SINGAPORE – Live sport returned to the Republic on Friday night (Oct 9) when mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation One Championship held its Reign of Dynasties event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
But it was not exactly a return to normal.
Because of strict measures by the government to ensure the safety of all participants involved, the show was a closed-door event – just like One’s last event held in Singapore in February.
Reign of Dynasties was instead streamed on all of One’s digital platforms, such as its mobile phone app and YouTube channel.
Apart from the athletes, only staff whose physical presence was absolutely crucial to the production of the event were allowed at the Indoor Stadium.
Even commentators Michael Schiavello and Mitch Chilson lent their voices to the show remotely, from Australia and the Philippines respectively.
The athletes were all whisked back to their “bubble” at the Shangri-La Hotel soon after each of their fights.
One did everything to ensure the pageantry of its show remained, such as fighters doing their traditional walk out down a ramp to the cage, accompanied by blaring music and video packages.
One events here typically draw crowds of about 6,000 to the indoor arena, which has a capacity of about 12,000. Despite the absence of fans, the athletes served up a treat.
Inside the cage, Roshan Mainam and Liu Peng Shuai set the tone with an exciting first match, in which Indian fighter Mainam won with a rear-naked choke submission in the second round.
In all, there were finishes in all but one of the six bouts on the card.
This included an emotional win for Singaporean fighter Amir Khan, who knocked out India’s Rahul Raju in the first round.
Amir’s 61-year-old father Tajudeen Ansari was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in August, and was told by doctors he had up to six months to live.
Wearing a headset in the cage after his win, Amir said: “He (Tajudeen) is barely walking now, but he’s been with me the whole fight week… I wish I can be half the man he is. Thanks dad.”
In the main event, Thai veteran Sam-A Gaiyanghadao retained his One Championship strawweight muay thai world title with a second-round technical knockout win over Australia’s Josh Tonna.
Sam-A Gaiyanghadao bt Josh Tonna (technical knockout)
Reece McLaren bt Aleksi Toivonen (knockout)
Amir Khan bt Rahul Raju (knockout)
Eko Saputra bt Murugan Silvarajoo (submission)
Hexigetu bt Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (split decision)
Roshan Mainam bt Liu Peng Shuai (submission)
One Championship’s return to live events in Singapore went as well as it could have hoped for.
Reign of Dynasties featured six fights and most lived up to their billing in terms of excitement, with finishes in all but one.
How successful the event truly is, however, will ultimately depend on the confirmation of no positive cases once the results of the post-event swab tests come back.
The absence of spectators was conspicuous by several moments of silence between fights, but the unique circumstances could prove to be a silver lining.
With many local – and regional – sports fans mostly starved of action for most of the last six months, they might have tuned in on Friday night out of curiosity, and become new fans of the organisation and its athletes.