It was a major disappointment to the fans who had attended the events and been blown away by the combination of bright lights, booming sound system and a venue where you can get so close to the action at times it is possible to reach through the cage and actually touch the fighters.
DARE’s first event took place in June and fans and fighters who turned up not knowing what to expect were pleasantly surprised because the entire show was well produced and well regulated, with the safety of the participants obviously paramount.
The imaginative approach which DARE took was refreshing and gave their entire event the feel of a rock concert rather than a sporting occasion. After four events momentum was building but unfortunately the resultant publicity was to have disastrous repercussions.
“It (MMA) is against the 1999 boxing law.”
“Organizing a MMA event here would hurt the image of Muay Thai. If you want to do this kind of business, you should do it in another country.”
“Organizing MMA here could mislead the public into believing that Muay Thai is brutal.”
These were some of the comments of Sakol Wannapong, the Deputy Governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, which appeared to effectively sound the death knoll for DARE. The people behind the project were undeterred and set out to find a way to circumnavigate the regulations which were preventing them from putting on another show in Thailand.
What happened next is still shrouded in mystery but it has emerged that last Saturday night, in front of an invitation only audience who all signed contracts of confidentiality, DARE put on its fifth MMA event.
There were no media present and no-one has even revealed the location, although it was almost certainly in the Bangkok area. Six MMA fights were held and the videos and results are currently scheduled to be released on Thursday.
The only information which people who attended were willing to impart is that a good time was had by all and there were some spectacular finishes to the fights involving mixed martial artists from Singapore, Malaysia, Finland, Korea, Brazil, Sweden, Uzbekistan, the US and, of course, Thailand.
In the early days of MMA the sport was not regulated and many shows were held “underground.” Now that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has become a billion dollar business which regularly attracts pay per view audiences measured in the hundreds of thousands the sport is very much in the mainstream and is allowed almost everywhere.
It is difficult to see how MMA could ‘mislead’ people into thinking Muay Thai, which routinely allows six year olds to elbow one another in the face, is brutal. However Thailand is not along in taking such a hardline stance on the sport as it is also banned in the state of New York.
Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and remains, in the eyes of many, a key component of Thai culture. It is also a major tourist attraction and big stadiums such as the one at Lumpinee, which is owned by the Thai army, make most of their revenue from the higher priced tickets sold to “farang.”
In this context it is easy to see why authorities might not look kindly on an organization promoting MMA events in Bangkok. It would be understandable if the team behind DARE has given up and walked away, or at least switched the focus to another country, but instead they decided to stay and start holding private, invitation-only events which would be exempt from normal regulation.
While the people behind DARE would probably argue that they were simply sidestepping certain regulations they are effectively outlaws at present, on the run from authorities who have made it clear that they are not welcome in Thailand.
There is a grey area that exists between a film set, a game show, and a sporting event and it is this territory which DARE is hoping to occupy in order to confound whichever authorities might want to shut it down.
It will be interesting to see whether this unconventional approach is sustainable or if the regulators eventually catch up with this rebel MMA promotion. For the time being DARE is defiantly continuing to operate from a secret ‘underground’ location and anyone wanting to see what that looks like will have to wait until Thursday when the videos of last Saturday’s event are released.