KSW 39: Colosseum was always going to be a tough act to follow, but an event in Dublin, Ireland, is probably the best way of trying to replicate it.
There won’t be 57,000 fans in attendance on Sunday (October 22) when KSW 40 rolls into town and parks up at the 3Arena. Nor will there be five title fights on the card. But what will be served up are a number of decent scraps – including a rematch between Mateusz Gamrot and Norman Parke for the KSW lightweight title, as well as the latest appearance from Polish superstar Mariusz Pudzianowski – played out before a bumper crowd of Irish men and women desperate for live MMA action, and desperate to get a taste of what KSW were able to deliver on May 27 when they broke live attendance records at KSW 39.
The Irish are a famously raucous and vocal bunch. (It was UFC president Dana White who once said they were the best fans in the world and that the UFC’s Dublin excursions sat at the very top of his list of favourite events.) They’ve had plenty to cheer about, too, what with Conor McGregor’s rise to global superstardom, as two-weight UFC champion and part-time boxer, and the emergence of SBG as one of Europe’s premier training spots.
There’s local interest in Parke, a lightweight from Bushmills, and there’s added interest in his fight with Gamrot owing to the way the pair’s first fight ended back at KSW 39. In a fight steeped in controversy, Gamrot, accused of biting Parke’s finger in round two, retained his title via unanimous decision.
Gamrot was narrowly ahead in their KSW lightweight title fight when Parke, the challenger, looked to make something happen against the fence. After sprawling a takedown attempt, he cupped the champion’s chin and targeted his neck. Gamrot, however, sensed this and, according to Parke, took it upon himself to stop the process by any means necessary.
“He said I put my fingers in his mouth to fish-hook him,” Parke told Fighters Only after the fight, “but the fingers you’d use to fish-hook in MMA, if you were going to do it, would be the index finger and the middle finger. They are your strongest fingers. It was my wedding ring finger he bit.
“He said I put it in his mouth and wiggled it about. He said he never knew what he was doing. But he knows. Watch his reaction when he bites me and I tell the referee he has bitten me. He transitions to my back, he never lets off straight away. The referee wasn’t going to do anything. I had to tell him to look and defend punches at the same time. The referee then calls time and I show him the mark. Clear as day, there was a purple mark on my finger. Gamrot is just standing there with a look on his face that says, ‘What? What do I do?’ He never said anything about fish-hooking or anything like that. He knew what he had done. I could see it in his eyes. The ref didn’t have a clue what had happened.
“The way they showed it on the big screen afterwards wasn’t ideal, either. They only show where he bites the hand. They don’t show the moment he shoots for a takedown and I sprawl and we’re there for about ten seconds and I’m cupping his chin to try and lift the neck up to go for a choke. That’s what I was doing. I was trying to work for a guillotine or a d’arce choke. But he was defending it. He knows 100% what he did and why he did it.”
Now, following Parke’s protests, the two lightweights prepare to do it all again, this time over five rounds rather than three. It’s a rematch Parke had chased in hope more than anything.
“I talked to Gamrot after the fight and he didn’t know what to say or where to look,” said Parke, 23-6-1. “I said we should have a rematch and he said, ‘No, no, no. Me not fight for six months. I’m not fighting until the end of the year.’
“The good thing is, there has been a lot of media coverage. I’ve got a load of Polish fans now. I’ve got so many messages since the fight. I couldn’t believe it. I had more messages from the people of Poland than I did from people here. They were all saying they thought I won the fight. We were counting the messages the other night and there must have been about a hundred. They were all calling me the new Polish champion. It was great.”
To his relief, Parke gets the chance to become the actual champion, the KSW champion, when he renews acquaintances with Gamrot on Sunday.
Also of interest to the local crowd will be the heavyweight headliner between strongman legend Pudzianowski and England’s James McSweeney.
McSweeney rose to MMA prominence on season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, beating the likes of Wes Shivers and Matt Mitrione before being knocked out in a round by eventual winner Roy Nelson. After that, he was stopped by Travis Browne and then Fabio Maldonado, found himself without a UFC contract, and proceeded to do the rounds on any number of promotions – winning some fights, losing others. His record of 15-15 speaks to the kind of test he will provide Pudzianowski, the third Polish heavyweight he will have faced in his last four fights.
Pudzianowski, meanwhile, also saw action at KSW 39. That night he showed all his improvements and growing composure in a second round stoppage of Tyberiusz Kowalczyk, another former strongman. He does, at this stage, exactly what it says on the tin. He’s 40 years of age, so is probably all out of time to grow, but has, to his credit, showed signs of getting better fight by fight and won his last two, taking his pro MMA record to 11-5. There’s every chance he makes it a hat-trick of wins against McSweeney, a man who has been out of action for a year and has been stopped in four of his last five fights (the last two ending in the very first round), and for KSW, a promotion built on supersized Polish stars, that would be just the ticket.