Lion Fight 13 takes place tonight (Feb. 7, 2014) inside The Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will be broadcast live on AXS TV. The main event features a featherweight title fight between Tiffany Van Soest and Caley Reece.
Lion Fight CEO Scott Kent was a guest earlier this week on MMAmania's ‘Darce Side Radio' podcast to promote the match-up between the young champion, Van Soest and former multi-time champion Reece, who hasn't fought since October of 2012.
"This is a huge main event," Kent said. "We've done a ladies fight on every card. My partner Christine Toledo is a former Muay Thai champion, so when we set these up for twelve fights, we've had at least one female pro and amateur on every card. This isn't fashionable for us; this is something we've been committed to since we started Lion Fight."
"We've been kind of grooming Tiffany and we brought in two fighters from Europe and one from Canada, and she just mowed right throw them. These were very highly respected fighters in their native countries. Caley Reece is a three-time world champion and came out of retirement to take this fight. She told me at lunch the other day to fight for Lion Fight, to fight in Vegas, to fight against a rising American star is really a huge opportunity for her."
Lion Fight have been making the most out of its opportunity to bring a sport that is traditionally popular in Asia, into the United States and in living rooms via AXS TV. "Andrew Simon took a chance on us," Kent said about the CEO of AXS TV Fights. "I think we are holding our own and doing very well against the other programming there. We are thrilled."
As we know, the combat sports landscape is still dominated by mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing, but Lion Fight isn't necessarily competing against them as much as it is carving out its own niche. Being inside of Vegas, means living in the same neighborhood of the biggest MMA promotion in the world, the UFC. Kent explained that they have given his promotion their full blessing.
"We kind of realized going into this, the UFC is the big kid on the block. I had lunch with Dana and Lorenzo a few weeks ago and they couldn't have been nicer or more supportive. They don't view us as competition. All of their fighters all train in Muay Thai. Dana and Lorenzo train Muay Thai, so they get it. They understand that this is a sport that is usually popular in Asia and Europe and for us to be able to blow it up in the United States -- which is really our goal -- they've been really complimentary to that."
The former Casino and Resort executive had a chance to promote GLORY kickboxing on the West Coast, but he ultimately chose to stick with Muay Thai and his brand. GLORY is certainly becoming quite popular in the U.S. and abroad, especially from being featured on Spike TV, but one huge difference between the promotions is the fact that in Lion Fight, unlike GLORY, elbows are 100-percent legal.
"I met with the GLORY folks and they actually wanted me to promote GLORY fighting out here in Nevada and in the West. Obviously in my opinion, I would rather promote Muay Thai. The fact that we are branding our company, and are considered by a lot of folks as the biggest Muay Thai promotion around..."
"We certainly are the biggest in the U.S. To be able to bring in Yodsanklai Fairtex from Thailand and Fabio Pinca from France and fight for our belts has really legitimized everything we've set out to do. Comparing it to kickboxing, you are absolutely right, if you are going to let them do stand-up fighting, let them use all eight limbs. That's really the game changer in a Muay Thai fight."
In addition to the title fight between Van Soest and Reece, tonight's card will feature a "winner take all" fight between Coke Chanhawat and Rami Ibrahim. It's common knowledge in the MMA world that the loser of the fight often receives a lesser purse than the winner.
In this particular case, the loser gets nothing!
Or "nothing and a black eye and probably a couple of stitches," Kent said. He also said that when he went to Keith Kizer and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for approval over two years ago for the first "winner take all" fight, Kizer told him they had never done one while he was in charge; it was new territory for him.
"It's something that kind of resonates with our fans. The fact that a lot of people talk about, and these guys are putting their money where their mouth is."
The card kicks off on AXS TV at 10 p.m. ET, with Pat Miletich and Michael Schiavello calling the action. Kent loves the announcing duo and recalled a big compliment that Miletich paid to the sport on the air recently.
"Here's the first UFC champion, saying on a live broadcast that he would rather watch Muay Thai than MMA. That is huge for our sport," Kent said.
Another huge moment for Lion Fight took place back in September of last year, when Cristiane Justino fought Jennifer Colomb. In her first fight outside of a cage in over seven years, one of the biggest names in all of MMA won by technical knockout in the third round.
Now "Cyborg" will return to "Sin City" to fight Jorina Baars at Lion Fight 14 on March 28 at the Hard Rock.
"We are excited to have ‘Cyborg' back with us on March 28 in Las Vegas," said Kent in today's release. "In her last fight, Cyborg absolutely dominated French Muay Thai Champion Jennifer Colomb, leaving no question that she is a legitimate two-sport athlete who can win impressively in both MMA and Muay Thai."
"She also showed she is an aggressive fighter who has the power and pace to finish fights," he continued. "I think she won over a lot of new fight fans in our ring, and they can't wait to see her in action again."