Jakarta. According to the Indonesian Professional Sports Agency, or BOPI, mixed martial arts can soon take over boxing in terms of popularity.
The discipline emerged in the United States in the late 1980s, when the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was founded. It is regarded as the world's fastest-growing sport.
UFC first had almost no fighting rules, but later introduced some for the sake of safety. It is still far less regulated than boxing, which allows fighters to attack with their hands only.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and the World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) have recently announced a merger, which means that one international governing body for the discipline will soon be established.
"This sport is growing very fast, even faster than boxing, in terms of popularity," said BOPI chairman Noor Aman, as he inaugurated the Brave Combat Federation in Jakarta on Thursday (10/05), a MMA promotion initiated by Prince Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa and supported by the government of Bahrain.
In the main event at Balai Sarbini in South Jakarta on Friday, Brave Championship showcased 15 bouts featuring 30 fighters from Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, Brazil, Netherlands, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, United States, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, United Kingdom and Germany.
Indonesia's only representative at Brave, Vincent Majid, won with Malaysia's Jing Yi Chong in the light-heavyweight category.
"As a professional sport, MMA is considered a good thing. Apart from its function as entertainment, it can also offer new job opportunities and can help teens in avoid juvenile delinquency, drug abuse," Noor told the Jakarta Globe.
BOPI, which issues permits for professional sports events, also supervises other MMA promotions such as Singapore-based ONE Championship.
While Bahrain's Brave just entered Indonesia, ONE Championship has been present since 2012.
The presence of Brave also shows an improvement in Indonesia-Bahrain relations, following the assignment of Mohamed Ghassan Sheikho as the kingdom's first ambassador to Jakarta.
"Our choosing of Indonesia to hold the Brave Championship is based on supporting the relationship and cooperation between the two countries, which will achieve the goals that we drew for this new edition in particular, to confirm its presence in the eastern countries of Asia," Prince Khalid said, as quoted by The Daily Tribune.