Michael Farrow's sports blog

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…on ShoXC, Hong Man Choi and ignorance in Scotland

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Hong Man Choi was refused a license to fight Brock Lesnar due to a tumour on the pituitary gland

This week, I look at ShoXC’s sport slant, Hong-Man Choi and much ado about nothing in Scotland.
A different kind of MMA

The influence of UFC into every corner of mixed martial arts is not a new phenomenon. Instead of sanctioning bodies, we have a promotion led system, similar to pro wrestling, because this is how UFC set out. Promotions are very insular because this is how MMA set out but in almost every way, ProElite are chipping away at these things and doing things their way.

With their ShoXC experiment, they managed to make this feel like a proper sport by sitting in the world of Showtime and their other sports. Boxing was advertised and it was a world away where, apart from pimping sponsors, the UFC exists in a bubble, with occasional vague references to the outside by Joe Rogan. Just who is this Faydor character? ProElite have bought into promotions but not stolen their soul. As much as we all love WEC, it is a world away from what it was. ProElite have bought into promotions and allowed them to keep their titleholders, their look and their cage. It’s not the control freakery that we’re used to.

The focus also shifted from a promotion-first focus to a fighter-first focus. It wasn’t about the letters on the podium, no EliteXC titles were on the line, but to the fighters. This was an MMA show that finally felt like a sport, even in the ways that IFL try and fail to do. Long may it continue.

The strange case of Hong-Man Choi

Hong-Man Choi will finally appeal the refusal of a fighter’s license in front of the California State Athletic Commission on 6th August, which prevented him from taking on former professional wrestler Brock Lesnar in the main event of Dynamite USA on June 2nd. The promoters, Fight Entertainment Group, announced that Choi was refused on medical grounds due to a tumour on the pituitary gland. FEG said that this tumour was benign and had been on the pituitary gland since Choi’s college years. FEG also produced a specialist that said the tumour was not bleeding and Choi was safe to compete in combat sports. However, sticking to their original ruling, CSAC stood firm. The tumour is said to be large and, if untreated, could be life-threatening.

In the interests of seeing what was what, I looked up Choi’s medical reports for his application to fight at the K-1 Las Vegas Grand Prix on the 29th April 2006, where he fought Sylvester “the Predator” Terkay. While California statutes requires for fighters to be examined by a Commission-appointed doctor, Nevada’s statutes only require for a fighter to be examined by a registered doctor. Choi’s MRI was clean and there is no mention from Choi’s Japanese doctors that he had a tumour on his pituitary gland, even if it is benign. In fact, the report states in particular that the “the sella turcica, pituitary and adjacent structures are normal” and “IMPRESSION: UNREMARKABLE CEREBRAL MRI”. This leaves me very worried.

In April 2006, Choi passes a full medical with no mention of a tumour. In May 2007, there is a tumour on his pituitary gland which is life-threatening. Within thirteen months, this tumour has gone from non-existent or considered not worthy of mentioning to preventing Choi from fighting. If a tumour had grown at that rate, there is no argument that Choi should be prevented from fighting and should be undergoing emergency surgery. The Fight Network confirmed that Antonio Silva, who was also refused a license on the same grounds, has undergone surgery to remove the tumor, so why hasn’t Choi?

At the time, Armando Garcia took a shellacking from all sides because he refused a license but, ultimately, he cannot defend himself due to California’s strict patient confidentiality laws. In Nevada they can be upfront. Choi passed in 2006 and failed in 2007. If the tumor still remains, I cannot see CSAC reversing their decision.

“I do not claim to have a clear understanding of what is involved . . .”

Over the past few months, the profile of MMA has increased in Britain. The UFC pouring millions into promoting their product has led to an influx of promoters into the MMA game. The joke always goes that “everybody knows a cage fighter and he’s never any good” well pretty soon that could be “everybody knows a cage fighting promoter”. Some are chancers, some are serious. Some are ruining the business for established, reliable promoters and some are coming in with committed plans. Bodog are rumoured to be eyeing Britain now but it is a small show in Scotland, Cage Wars, which has caused a lot of press.

What is more frustrating for all of us is the way people condemn before watching. The police, religious leaders and members of the Scottish Parliament have all led the battle to ban something but each statement betrays a total ignorance, like the above quote from Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan of the Strathclyde Police. While I would agree that some MMA events market themselves to the lowest common-denominator but, unfortunately, those are the people that go to cage fighting events. Take one look at the way even the major promotions market themselves and you will see that the obsession with gangsterisms betrays who they are aiming for. Mainstream Britain isn’t ready to support low-level UK MMA and, as a result, it is still the same people who have been supporting the scene for years.


Written by Michael Farrow

July 31, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Posted in MMA

Tagged with , ,

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