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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

MMA fighter Seo Hee Ham's Train out of Busan

Seo Hee Ham's Train out of Busan 
by rick olivares

Martial arts and Korea goes hand in hand. It is even said that it dates back to the pre-historic times as Koreans have had to protect themselves against constant invasions from neighbouring tribes and countries. Everyone knows how to fight so it is no surprise when Seo Hee Ham took up taekwondo at an early age. 

"At first, I wanted to learn Taekwondo from the gym,” related the female mixed martial arts fighter in a conversation with this writer. "But the Taekwondo gym where I visited also taught kickboxing so that’s how I got to practice both taekwondo and kickboxing." 

"It was at first to learn self-defense and then to compete and see the world."

A career as a mixed martial arts fighter has afforded Ham a trip out of Busan. Not to say that she wants out of the sprawling city of 4.6 million that effectively makes up South Korea’s second largest. It is home, after all. As a fighter, however, she dreams of moving up the food chain of MMA outfits. 

She’s fought in Japanese promotions Deep, Smackgirl, Jewels, and Gladiator as well as her hometown outfit ROAD FC. However, with all due respect, that’s the minor league system, to borrow a baseball connotation. And since 2014, Ham is now in the world’s top MMA promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). “As a competitor, you want to test yourself against the best and keep improving,” said Ham. "Unfortunately, the UFC hasn’t been a smooth ride." 

Ham came into the UFC in 2014 with a 15-5 record. In three fights thus far, she’s a lackluster 1-2, sandwiching a win with two losses.

"Fighting in the cage is always tough,” reflected Ham. "But fighting in the UFC Octagon is much tougher since UFC is the world’s top MMA organization. I’m a type of person who doesn’t dwell on defeat. My primary objective is to enjoy the fight. However, I will be lying if I said I’m not at all pressured by the possibility of being kicked out of the UFC after a losing streak.” 

All three UFC fights - against Joanne Calderwood, Cortney Casey, and Bec Rawlings - have gone the way of the judges’ scorecards. Reflecting on them, Ham opined, "My initial thought was that it’s a high wall to climb to survive in a global stage and I feel this through my whole body. But I think I’m getting better and better by each fight. I'm focusing on developing my power and strength during training."

On October 15, 2016, for UFC Fight Night Manila: Lamas Vs Penn (at the Mall of Asia Arena), Ham will take on American counterpart Danielle “Dynamite” Taylor in a Strawweight bout. The match is the very first Women’s UFC bout in the Philippines and she can add Manila to her passport. 

“I am just enjoying the preparation,” summed up Ham with barely a month left before her dateline in Manila. "I’m aiming to survive in the UFC, and hope to enjoy more fights with more fighters. From my knowledge, contract renewal is up to the UFC, not the fighters.” 

A win and she’ll most likely stay in the UFC. A loss? That’s tough. Unthinkable but eminently possible. She hopes not because the 29-year old Seo Hee Ham could be taking that train back to Busan.

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