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Tiffany Van Soest and Lion Fight's Crumbling Walls of Perception

If you were to observe Lion Fight Promotions from the outside, it would look like a healthy promotion that’s on the up-and-up. Lion Fight airs on AXS TV, has aired some tremendous fights over that span of time including some of the biggest names in American muay thai as well as big, international names. Over the last few months they’ve picked up even more steam when UFC and comedy personality Joe Rogan started to get excited about Lion Fight and talking about it on the Joe Rogan Experience.

Suddenly Lion Fight went from this thing that hardcore fight fans maybe kinda sorta knew about to the mecca of “high level striking” in the United States. That’s the kind of pull and influence someone like Rogan has. While I can’t fault him for his own tastes and opinions, nor the pull that he has with a good portion of social media fight fans, the hyperbole has been palpable since then, leaving Lion Fight in the position of untouchable darling of the fight scene.

Cracks started to form on the veneer of Lion Fight in January, though, when word broke that the United States Muay Thai Association, the organization that had provided oversight for a total of three Lion Fight events, declared itself “done” with Lion Fight. The claim? Lack of payment as well as cooperation from the promotion. Lion Fight was quick to declare that the switch to IKF for Lion Fight 27 was decided in advance, but the story sort of tapered off into the ether as stories like this tend to do for promotions that aren’t huge and in the national spotlight.

Word was after the event that there were some outstanding payment issues that were bound to surface, only it took nearly two months for anything to bubble up and pour into the public eye. In a now-redacted tweet and corresponding Instagram post from newly-crowned champion Tiffany Van Soest, she claimed to still be owed money for her Lion Fight 27 performance, which the company hadn’t made good on. So she was auctioning off her Lion Fight championship for $500 to pay some bills -- or so was the implication -- and people seemed shocked. The USMTA/IKF bait-and-switch was quick and happened without much visibility, but non-payment for one of their world champions? That was something that would catch some eyes. And it did.

Along with the recent, quiet departure of longtime posterboy for the promotion in Kevin Ross, things might seem a bit off within the realm of Lion Fight. Joe Schilling has gone on record publicly talking down the home of some of his most notable fights before he signed with GLORY and Bellator, going as far as to dub the promotion “Lion Fart” and within some of the more hardcore muay thai circles there are a lot of “I told you so’s” floating around. Needless to say, while the promotion might be picking up steam and exposure, with that exposure has come an increased focus on every aspect of the promotion. There has been talk of a “uniform deal” that sounds a lot like UFC and Reebok’s much-maligned deal, but there have only been whispers of complaints thus far.

Van Soest’s decision to come forward and call out the promotion was a power play, if anything. A fan-backed GoFundMe was launched almost immediately and far surpassed the goal of $500, with many within the community quick to rally behind her to help cover any costs she needed help with an wanted her to keep the belt. Van Soest is a popular fighter who by all reports seems to be done with Lion Fight and should be heading off to greener pastures in the near future, so there shouldn’t be any doubts as to if she’ll be fighting again any time soon thanks to how marketable she is. If she needed to borrow some money she clearly could have, although that isn’t the point. The point here is that the only way that she saw that money was by going public and taking scrapes at Lion Fight’s public perception, which at this point is one of their most treasured assets.

It worked.

This afternoon they were quick to offer up an official statement claiming that there was an issue when the check was deposited, but that they have wired her the money this afternoon to clear up any sort of outstanding payment. But, the issue here feels more complicated than that. Lion Fight owed Van Soest money and the only way for Van Soest and her team to see that money was to make a statement on social media. The IKF, who sanctioned the event after USMTA dropped off, even has rules in place that are meant to avoid situations like this:

Promoter is required to pay to the IKF Representative or Associate directly after the event weigh-ins and before the Official event Rules meeting in CASH or CERTIFIED Checks ALL PRO Fighter Purses made out to each PRO Fighter.

The Official IKF Event representative shall hold all fight purses and distribute them to all pro fighters AFTER the event.

Lion Fight is, for many young fighters and fans, something to aspire to, the place where muay thai fighters in the United States can strive to fight and earn their fame in. Legends and heroes like Kevin Ross, Tiffany Van Soest, Joe Schilling, John Wayne Parr, Cris Cyborg Santos, Malaipet, Cosmo Alexandre, Artem Levin, Simon Marcus and many more have fought within Lion Fight’s ring and while there have been more options for those inclined towards kickboxing, the same can’t be said for muay thai. Lion Fight is pretty much the only game in town on a quasi-national level when it comes to clinching, elbows and knees, utilizing the full thai rules and this is a major blow to that perception that they are the best stand up striking organization in America.

For now they still are, the only problem is that not all fighters have the same sort of voice or platforms available to them like Van Soest does. For the good of the sport here's to hoping that stuff like this doesn't pop up again any time soon, or if it does that it's taken care of behind closed doors, not in the public view.

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Yokkao 17 and 18 Cards are Typically Stacked Heading into Saturday

In what is now becoming an increasingly common occurrence for muay thai fans in Bolton, Yokkao returns this weekend for Yokkao 17 and Yokkao 18. Another double header in Bolton has been sold out for quite some time now and the card promises to deliver big, like past events have. Not many events create the same groundswell from fans like the previous Yokkao events in the UK have, with us being flooded with nothing but positive talk about the previous shows and fans in the UK once again in store for another great night of fights.

Yokkao has released the full card from both shows with the two headline fights being Liam Harrison vs. Tetsuya Yamato and Jordan Watson vs. Sanny Dahlbeck, respectively. 

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Muay Thai Grand Prix 3 All Access and New Fight Added

Muay Thai Grand Prix 3 is quickly approaching, happening on the 26th of March. Just announced was a bout between Ben Lucas and Alex Bublea, which is in addition to the 4-man 72kg tournament, a worl;d title fight between Charlie Peters and Tommi McCormick and a bunch of other big fights.

MUAY THAI GRAND PRIX 3 – Saturday 26th March 2016

4-Man 72KG MTGP–

Luke Whelan (Eng)

Conor Stewart (Eng)

Sevket Cerkez (Tur)

Luca Caputo (Ita)

–FTR A-Class–

Iman Barlow (Eng) V Maria Lobo (Por)

– MTGP World Welterweight Title –

Charlie Peters (Eng) V Tommi McCormick (Eng)

–FTR A-Class–

Dan McGowan (Eng) V Victor Saravia (USA)

–FTR A-Class–

Ben Lucas (Eng) V Alex Bublea (Rom)

–FTR A-Class–

Damien Trainor (Eng) V Adrian Lopez (Spa)

–FTR A-Class–

Dean James (Eng) V Wuttichai (Tha)

–Pro K-1–

Jamie Whelan (Eng) V Paul Karpowicz (Eng)

–FTR A-Class–

Evan Jays (Eng) V Tommy Green (Eng)

–B-Class–

Michael Pham (Eng) V Dominik Matusz (Pol)

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Muaythai Mania 10 in Hungary on March 12

On March 12 Muaythai Mania will open its doors again for the 10th time.

As fans can see on the events FB page it's not a secret that this time, for its jubilee the theme for MTM refers to the legendary soccer game from 1953 where the Hungarian team managed to grab a fantastic 6:3 win against England hoping that Hungarian fighters entering the ring on the night of the show will provide something similar.

Péter Albrecht, Norbert Spéth, Dominik Bereczki, Róbert Radics and Márk Hegedűs will seek to repeat history a bit and surprise the world at the Sport Hall of Mosonszolnok.

Fight card

63.5 kg Albrecht Péter vs Kris Pearson
67 kg Radics Róbert vs TBA
67 kg Spéth Norbert vs Alex Bublea
72.6kg Bereczki Dominik vs Giannis Skordilis
76 kg Hegedűs Márk vs Danny Edwards

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Watch MTGP: Behind the Curtains

Muay Thai GP based out of the UK has made a big splash on the international muay thai scene in a hurry, from a deal with Lion Fight to their two big events that they've put on thus far. They put together a behind-the-scenes documentary from MTGP 2 that is split up into two parts and looks into all sorts of different aspects of how their show happened.

This is some good viewing if you are a fan, future fighter, future promoter or even involved in the sport now. 

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Lion Fight 28: Cedric Manhoef Replaces Kem Sitsongpeenong

Cedric Manhoef will be stepping in to fight for the Lion Fight welterweight title against Jo Nattawut on February 26, 2016 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. 

The reason for Kem Sitsongpeenong being replaced is yet to be released but hopefully he will be ready to fight the winner of this fight later on in the year. Luckily there is still a decent amount of time for Manhoef to prepare as this will be one of his toughest tests to date not to mention Manhoef fought mostly K-1 Rules in 2015 where as this fight will be full Muay Thai. It will be interesting to see how Cedric adapts to the rules and fighting such a crafty Thai in Jo Nattawut.

Lion Fight 28 Full Card

Welterweight Title: "Smokin" Jo Nattawut (Atlanta, GA) vs Cedric Manhoef (Amsterdam, Holland)

Lightweight Title: Ognjen Topic (Lodi, NJ) vs Sergio Wielzen (Amsterdam, Holland)

Ky Hollenbeck (San Francisco, CA) vs Justin Greskiewicz (Philadelphia, PA)

Chris Mauceri (Kingston, NY) vs Nick Chasteen (Phoenix, AZ)

Turan Hasanov (Brooklyn, NY) vs Asa Tenpow (West Palm Beach, FL)

Yeison Berdugo (Providence, RI) vs Bryce Lawrence (Naples, FL) 

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IKF Reverses Decision in Bolanos vs. Kronphet

In an interesting twist of fate a controversial decision from a recent fight was actually reviewed and reversed. At the most recent Lion Fight Gaston Bolanos and Kronphet battled in a razor-close bout that saw the live judges score the fight for Kronphet, much to the dismay of many fans. All of that has changed now.

The IKF has announced that they reviewed the fight by sending an audio-less version of the bout to twenty one judges around the world only for 19 of those judges to score the fight for Bolanos, one to score it a draw and two scored it for Kronphet. With numbers like that it was easy for them to overturn the decision and score the fight in the favor of Bolanos. [source]

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Wildly Inconsistent Judging Strikes Again, This Time Against Gaston Bolanos

In what has become a plague of sorts, yet another quality combat sports event happened this weekend under the Lion Fight banner and fans were left scratching their heads over it. The fight in question was at Lion Fight 27 between Gaston Bolanos and Kronphet. It was a competitive five round affair, the first decision for Bolanos and the young fighter learned firsthand why everyone always echoes the now empty sentiment of "never let it go to the judges."

Because he let it go to the judges and the decision rendered was not great. While it was a close fight, the body kicks from Kronphet were what scored him points with the judges. Unsurprising to many, but the two Thai judges scored the bout for the Thai fighter, while the other judge scored the fight for Bolanos. Simply watching the fight you can see in the later rounds how Bolanos grew more comfortable, was cutting off the ring and was scoring points with punches, elbows and the clinch sweeps, all of which he was landing consistently against the Thai. 

The IKF was overseeing Lion Fight 27, from what we understand on somewhat late notice, but the rules going into the fight weren't in doubt. Interestingly enough, the referee didn't seem to grasp the concept of the rules and was quickly breaking up clinches between the two men, to the point where I've seen more clinchwork allowed in kickboxing fights, even recent ones. Confusingly enough, the referee wasn't the only problem, because the judges didn't seem to grasp the scoring, either. If in kickboxing what Sitthichai did against Robin van Roosmalen wasn't enough for a win, under muay thai rules what Kronphet did to Bolanos was essentially zilch. IKF's own rules spell it all out.

In fact, from reports that we've received, the two judges in question had scored Kronphet as the winner in round four for one judge and round five for the other, either one of those being objectively insane calls by most educated eyes. From what we understand the IKF is looking at the decision and may even be considering overturning it, but even if not, this fight will just be tossed onto the pile of evidence that officiating in kickboxing and muay thai needs a complete overhaul. Anyone that is to referee or judge a fight should understand the rules and be properly vetted, much like a jury is in a court case, to ensure that fighters won't have to keep working so hard to face this level of uncertainty and fear when they are fighting a tough opponent that they just can't seem to knock out. 

What's especially tough is that the onus here doesn't fall on the fighters or their coaches for failing in any way, or even the promotions, who aren't directly assigning these officials, but the overseeing bodies that exist in combat sports, all of which tend to feel outdated, insecure and relics from a time long since past. If we want to see the sports of kickboxing and muay thai gain a stronger hold not only in America, but in Europe and other parts of the world as well, there needs to be a unified front and we need to stop having these divisive moments happening every few weeks. 

I'm not here to point fingers, to accuse anyone, just at this point a plea for these people to remember that they are helping to frame the careers of all of these fighters and that their decisions carry long shockwaves that don't just stop when the bell rings.

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Weigh-in Results For Tonight's Lion Fight 27

Joe Rogan's favorite stand-up promotion returns to the airwaves tonight on AXS TV with a big, two-title bout fight card that is sure to entertain during these winter doldrums. The main event sees the Welterweight title on the line between Charlie Peters and Fabio Pinca, while the co-main sees Tiffany Van Soest contend for her second championship at Women's Super Bantamweight against Ashley Nichos.

Also on the card is Gaston Bolanos against Kronphet, Brian Del Rosario against Chris Culley and everyone's favorite Coke Chunhawat against Anvar Boynazarov. 

Lion Fight 27 Main Card – Begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on AXS TV

Main Event – Welterweight (147 pound) Title Fight – Charlie Peters (146.4) vs. Fabio Pinca (145.2)

Co-Main Event – Women’s Super Bantamweight (120 pound) Title Fight – Ashley Nichos (119.2) vs. Tiffany Van Soest (119)

Welterweight (143 Pound) Fight – Kronphet Phetrachapat (143.6) vs. Gaston Bolanos (142.4)

Welterweight (147 pound) Fight – Chris Culley (150.2) vs. Brian Del Rosario (146.6)

Super Lightweight (137 pound) Fight – Coke Chunhawat (137.4) vs. Anvar Boynazarov (140.4)

Lightweight (132 pound) Fight – Jared Papazian (133) vs. Travis Clay (131.2)

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Lion Fight 27 Fight Card

Lion Fights 27 is taking place this Friday January 29th at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California.

Fabio Pinca will take on Charlie Peters for the welterweight title and Tiffany Van Soest will defend her super bantamweight title. Lets hope Lion Fight can keep the momentum going from their last great show.

Full Card

WELTERWEIGHT TITLE: FABIO PINCA vs. CHARLIE PETERS

WOMEN'S SUPER BANTAMWEIGHT: TIFFANY VAN SOEST vs. ASHLEY NICHOLS

COKE CHUNHAWAT vs. ANVAR BOYNAZAROV

GASTON BOLANOS vs. KRONPHET PHETRACHAPAT

CHRIS CULLEY vs. BRIAN DEL ROSARIO

TRAVIS CLAY vs. JARED PAPAZIAN

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