20 April 2015

Lee Hasdell: “The KTMMA rules can seem a little odd at first but as you start to understand the concept it all makes sense.”

KTMMA 3 captured the imagination of the martial arts fraternity with its World Class card that featured a ground-breaking England versus China centrepiece and two ISKA World title fights; an event televised literally to millions in China and a real benchmark for the future of this unique format. With the resounding success of the show still fresh in the memory, MMA pioneer Lee Hasdell looks at the formation of the rule set that was integral to the unique nature of the KTMMA brand. Lee was brought in at the concept stage by KTMMA founder Tim Izli to utilise his vast knowledge of the MMA arena and to advise and assist in the inception of a brand that would bring together the combat sports of Thai-Kickboxing and MMA, with round one being modified Kick-Thai and round two MMA.

After a number of in-depth meetings and trial runs Lee states that “we decided on the following format; Round one would allow the fighters to use all normal Kick-Thai-boxing techniques and include unlimited knees and strikes in an active clinch, from one or two handed clinches, but the referee can break the fighters for passive or negative clinching.” In terms of the MMA round KTMMA looked at maximising the excitement factor and decided upon a rule system that would captivate the audience. Lee explains-“we use the Global MMA rule format which is a hybrid of the unified and the Pride style rules, which allows all normal unified rule elbows but also allows knees to the head of a grounded opponent.”

The use of knees to the head on the ground is a controversial element but Lee has a rational explanation for why the rule is valid, namely that it forces the fighters to seek a different approach and strategy to the ground game.

Lee expands on the topic stating that “knees to the head on the ground is actually not as bad as it sounds and is used in Asia on a regular basis.” When questioned further on this divisive rule, Lee states that the rule system cements the originality of the KTMMA concept-“we did this to really set the KTMMA concept apart from the regular unified MMA format and to date it has proved a success. The knees to the head eliminates any negative stalling tactics and lazy or sloppy take down attempts and makes it impossible for fighters to use a ‘Playing the Game’ tactic of putting the hands down to defend the knees which has become a regular strategy of defence in MMA.”

Lee talks from vast experience, having come from a Japanese MMA background and he used what he had seen first-hand in the Asian variants of MMA to create and forge the new KTMMA ruleset but adds that “of course the fighters cannot knee to the top of the head in a north/south ground position.” Given the unique nature of the concept and brand, the KTMMA scoring system also bears clarifying for those that may not have seen the fight shows in action and to this end Lee states that “we decided on a single fight scoring system due to it being a two round match, meaning that the match is scored and judged as a whole fight rather than a two round match, based on effective and damaging techniques and progress towards winning. Being two rounds the fighters must treat each round as a chance to progress the match into a winning scenario, so whoever is closest to finishing the match wins.”

Now he is the first to admit that the rules can “seem a little odd at first but as you start to understand the concept it all makes sense.”

A compelling aspect of the KTMMA format is the glove changeover from 10oz boxing to 4oz MMA gloves, which has to be practised by each corner team to enable the change to take place in the optimum 30 second time slot allocated in the 1.5 minute rest period. This element excites Lee and he is confident that this will “become an integral part of the sport similar to a Formula 1 pit stop and tyre change.” More importantly as a fighter and coach that is known for his constant evolution and forward-thinking, Lee sees the concept as a brand leader when it comes to fusing styles to create a more rounded and complete fighter. “The concept was born to enable fighters from two different disciple to train and fight in one match, as many MMA fighters are now kickboxers and visa-versa.”

This evolution has already borne fruit in the aftermath of the hugely successful KTMMA 3 (England Vs China) event. The future of the new KTMMA brand is now gaining traction with the concept attracting recognised fighters and sponsors, with TV deals on the horizon, whilst becoming a true test of combat skills and strategy. Lee highlights the Jefferson George fight as a perfect example of the format. “This bout really showed the true spirit of KTMMA with both fighters showing that they are very competent kickboxers and MMA athletes with a true understanding of the unique KTMMA ruleset. Many MMA fighter think they can kick-box but the ability to stand for 5 minutes using solid striking tactics is not as simple as it looks but with the right team it can be achieved and I feel that the last event showed a massive leap forward in this understanding.”

With the success of KTMMA 3, Lee now sees the future for KTMMA becoming more dynamic as the coaches will start to see, innovate and coach new ways of increasing their fighter’s performance and he is supremely confident that this will lead to new techniques and strategies coming into the ring.

“Plus the matchmaking will start to become very interesting as fight teams and fighters get on board with KTMMA and using their style or skillset to impact on the new sport.” With the rapid evolution of the concept in such a short space of time it seems no idle boast when early publicity stated that KTMMA would become the combat sport of the 21st Century.