Legend Fighting Championship has hosted seven events: four in home base Hong Kong, and three in the City Of Dreams entertainment complex in neighboring Macau. Confident with their success in the region featuring a platform of Austral-Asian talent, Legend FC turned their focus towards an international debut. The city they chose was Jakarta, Indonesia, where out of all the Southeast Asian countries, MMA had once reigned supreme, having two professional promotions and television broadcast. Seeing the potential for resurgence, both Legend FC and Singapore-based ONE FC have centered on the market. After ONE FC's successful sophomore outing in the city last February 11th, Indonesia was to witness MMA battle number two as Legend FC was set to touchdown on March 30th.
Currently on the Legend FC roster are two Indonesian fighters who would be on the card: Yohan Mulia Legowo and Fransino Tirta. Fransino is one of the most notable MMA fighters in Indonesia having amassed an excellent record of 14-0-1 from his days with the premier Indonesian promotion TPIFC, through Art Of War, and into Legend FC. He is a tough-as-nails fighter who has developed his BJJ skills along with those of an entire nation under Indonesian BJJ pioneer Niko Han. Fransino was given the shot at the first Featherweight championship against equally impressive Pancrase standout Yusuke Kawanago, 11-3-1. This is to be a match between two fighters who always go for the finish and could made a show to rival the Jadamba-Pang barn burner.
Yohan, after a year away from the ring, would return to face Sung Ming-Yen in a come-back effort for both fighters, and he could expect to have the hometown crowd on his side.
The Legend FC 8 card has another match for a title; the aforementioned Jadamba Narantungalag, coming off a war with former champ Adrian Pang, will make his first defense against brawler Nam Yui Chul, who is looking increasingly sharper and fitter each time out. Legend FC signed Shooto Rookie 2011 winner Yusuke Kasuya and pitted him against rising Song UnSik, and it's all but confirmed by official announcement that another Japanese phenom, Sengoku champ K-Taro Nakamura, has also been signed and will face his first test in the Legend ring against crazy Kim Hoon.
All in all, it looked to be a very good card and an excellent entry for Legend FC into the Indonesian market. Then on March 9th, tragedy descended for the very top of the card, compromising the entire event. Fransino Tirta was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. While still in recovery, I spoke with Fransino and he informed me that the operation was successful, with no complications. It goes without saying that he would not be able to be involved in a professional fight less than three weeks following such an emergency. With a heavy heart, Fransino felt the weight of an entire nation's hopes on his shoulders. Because of the personal nature and sensitive implications, I chose to respect the fighter's privacy and did not publicly report this.
Just one day later, another horrible incident happened that would have further ramifications for Legend FC's Indonesian debut. Sung, set to fight the hometown favorite Yohan, fractured his arm in training and required a plate and screws to fix it.
Having both fights featuring Indonesian fighters out would seem to compromise the viability of their first Indonesian-held event, even though this was a development that was not made public. At only just over two weeks to go, tickets are still not on sale, indicating that Legend FC might be reconsidering even holding the show at all. I'd spoken with a local fighter who might be a potential fill-in to the card and learned that a change of location to Hong Kong could be the solution in the works - a huge, nightmarish and complicated solution. A message on twitter about the Indonesian ticket seller saying Legend FC 8 was postponed was an indicator that changes were indeed being made. Follow up came by way of The Fight Nation here, who confirmed the cancellation by calling the venue.
Rumors of everything from slow ticket sales to show-halting lawsuits began to spread, the word "cancelled" blazed along with them. Then MMA-Japan wrote an extremely caustic update claiming Legend FC was "meddling" in other promotions affairs and being sued for it, as well as "bleeding cash at a rather quick clip". Fightsportasia jumped on the blame train here. Even MiddleEasy put it in the rumor mill. The suits referred to by Mike Hackler supposedly came from two sources, the URCC and RUFF.
The URCC's dispute (which I haven't personally confirmed) could be over possible contractual obligations with Filipino fighters which could include Augustin and Leonard Delarmino, URCC vets who have already fought in a previous Legend FC event. Fellow Filipino and URCC champ Kevin Belingon has also made the back-and-forth switch, having fought in Legend FC twice. The RUFF issue is something I've already covered in an article about stand-alone promotions here, regarding a fantastic match made by RUFF between Irshaad Sayed and Legend FC Bantamweight champion Jumabieke Tuerxun that has been battled about. Legend FC contracts don't allow title holders to compete in other MMA promotions while they defend the belt. RUFF may try to urge its government connections to press the issue, and Legend will say that its contract preceded RUFF's. The outcome of which promotion Bieke will land in will be seen - or not - at weigh-in for RUFF 3, which is far from a courtroom.
No matter the venue, Jakarta or elsewhere, Legend FC has developed an online and television broadcast market, and in China it is very strong: I was shown numbers by a reliable source for the last event that tally to 5.4 million viewers on Chinese television, accumulated from original and rebroadcast. One provincial station alone - Hebei - got a viewership of 450,000 which is more than Strikeforce's entire viewership of Tate versus Rousey. Legend FC 7 also got 2.2 million views on four of China's geo-blocked internet portals. These are only numbers regarding it's China viewership - international PPV and streaming numbers haven't been revealed - but it indicates a significant presence there.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
I spoke with several fighters' camps from the Legend FC 8 event who indicated they had not been notified about a cancellation. I contacted Legend FC directly about the 'rumors'. I was told that there were no legal obstacles that were the cause of any changes being made to the event, and that ticket sales hand't even started, therefore "low ticket sales" was obviously also not a factor. As for Legend FC 8 being moved to home base, a source close to the decision-makers confirmed this was being planned. And now it is confirmed: Legend FC 8 at AsiaWorld Expo, Hong Kong, March 30th.
I wish Fransino Tirta and Sung Ming-Yen swift and successful recoveries. It will be a pleasure to see you in the ring again at a later date.