first he will have to get past Danny Van Bergen this Saturday.
Whitson, who is surprisingly small for a lightweight, told me that he thinks Van Bergen's Sherdog record is incomplete and that the Dutchman has closer to 25 wins.
Two of the better lightweights in the world work on their clinching under the watchful eye of a team of Thai trainers. Both have huge fights coming up, Shinya Aoki is preparing for his rematch with Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 66 next month while Rafael Dos Anjos is taking on Kamal Shalorus at UFC on Fuel 3 in May.
With Aoki, Dos Anjos, Moreira, Ng and Whitson all training together Evolve MMA probably has a better collection of high caliber lightweights than any other camp in the world right now.
ONE FC is being streamed live on YouTube completely free of charge on Saturday. See above for times or click here to visit the official YouTube channel.