Karate Combat returns Thursday night (September 27) with an eight-fight event which – in a first for any combat sport – will take place on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center in New York City.
The first two bouts, Gabrielle Cera vs Fernando Paz and Mathus Silva vs Edgar Skrivers, will be exclusive to UFC FIGHT PASS. The rest of the event will be also be live on UFC FIGHT PASS, along with Karate.com and other platforms.
That the new promotion chose to hold a fight event 1,700ft above the streets of Manhattan is not nearly as surprising as you’d expect, given that the promotion in question is Karate Combat. Since in inaugural just seven months ago, the organization has prided itself on putting on events in unusual and exotic locations, including Budapest, a neon-lit harbor in Miami and, most recently, the historic Zappeion in Athens, Greece.
Beyond the locations, though, the fights themselves are also strikingly different from what combat sports fans are used to. Adapting karate traditions and molding them into a single, full-contact sport, Karate Combat fights are lightning-paced blurs of striking, throws and ground and pound that is markedly different to MMA, kickboxing or Thai boxing.
Thursday’s main event is a collision between KO artists Abdalla Ibrahim and Dionicio Gustavo. Both welterweights smashed their previous opponents to defeat inside 60 seconds at Karate Combat: Inception in February.
And UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten, returning again as color commentator, can’t wait to see it.
“This is a great main event,” the former UFC heavyweight champion said from New York. “Both guys are aggressive and have knockout power. This will be explosive – a knockout can happen at any point and I expect it will come very quickly.”
Gustavo is a native of the Dominican Republic and a two-time Pan-American karate gold medalist. In a story that echoes that of many great fighters, martial arts gave him a way out of a dangerous childhood (he was shot as a child). Now aged 35 and recognized as a national hero back home, the Shitoryu black belt sees Karate Combat as a final frontier to conquer after almost three decades winning at national and international level.
Meanwhile his opponent, the Egyptian born Ibrahim, is only 24-years-old but has also represented his country in international competition. Having recently moved to Brooklyn, Ibrahim is augmenting his Shotokan- based striking skills by training with kickboxers and Thai fighters.
Rutten said: “We’re seeing a lot of this already since Karate Combat started this year. The jump from semi-contact, where punches and kicks are only half-power, to full Karate Combat is a big one. It’s a shock to the system, the timing is different, the speed is different and even the balance required is different.
“If you miss a headkick in semi-contact, you can put your foot right back down where you kicked from… but as you see in MMA and kickboxing, Muay Thai etc, if you miss at full power you do a 360 spin. That takes practice, to spin and not lose your balance, and so the Karateka are training with kickboxers, Thai fighters and even boxers to get the timing right.”
The result is a brand new sport which is developing its own cadence at a speed not seen since the first UFC fighters began to cross-train various styles to prepare for the Octagon 25 years ago.
“Karate Combat is its own sport,” Rutten said. “It is separate and (apart) from the striking you see anywhere else in combat sport. In MMA, everyone is trying to copy the UFC, but no-one is going to do what the UFC does. Karate Combat is doing its own thing, and that’s why I think it is so exciting.”
Karate Combat: One World begins on UFC FIGHT PASS at 7pm ET/4pm PT.