Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Bleachers Brew: Pinoy MMA's challenges & the return of Saucony

Eric Kelly talks about his MMA challenges.
This appears in the Monday, April 4, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Pinoy MMA & the return of Saucony
by rick olivares

During a press lunch for the upcoming One Championship: Global Rivals MMA event held at the Kamayan sa Edsa this past Thursday, May 31, Filipino fighter Eric Kelly was asked why he couldn’t train in one particular gym and his unsuccessful efforts to train and learn more in Brazil.

Kelly who sports a 12-2 fight record heading into the April One Championship event against Russian Timofey Nastyukhin, said that he wishes he had government support after all he represents the country every time he steps inside a MMA cage. The Baguio City native clarified that he wasn’t asking for doleouts but funding not only for him but also other fighters to train and subsist abroad such as training in Brazil that has become a hotbed for MMA.

As much as I want Kelly and every other fighter to succeed, my gut feel was I thought it was wrong to point to the government for any lack of support. If everyone claimed that they are representing the country in some endeavour then our coffers would swiftly be depleted.

Just to be sure, I spoke with the Philippine Sports Commission’s (PSC) Jose Luis “Jolly" Gomez and the Philippine Olympic Committee’s (POC) Jose “Joey" Romasanta to get their thoughts about the matter.

Said Gomez, “Regarding sports like mixed martial arts, the PSC works with budgets as we budget for National Sports Associations (NSAs) that are a part of the POC. There are so many fringe sports that constantly ask for our help but we refer them first to the POC that has a better grip on the lay of the land with sports.”

“Case in point, American Football. Some United States-educated persons want to organize a league that plays the sport. They visited me at the office and refered them to the POC. They did their paperwork and are now they are recognized. We can fund them although it is quite small when compared to the more established NSAs.”

“MMA is a professional sport and doesn’t fall under the PSC,” clarified Gomez. “That falls under the Games and Amusements Board (GAB). However, a lot of our athletes from wrestling, wushu, Muay Thai and similar sports in which we invest money and fund for many years are enticed by MMA to turn pro and try to make some money. We end up losing a national athlete who we invested a lot of money in. This is the reality of government-funded programs.” 

Romasanta agreed with Gomez but also added, “Right now, the martial arts under the POC include boxing, Muay Thai, judo, ju-jitsu, karate, taekwondo, wrestling, and wushu. MMA hasn’t been categorized as an Olympic sport. Just to clarify, American Football was given special recognition status and isn’t a full member yet. MMA is very popular all over the world but right now, it is a professional sport where athletes compete as individuals and not for the country. But who knows what can happen? If it is accepted in the Olympics then we will help the sport.”

We asked Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao whose fight club is one of the most bemedalled in the country in terms of MMA about this and he agreed, “We are crossing our fingers that MMA will eventually become an Olympic sport. In the meantime, we exist because of our own efforts and through limited corporate sponsorship.”

While working with Solar Sports from 2006-09, I recall that we had problems trying to get advertising for UFC and URCC similarly. Sponsors deemed the sport as too violent. MMA is much bigger now with many fighters now transcending the sport which is why we are seeing more and more events taking place in the Philippines.

I believe the sport, for all its popularity, is in its infancy, at least here in this country. The sport is in the process of changing minds, notions, and perspectives of people. Eric Kelly, unfortunately, belongs to this early wave of fighters (and organizers like Alvin Aguilar) who are paving the way. He knows he’s getting in on the years but here’s hoping that he is able to ride the wave when the sport rides the big time waves.

- 0 - 

When I was invited to attend the launch of the Saucony X West NYC shoe at SneakPeek (at the Edsa Shangri La East Wing) this Saturday afternoon, I knew I was not going to turn it down.

I wore this shoe during my grade school days for my Physical Education classes and while training with the Ateneo track and field team. It was my first running shoe ever!

I sort of lost track of the shoe over the years as I opted for more flashier kicks until I settled down for more simpler footwear in the last decade or so.

I was chatting with Anton Lasquety, Brand Manager of Saucony during the launch and imagine my surprise when he told me that  was now more than a running shoe but it was also considered a leisure shoe. As sneakerheads call them, “athleisure.”

And the new Saucony shoe is a collaboration with that famed New York shoe boutique NYC West for what is called the Saucony X West NYC Shadow 90 “Saltwater” that pays homage to saltwater fishing! This shoe is painted in a bold purple and pink colorway with the outsole, lining, and side panels greatly inspired by the brightly colored hues of the morning activity that is fishing.

While I like the approach to the new shoe, I prefer another version that hasn’t been released locally and that’s the “Freshwater” pair with earthen colors more to my palette. I think its perfect whether as a casual show or when in use for water-related activities.

The Saucony X West NYC Shadow 90 retails for PhP 6,995 and can be purchased at SneakPeek stores at the Shangri La Plaza East Wing, Bluebay Walk, Eastwood Citywalk, Ayala Center Cebu, Ronac Art Center, Marquee Mall, and Solenad 3 in Nuvali.

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