Gannon in Thailand Part II – Maximum MMA at Russian Strelka promotion in Phuket
•This occurs about one month after the previous piece where Maximum MMA hosted Alex Garcia and the Tristar Team prior to their big victory at UFC Shanghai.
•Due to the media blackout we are not allowed to directly communicate with Sean Gannon, but we get occasional updates from mutual friends. This time that friend is an anonymous fighter and involves their personal correspondence.
AF – What’s it like out there at you new fight camp?
SG – It’s pretty wild out here, like no MMA program I’ve ever seen. Professor Svensson keeps telling me, “It’s a small program, not a lot of fighters, mostly white belts.” But Patong is where the world’s toughest martial artists all go on vacation, and what I actually run into every day is Russian Masters of Sport – Sambo, European BJJ black belts on vacation, and tough as nails Eastern European guys from hardnosed security companies. This is in addition to a full-scale Muay Thai program with four rings and five highly skilled coaches.
On Thursday this Finnish Catch Wrestler/BJJ blackbelt is training with us, and hears we’re taking our crazy Russian (Anton “The Tourist” Kolotvin) to the big Russian Strelka promotion in Phuket the next day. He says, “I’m on vacation and I haven’t fought in 10 years, but I’m a Finn, it’s Winter, and they’re Russians, I have to fight.” We put together a brief “training camp” at the end of the session. Not much you can do on 24 hours notice, but we gave him slow-motion punches with the big gloves on, just to build his comfort, confidence and timing getting past strikes again. Turned out his striking wasn’t far behind far behind his Catch Wrestling and BJJ, but would it be enough in the Thai heat with no training camp?
He was very savvy, and cut short the drills at exactly the right time and headed home (this is really threading the needle on a 24-hour fight camp and only very experienced martial artists understand how much is too much or too little with such a small window to prepare).
He even prepared some Grade A Connor McGregor style anti-Russian trash talk, but when we got there the Russians were all really cool, and we felt too awkward actually say it. However, it’s top shelf trash talk, and just so it isn’t lost to posterity, I’m going to say it here. And for background, Finland and Russia had a bitter Winter War a long time ago, and somehow Finland ended up winning. The Finn fighter said – “I wanted to give a big speech in Russian for your promotion, but I only know the same two Russian words every Finnish man is taught – RUKI VER!” This translates to ‘HANDS UP!'” and he points his fingers as guns…Priceless!
Our Team leader is the funny and charismatic Professor Svensson, but he runs a full-sized commercial gym (with attached Crossfit and Muay Thai programs) in addition to teaching classes, and things tend to go to hell without him there, so he told me to take the fight team. He also told me I was taking France to the fights. We don’t have names on our team; due to the unique international demographics of the gym, there is only one person from each country on the fight team, and you’re simply addressed by your country – the Finnish fighter is Finland, the French fighter is France, and I’m just America. Professor Svensson said he can’t be bothered to remember our names and we’re all pretty much the same anyway.
I said “Who is France? I’ve never met him”.
“He only does Muay Thai, you don’t know him.”
“What is his name?”
“I don’t know his name” said Svensson. “He is France.”
We all meet up at the fights, they’re hosted by Chok Chai Muay Thai (a beautiful facility by the way).
Gannon with Master Chok Chai.
There is a scary Russian pro with 50 fights that nobody wants to fight and a mixed bag of other fighters. There are some (actual Thai) Muay Thai fighters at the event and I saw their Thai coach shooting doubles on them and having them throw knees to the face with proper timing to stop him. I spoke to my fighters and had them make adjustments. It will be interesting to see when there gets to be enough money in MMA that the Thais really decide they want to start winning it, they’ve got an amazing tradition and tremendous training methodology, they’ll be a force if they want to be.
Our Russian, Anton, wins his first fight in textbook fashion –
Finland wins his first fight with similar brutal efficiency, but his opponent wasn’t a Russian, and Finland decides to fight the scary Russian nobody else will fight. “Gonna get myself a Russian!” he says on the video. Good to see him remembering his trash talk, if MacGregor taught us anything it’s that quality trash talk can really sell a fight.
Here is Finland vs. Russia –
In some historical irony, Finland loses Winter War to Russia due to intense heat. He just didn’t have the conditioning on one day’s notice to get another takedown in the hot Thai sun. On the plus side, Finland and Russia are neighbors, and they’re going to set up an official rematch, I’ll keep you posted.
Strelka lets you pick the rules you want to fight by – MMA, Muay Thai, or Boxing. France was Muay Thai only, but took a boxing match because he really wanted to fight and that was all that was available. Strelka boxing is pretty cool, it’s boxing plus body slams and hockey fighting…with 4-ounce gloves. And if you’re a fan of previous Strelka fights, France’s opponent was Drunk Boxer.
France became visibly frustrated when he kept getting clinched up and couldn’t knee (and was getting tattooed with 4-ounce gloves) but we improvised and I taught him how to hockey fight on the fly. This was an impressive piece of corner coaching considering they had no official round breaks. I had to grab people by the head, stuff them down and fake hit them till he got the picture. It was a tough fight, far from his element, but he gutted it out until both fighters were bleeding and they declared it a draw. This may not have been entirely fair considering his opponent took the fight with a big bandage on his head, but I’ll take what I can get.
France after fight, blood cleaned up.
We went 2-0 against another rival team, and our overall record of 2-1-1 (with only 3 fighters) was enough to make us the winningest team at the whole Strelka event. They also made me Special Guest and Master of Ceremonies when they found out who I was, which was really cool. Not bad for my first 2 months in Thailand.
Coach Gannon’s fighter executes a victory backflip as Master of Ceremonies Gannon bows and awards show money to the Thai kid.
Strelka has a really progressive fighter revenue sharing system based on youtube clicks, so please Share these fights with anyone you think might be interested, it really helps the fighters.
I’m not much of a drinker anymore, but when Finland and Russia called after we got home, there were few men I would rather drink with. And Chang beer is either the most incredible beer nobody in America has heard of, or no beer tastes better than on a hot day on a Patong beach after the fights.
Russia brought his beautiful Russian girlfriend to make the view better, and Finland (actual name Jasse’ Junkarri) turned out to be a really interesting guy, a real student of the game that has written extensively about martial arts in his native Finnish and would be right at home on the Underground. He gave permission to use one of his translated articles on the Underground, just so you can get a grasp on the caliber of martial arts mind we’re talking about. Another great day in Phuket with Maximum MMA!
“At Strelka, on the right, Anton “The Tourist” Kolotvin, on the left, some Russian Master of Sport that threw Gannon on his head before Gannon knew who he was.”
This referee is famous in Russia. he is like their Big John McCarthy.
Gannon with Strelka owner, an Old School fight promoter and real character.
At Maximum MMA, on Gannon’s right, Finland –Jasse‘ “The Winter Warrior” Junkkari, on the left, Russia – Anton “The Tourist” Kolotvin.