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20th Sep 2015

OPINION: How BAMMA 22 peaked, fell and was marred by a few drunken idiots

It was going so well

Darragh Murphy

It was all going so well.

BAMMA 22 was reaching ‘perfect card’ levels of entertainment just before the main card got underway but as the TV cameras clicked on, something happened. In both the cage and the crowd.

It was around 8:45 PM that the event plateaued, just as the eight main card fighters finished up their last-minute preparations.

Catherine Costigan v Celine Haga felt like the turning point in the evening as fans got drunker, tempers got frayed and the mood dropped a little in the arena.


But before we talk about the negatives, first we should praise the quality of the early fights.

The finishes were coming thick and fast as the prelims sped by and it wasn’t until the fifth fight that the judges were required and even that shouldn’t have been the case so dominant was Tim Wilde over Stephen Coll.

If Wilde had finished Coll, which he certainly could have and should have, then the first 11 fights of BAMMA 22 would not have gone to the scorecards. That’s an insane stoppage percentage.

When Kane Mousah beat Myles Price via decision, quite a few in press row thought ‘well we’ve had our fill of finishes, the decisions will start piling up now.’

But that couldn’t have been further from the truth as the three fights that proceeded the Mousah victory resulted in three of the best knockouts that you’re ever going to see as Marc Diakiese, Paul Byrne and Jack McGann all finished in some style.

Then came the main card.

Catherine Costigan never got going as she was outgrappled by late stand-in Celine Haga and you could genuinely feel the enthusiasm leave the arena as the Norwegian’s hand was raised.

It was around this time that rumours began circulating that there had been a number of fan brawls in the foyer of the 3Arena and the crowd trouble was confirmed when the Gardaí showed up but, having not seen anyone arrested, I can’t comment definitively on what happened.

The mood was most definitely shifting.

You don’t like to say any fight was “the worst” but Alan Philpott v Regis Sugden frustrated the fans as neither fighter seemed like they really wanted to engage.

It felt more like a Taekwondo demonstration than a professional mixed martial arts fight and the annoyance of the crowd became abundantly audible.

Chris Fields dejected after the fight 19/9/2015

And as if Costigan’s defeat hadn’t flattened the atmosphere enough, Irish fans were left exasperated when Chris Fields lost via submission to Christopher Jacquelin.

The frustration didn’t stem from any animosity towards Jacquelin but from the fact that the fight should have been over earlier as the French fighter seemingly tapped out when caught in a kimura by Fields.

Referee Marc Goddard failed to recognise it as the “tap” came in a transition but it was pretty noticeable from where I was sitting that that fight should have been waved off way before the eventual triangle that caught Fields.

So the Irish fans were incensed by the time the main event rolled around but they didn’t have any nationalistic vested interest in the featherweight title showdown as there was a French champion defending against an English challenger.

It seemed to be the travelling English fans who were left most annoyed when Brendan Loughnane lost out on a split to decision to Tom Duquesnoy in the main event and they expressed this annoyance by throwing objects into the cage.

I should say that I wasn’t blown away by the fact that Duquesnoy was given the victory as it was a pretty close fight and either guy could well have won it.

I should also say that I believe it was the English fans who voiced their frustration at Loughnane’s defeat by hurling missiles into the cage. Some Irish fans could well have gotten involved but, from where I was sitting, it seemed to be the travelling support who were most pissed off.

Bottles went flying as security guards, the announcer and both fighters’ cornermen attempted to calm proceedings.

Nothing got out of hand, to be fair, and it was just empty water bottles and plastic pint glasses being thrown rather than arena seats being ripped up and tossed through the air.

But it was still horrible to see.

Only a few hours after the joy we all got through seeing a huge crowd filter in for a non-UFC MMA event, the card ended in chaos and dragged back the whole “MMA fans are nothing but apelike, mindless, bloodthirsty idiots,” theory.

I want to make clear that this wasn’t BAMMA’s fault. They had the security in place to deal with any rumblings of hassle and I’m sure all troublemakers were removed quickly and discreetly.

But what it does do is raise some concern about the promotion’s next trip to the capital which is BAMMA 24 in February – a card whose theme is Ireland v England.

Maybe not such a good idea!

It shouldn’t matter and in an ideal world, English fans and Irish fans would unite in their love for the sport but we have to be realistic.

There’s not a chance in hell that an event featuring Irish fighters taking on English fighters will go off without a hitch in terms of crowd trouble.

It’s a shame but it’s just how it is.