A major spat started up in Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) today when PXC announced that reigning URCC featherweight champion Ricardo Sapno would be fighting on its May 18 card. The 6-1 fighter from Davao now finds himself at the center of a promotional tug of war between two organizations which are positioned as direct competitors.
The URCC was founded in 2002, is the longest running promotion in the Philippines and has provided a platform for the vast majority of the top fighters in the country including ONE FC featherweight champion Honorio Banario and title contenders Kevin Belingon, Rey Docyogen, Eric Kelly and Eduard Folayang.
PXC is headquartered in Guam (hence the name Pacific Xtreme Combat) and did not venture into the Philippines until 2011. Since then, it has held seven shows in Manila and secured a major television deal on AKTV, but has often relied on Filipino American fighters to fill cards and is still lagging behind the URCC when it comes to signing the top local talent.
Securing the signature of Sapno, who is the third best Filipino featherweight behind Honorio Banario and Eric Kelly, would have been something of a coup for PXC, who intended to match him with the much more experienced Japanese veteran Takumi Nakayama on May 18.
Sapno was penciled in to defend his URCC 149-pound belt against Will Chope last month, but pulled out due to "personal issues" only for his photo to appear on a PXC poster a couple of weeks later, which drew the following response on Twitter from URCC top brass:
@pxcphilippines this is Bubbles Aguillar by the way. FYI Sapno will NOT fight in your card.
@pxcphilippines Ricardo Sapno has a live contract with the URCC and we have not given any release form
The relationship between the two promotions has always been a bit tense, but it now seems to be in danger of degenerating into a full scale war with URCC founder Alvin Aguilar, who is extremely well connected in the Philippines, stating that "these (expletive) foreigners can't hang with us, they will learn this really soon."
Aguilar has already pursued a complaint with the GAB (Games and Amusement Board) against Legend FC under similar circumstances after they used Augustin Delarmino, who the URCC claimed was under contract to them at the time.
The circumstances of this case are different in that, whereas Legend FC appear to have abandoned plans to put on a show in the Philippines thereby ensuring they remain outside of GAB jurisdiction, PXC are already operating inside the country and as such are subservient to its governing bodies.
It remains to be seen exactly what action the URCC will take but there is a storm brewing in Filipino MMA and Sapno has put himself right in the middle of it.
Both organizations were contacted for comment but had yet to reply at the time of writing.
PXC issued the following statement:
We often entertain fighters from other leagues. We conduct our due diligence, but fighters and their management are ultimately responsible for their decisions as they choose to move leagues. It is up to Sapno to determine his availability and live up to his recently signed PXC contract.