Juan Fight League: A Showcase of Ilonggo MMA Talent

By spencer ravago

Last December 20, Ilonggo fans experienced exciting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) action at Club Zyron’s with Juan Fight League: Battle of Panay. Organized by Iloilo Combat Sports (ICS), Gym ni Juan, and FTX Gym Makati, the event showcased up-and-coming Ilonggo fighters from three MMA gyms based in the city (ICS, The Cage, and Iloilo MMA Club), as well as those operating outside it like Passi MMA and Barotac Nuevo’s Capanay MMA.

Juan Fight League - Project IloiloFor those unfamiliar with the sport, Mixed Martial Arts is an evolving combat sport that combines the striking arts like boxing and Muay Thai with grappling techniques from Wrestling, Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Popularized by the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) on a global level, MMA is pretty much an amalgamation of various fighting disciplines where fighters can win by either knockout, submission or via the judges’ decision.

While this was an amateur event, modifications were made to the usual set of amateur MMA rules. Staples like headgears and shin guards were replaced with thicker gloves and head kicks were not permitted. This, in turn, provided a better view for the audience while still protecting the participating fighters. It also allowed for better pacing of the fights since there were no more mid-fight delays due to dislodged headgear and shin guards. However, the rest of the usual ruleset remained, so we had the standard 2-round fights with an extra sudden-death round should the first two rounds end in a draw.

The night started off with a bench press endurance competition. Participants were tasked to perform as many bench presses as they could by lifting weights that are half their total body weight. This was surprisingly interesting to me, as I usually do not find watching others pumping iron to be very entertaining. The feats of strength served as a good opener for the night of combat that followed.

After the bench press competition and awards were given out to the winners, it was finally time for the reason fans came to the show. The venue was packed and the crowd was pumped. The closed venue gave a more intimate atmosphere, as the audience was closer to the ring than the usual outdoors affair.

Juan Fight League - Project IloiloThe fighters seemed to feed off from the crowd’s energy because it was an action-packed evening. All nine bouts of the evening were exciting and fast-paced. Most ended with a stoppage, and even the one that ended with the judges’ decision was no slouch, either. The night was a good showcase of the sport. It had a good mix of striking and ground-and-pound action, with most fights ending in either knockout or technical knockout. Some good submissions were thrown in as well, with the main event ending in a guillotine choke. To the delight of the crowd, there was even a bit of theatrics thrown in by some of the fighters who were taunting their opponents to engage (Editor: The fighters probably marathoned WWE-style pro wrestling matches before going to the ring).

All in all, it was a good event that displayed the talent Iloilo boasts in the realm of Philippine MMA: young, hungry, and willing to put on a good fight. Hopefully, the plans of putting up more future events here on a regular basis come to fruition. It’ll be good for the development of the local talent here in Iloilo, and it’ll definitely be a treat for fans like me. Here’s to more events in the future.

(Photos by Xtian Evren “VanS3n” Lozañes)