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Watch Murat Direcki vs. Chris Ngimbi From It's Showtime!! 44

Kickboxing is like MMA in a way, where there are results that are disputed by fans when it comes to close fights. This past weekend's It's Showtime!! event flew under the radar due to falling on the same weekend as the K-1 World Grand Prix, but that doesn't mean that it did not have its share of exciting action. It's Showtime's 70kgs championship was on the line as Murat Direcki defending the title against Chris Ngimbi in the main event. It was a close bout, seeing Ngimbi pulling out the decision victory, but many fans, as well as the announce team, feel that Direcki deserved the nod. Who do you feel won the bout? Direcki is in the blue trunks, Ngimbi in the white.



Nicky Hemmers On Dynasty and Pressures

Nicky Hemmers

In Shakespeare's Henry IV part II, the king muses, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." In saying this, the king is referencing how he himself or any other person who is a leader can be consumed with worries due to a sometimes overwhelming amount of responsibility and tough decisions. A crown, however, is not always tangible, it can be analogous to something such as one's surname. One's name in this life can come with certain expectations for achievement.

Within the kickboxing community, the name Hemmers rings loudly and proudly as one of the most prestigious families to be associated with the sport. Beginning with the patriarch, Cor Hemmers, this legacy for greatness in the sport has been passed down now to his son Nick, who is now creating a legacy of his own .

Beginning his own training at age eleven, Nicky has lived on both sides of the combat sports coin as both as fighter and a trainer. Having fought professionally from age 16 until 2 years ago, now he has now found his niche as a trainer in Breda at Hemmers Gym where he helps to shape and mold the careers of many of the best and brightest of today's kickboxing community. If you want to know who, think Errol Zimmerman, Jamal Ben Saddik, Filip Verlinden, Robin van Roosmalen, Marc de Bonte and countless others who are making their way up the ranks in Glory and other organizations.

Coming from such a prestigious and well known family one would think the pressure to perform and/or make a mark in this world would be immense, and perhaps it is, but Nicky plays his role with style, grace as well as with a touch of humor. In our talk prior to Glory 16 in Denver, he touched upon that very issue, stating that he does feel pressure to perform but also, that he feels he has a down to earth style that allows him to not only explore innovative ways of training fighters but also to seek and accept constructive criticism about performance. He names his father as a key figure and stated that he frequently asks for feedback on his performance.

With a maturity that exceeds his actual years of experience, Nicky also seems to have developed rather keen insight on the multi-dimensional role he plays in the life of a fighter. Having been there himself, Nicky is not afraid to counsel his trainees on the importance of having a back up plan to sustain them once their days in the ring have come to an end. Nicky also expresses a clear understanding of his role in letting a fighter know when enough is enough, stating, "Sure, he can do what he wants, just not under my name."

With many impressive wins at Glory 14, 15 and 16, 2014 promises to be a very big year for Nicky and his team. Admittedly, he has faced adversity and change during the last 18 months but still he smiles, remarking that it has been these changes that continue to help him to grow and make him a better person. As Glory 17 approaches, we can only wish him the best of luck as he and the men from Hemmers Gym continue to make their mark in this often unpredictable world of combat sports.


GLORY 16's Zack Mwekassa on Redemption and New Beginnings


"Nothing beats faith and hope in life", Zack Mwekassa said.

Powerful words from a man who has obviously had to live at times on the strength of the meaning of those very words. In a bout that is sure to be explosive, the Glory family welcomes Zack Mwekassa, who is set to face kickboxing's returning son, Pat Barry, at Glory 16 in Denver.

Entering the Glory ring, with a 10-1-9, record, this Congolese fighter is ready to show the world what he's all about. Born the youngest of eight children, Mwekassa's life began as somewhat of a miacle. His mother, he stated, had years previously been told that she would bear no more children, only years later to have become pregnant with Zack and to have had his name revealed to her in a dream.

The son of a chemist, Mwekassa describes a life of happiness with his family but also of conflict between he and one of his older brothers. Conflict that set him on the path to a career in combat sports. The relationship which he characterizes as antagonistic, one day led his father to ask "Why don't you two behave normally? Why don't you get involved in sports, football, basketball, boxing, something!" Ah yes, boxing, through the power of that single suggestion, Mwekassa was on his way.

Although he admits that he initially wanted to be a pilot, Mwekassa began training at age 13. After a while he mused that he was no longer bullied by his brother, he had begun to develop skills that would physically give him the upper hand. From that time Mwekassa embarked on a road to success in the boxing ring that saw him doing whatever honest job, no matter how big or small, to support himself. By this time, Mwekassa states, he was living in South Africa following an arrest in 2004. In this early part of his career, Mwekassa, describes a period of intense struggle before he began to experience success in the ring. He recalls working as a sort of valet, guarding people's cars and at times not being paid for hours of work. Still he perservered, continuing to hone his skills as a fighter and eventually success did come with Mwekassa eventually earning UBC and WBF titles. There, however, often a dark side to success.

It's an often told story in the history of professional sports, many athletes experience a shift in the balance between training and enjoying the fruits of their labour. Id versus ego. He readily admits that for a time partying became more important than training. But as with us all, life has a way of delivering us a smack down that ultimately reorients us to reality, if we are smart. Mwekassa too, had such a rude awakening that caused him to reevaluate his priorities and return to his roots as a God a fearing, disciplined and focused man with his eyes on the prize. Today that prize is success in the ring with Glory and it begins Saturday, May 3rd with the match up against former kickboxing champ and UFC veteran, Pat Barry. Although he admits that prior to the bout being scheduled he had not heard of Barry.

Today Mwekassa presents feeling that he has done his homework and is prepared for the final exam. While he is excited and contemplates a long and bright future with Glory, he is today fully focused on Saturday's event. "No I don't want to call anyone out", he smiled and stated when asked if there were other opponents he would be interested in fighting. Win or lose Saturday night Mwekassa presents as a man is here to go the distance and if his past is in any way predictive of his future he will.


Fighters are Human, Too, and We Need to Treat Them That Way


“These are the gladiators,” my father is fond of saying, “The people who agree to damage each other for our entertainment and money, and by god we’ll gladly pay them to do this until they are too beat up and brain damaged to do it anymore.” My dad is a fight fan. His favorite fighter is Fedor Emelianenko. He says this not to be crass, but to make a point: who accepts moral culpability for the violence entailed in combat sports? There’s three positions you can take: 1) You unequivocally reject combat sports because you reject violence. 2) You take the position of the opening quote, that the contract signed between the “gladiators” absolves everybody (including the fans who watch) of any moral responsibility for the outcomes and consequences of the fight, or 3) You acknowledge the violence but also appreciate and accept the moral consequences. I hope that if you’re a combat sports fan (and especially if you’re a fighter) that you take the third position.

To begin with, I don’t think that people who sincerely make statements like those above actually believe them. Serious acute or chronic injury, or worse, fatality, is not a permissible contingency held by many, and I would question the motives of those for whom it is. There may be those who genuinely believe in the idea that we shouldn’t feel bad about fighters getting seriously hurt, but I would argue that upholding this belief in even the most extreme circumstances is really testing its limits and challenging the scope and expectations that many fighters have about their own careers. No fighter wants to suffer a career ending injury, or worse, die.

Fighters are human beings. We get to see them get hurt, but we seldom see them suffer--physically, emotionally, and financially. They routinely suffer the types of injuries that most people would occasionally if ever experience and they experience more head trauma on a regular basis than most people ever would in a lifetime. We don’t get to experience and understand the personal sacrifices that they make to pursue their passion: career choices, time spent apart from loved ones, medical expenses, debt. Our insight is limited to a promoter’s media package and information publicized through outlets like this one. Fighters desire a quality of life just like anyone else. They have similar desires to make a living and provide for loved ones, even if this is very hard to do in their line of work. Their choice of profession is driven by a passion that any individual should aspire to find in their own careers.

Thus, to fans who believe that fighters have nothing to feel bad about when they hurt their opponent, why deny them their compassion? Why deny yourself compassion? The martial arts is for many practitioners a form of human expression, and while it is the practice of hand-to-hand combat, its prevalence as a component of the healthy lifestyles of many caring and compassionate individuals demonstrates that it doesn’t have to dehumanize; the countless moments of comradery throughout the span of kickboxing illustrate that. A quasi-Cobra Kai-like philosophy of violence without limits or control is malignant and destructive--and is thankfully not shared by many. Those who truly lack compassion in their hearts or who have a desire to inflict suffering when they step into the ring warrant our concern, not praise. It’s ok to care for the well-being of other people no matter what their chosen profession is.

This is the mentality that was reflected in the actions of Gokhan Saki at Glory 15 and articulated by other fighters in the aftermath of the event--there’s something to be said when professional fighters come forward, express their compassion, and demand the same from the fans. It should be the norm for anyone, fan or fighter. We should maintain the humanity to uplift people and celebrate their value, and we should also denounce voices who would seek to dehumanize, demean, reduce, or commoditize the people who we as fans have given our time, money, and appreciation. It’s the human thing to do.


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