Image Credit: Peter Dzurjanin/Oktagon MMA
In the beginning of March, Oktagon MMA (a promotion operating in the Czech Republic and Slovakia) representatives were watching the news closely, patiently waiting if their event on March 14 would ease past the rising restrictions. Oktagon 16 was eventually cancelled only a couple of days prior to its original date, when gatherings were limited to 100 people at a time, and rescheduled to a new September date. However, the fight-less hiatus didn’t last long on the local scene.
Only a couple of weeks later, an unique project called Oktagon Underground was presented. Same-day weigh-ins, 5 weight classes, a specially-adapted set of rules and total prize money of 100 000 € to be distributed during 7 events between May 16 and July 4.
The ruleset was targeted to reach the broad horizon of fighters across various martial arts disciplines – three 3 minutes rounds, a wide range of strikes were permitted and a 10-point scoring system was in place. Takedowns could only be executed without throws and submissions couldn’t be attempted on the ground. If a fighter was knocked down, they would lose a point and getting taken down into a controlled position three times in a single round would also result in a point deduction. Any takedown equaled 3 significant strikes. If a fighter was knocked down three times in a round or four times across the entire bout, the contest was over. Sounds confusing? It was at first, but referees, fighters and fans quickly adapted. The limited use of ground techniques also resulted in many muay thai and K1 fighters joining the competition, heating up the rivalry between them and MMA fighters.
On May 16, one week short of UFC‘s return to action, the first event of Oktagon Underground series took place. In a gym in Prague, behind closed doors, with a negative COVID-19 test as an entrance ticket for fighters. The tournament bracket was split between the Czech and Slovak side with the finalists of each side of the bracket eventually fighting each other in a super-final – happening when the borders would open again. Individual fight cards were extended with so-called superfights which (among others) included a fight of Oktagon MMA welterweight champion David Kozma.
The quick turnaround of events resulted in many replacements due to injuries and in the end roughly 90 fighters from Slovakia and the Czech Republic got a chance to compete and provide fight fans entertainment during lockdown. As the restrictions eased, there was a limited number of fans attending the events, which culminated in a thousand fans watching the super-final live in Brno, Czech Republic.
The Kings and Queens of the Underground
After 8 weeks of competition the winners were found. Tadeáš Růžička, a muay thai fighter who is transitioning to MMA, owned the 155 lbs (70 kg) bracket, finishing all his 4 fights via TKO. Another former muay thai fighter, Matouš Kohout (3-3 in MMA), was a replacement in the 176 lbs (80 kg) superfinal, but he ended up defeating Ronald Paradeiser (10-6 in MMA) to cash the 5 000 € prize money for winning.
The women´s 134.5 lbs (61kg) tournament bracket was highly anticipated because of the participation of the best two Czech MMA female fighters – UFC vet Lucie Pudilová and Magdalena Šormová (who is the last person to beat recent UFC debutant Kay Hansen in Invicta FC bout) were both among the favorites, but it was eventually Czech amateur boxing and MMA champion, 18 years old Tereza Bledá, whose hand was raised in the super-final on July 4th, raising the expectations for her MMA professional debut and future career.
The 198 lbs (90 kg) super-final fight was left unsettled between Vlastislav Čepo and Matěj Peňáz, a Glory Kickboxer, because of an injury to the latter and Daniel Škvor, who has also competed in Glory, conquered the 220.5 lbs (100 kg) bracket.
All Oktagon Underground fights can be found on Oktagon MMA Youtube channel.