Photos by Rick Wilks, Primal Pixels Photography
A capacity crowd raised the roof at Grantham Meres Leisure Centre on Saturday 11 March, when 24 top professional kickboxers stepped up to showcase their skills in the UK’s first ever official Road To GLORY.
With contracts to compete on the GLORY stage at stake for three of the men taking part, the sell-out event attracted worldwide interest as over 100,000 fight fans watched the action unfold live on social media.
Featuring an explosive 8 Man Featherweight Tournament, three exciting Super Fights and an impressive five-fight undercard, the show was billed by promoter Suggy’s Gym in Newark as the biggest and best of its kind ever seen in the UK. And by the end of the evening there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it had lived up to all expectations.
Setting the scene for what was to come, the event began with the reserve match for the 8 Man Tournament. Although the fight was shaping up well, it came to a quick end as Elson Patrick from Leeds stopped Coventry’s Brett Healey in the first round.
A big win for Ireland’s Dawid Blaske against Jake Barton from Elite in Southport followed, then it was the turn of Suggy’s Gym debutant Jay Chadburn who went head to head with Spirit Dojo’s Jack Layton. With 200 followers in Grantham to support him, Jay was unlucky not to get a win from his first professional outing, with a split decision giving the victory to his vastly more experienced opponent.
Another close fight saw Leicester’s Fraser Weightman defeat Mateusz Duczmal from Bad Company in Leeds, then the final fight on the undercard brought Heavyweights Chris Cooper from Birmingham’s Fearless MMA and Scunthorpe Kickboxing Academy’s Rick Dale into the ring. With Rick seeming to struggle to get going, the three rounds ended in a win on points for Chris.
After all the fighters taking part in the hugely-anticipated 8 Man Tournament were introduced one by one into the ring ahead of their match-ups, the crowd rose to its feet to welcome local favourite Bailey ‘BadBoy’ Sugden for the first quarter-final. Drawn against Andrew Liddell from Stockton’s Contenders Gym, Bailey took it to his more mature opponent and landed some ferocious punches and knees.
The game plan was to stay in charge and not over-exert himself but, ever a crowd pleaser, Bailey landed a trademark Suggy’s Gym spinning heel kick to knock his opponent down in round two.
Clearly fancying the stoppage, Bailey piled on the pressure and, although Andrew fought back bravely, the Newark fighter was always a step ahead.
When a jumping knee kick from Bailey in the final round dropped Andrew to the canvas once more, the referee counted him out and Bailey progressed to the semi-final with a TKO victory after a spectacular performance for a man of his age.
The second quarter-final was between two international fighters, the highly-rated Adrian Maxim from Romania and Italy’s Matteo de Rosa. With a recent victory in a massive 4 Man event in China under his belt, the Romanian dominated all three rounds against a game opponent in Matteo, who had stepped into the tournament at late notice.
The third quarter final was an action-packed fight between another favourite, Southampton’s Mo Abdurahman, and the strong and super-fit Matt Gordon from Powers Martial Arts in Sheffield. With Mo using his reach advantage to dominate, this was an explosive affair but Matt was competing until he was caught with a knee to the head in the second round, leaving Mo through to the semis and eager to see who his next opponent would be.
In an equally explosive fourth quarter-final, Joe Himsworth – the tallest fighter in the tournament – was up against North East talent Gary Laws. Both fighters wasted no time, exchanging some big shots, but unfortunately for Gary his opponent came out on top after landing some heavy knees followed by some tremendous punching. With Joe taking the victory by TKO in the very first round, the next stage of the tournament promised to be even more exciting, as all four seeded fighters had progressed to the semi-finals.
After the interval, the action switched to the first Super Fight of the night, a Catchweight contest at 72kg between London’s Marcus Powell and Nottingham’s Ammari Deidrick. Although Ammari had failed to make weight, like a true professional Marcus accepted the fight, which a delighted Ammari went on to win by a unanimous points decision over his more experienced opponent.
Then it was back to the 8 Man Tournament, with Adrian Maxim going head to head with local boy Bailey Sugden who at just 19 years old was up against a 28-year old opponent with a record of 26 wins, 17 by KO, and only 7 defeats.
Undeterred by this, Bailey stuck to the game plan in the first round, looking to win all exchanges and use his speed and movement. With the first round in the bag for Bailey, Adrian brought out with his big guns in the second, taking charge and hitting Bailey with everything he had.
Despite looking tired and hurt, the Newark fighter never once faltered or looked as if he was going to stop. Fired up by the words of his brother Chad Sugden in the corner, he started the third round like a new man and proceeded to put it on Adrian, landing spinning back fists and punches to his opponent’s body and head.
Adrian began to showboat, dropping his hands as if to suggest he was unhurt which was the direct cause of his downfall. Taking advantage of this, Bailey was winning the round and, with no counts or knock downs, this was vital to the result. The Newark corner and the entire crowd waited eagerly for the decision after a fight which worthy of a final and also of the biggest stage in the world.
Bailey suffered a severe cut in the fight but when the decision was announced and he was declared the winner by a majority decision, the Newark camp was delighted – with a GLORY contract guaranteed, it was mission accomplished.
The second semi-final was a toe-to-toe slug fest as Joe Himsworth rocked Mo Abdurahman, before getting a little excited and getting caught. Unfortunately for Joe, he was unable to recover and carry on so Mo progressed to the final fresh after a TKO in the very first round.
The attention turned next to the two remaining Super Fights. First up was a Lightweight clash in which William Goldie-Galloway took on the UK’s Number 1 at 70kg, Vinny Church. Although the fight was evenly matched going into the second, William ‘One Bomb’ knocked out Vinny with a ferocious right hook. Both fighters were described as having bright futures by promoter Dean Sugden, who said he would have them both on the next show on Saturday 7 October, maybe in a 70kg tournament.
The third and final Super Fight was the biggest domestic clash for years, as multiple World Champion Kev Ward from Elite in Southport took on World Champion Jamie Bates from Masaac Masters in Durham.
After an extremely technical contest in which Jamie fought very well and executed a perfect game plan, he was declared the unanimous points winner and presented with a two-fight GLORY contract in the very talented Welterweight division.
The final of the 8 Man Tournament was always going to be the highlight for the fans and, with Bailey determined to try and take Mo out in the very first round despite going into it with a bad cut on the eyelid and obviously tired from his epic semi-final, it did not disappoint.
As Bailey took it to Mo and Mo returned with his own artillery in round one, it was easy to see why these two men are currently ranked Number 1 and Number 2 in the UK at 63.5kg.
Both fighters were loading up with heavy punches and halfway into the round there was a simultaneous count, with Mo hurt and reeling in the corner and Bailey taking a knee. Making the better recovery, Bailey went straight for the kill and began to put Mo under tremendous pressure, forcing another count on his opponent.
Being very aware of the three standing count rule, which would have finished the fight, Bailey was right back on Mo who was saved by the bell at the end of the round.
Having given it his all, Bailey was now faced with getting through to the final bell. Although Mo threw everything at him, he was unable to hurt Bailey and the Newark fighter was always dangerous, despite being under tremendous fire power in the second and third rounds.
Unsure how the first round would be scored with a double knock down and then a further count for Mo, everyone waited in silence to see which man’s hand would be raised. After what Malcolm Martin, fight commentator for over 35 years, described as ‘quite simply the best fight I have ever seen’, the announcement was made and Exile Gym’s Mo Abdurahman was the winner by unanimous decision.
In the ring to present the winner’s cheque for £2,000 and the much-coveted contracts for two-fight GLORY deals to both Mo and Bailey, Head of Talent and Managing Director of GLORY Sports International Cor Hemmers praised the standard of the promotion and the quality of the fights, saying: “We could scout some great potential talent for a GLORY future here.”
Speaking after the fight, Bailey said: “I’m delighted to be fighting for GLORY now. This will allow me to focus solely on fighting and testing my skills on the highest level.
“There is talk of me making my GLORY debut in New York at the iconic Madison Square Garden – just how great would that be? Chad was lucky enough to fight in Las Vegas but New York would match that.
“As for the tournament, I was disappointed not to win the whole thing but Mo is a great fighter and I’d love to fight him fresh and not after six hard rounds of fighting. We will be supporting each other on GLORY but at the same time we’ll be competitors looking to climb the Featherweight rankings.”
Suggy’s Gym head coach Dean Sugden added: “We’ve been promoting shows for 17 years but this was by far the best event we have ever put on. Not only did it make history by being the first of its kind in the UK, with a full house in attendance and over 100,000 people across the world watching live, it’s already attracted widespread interest from TV and other media.
“It’s a great achievement for everyone at Suggy’s Gym and has cemented our standing as world class. But the icing on the cake was Bailey’s performance and now he follows in the footsteps of his brother Chad with a GLORY contract. For me as a dad, to have three sons achieve what they have is just incredible and I would like to thank their mum and my wife Karen, whose support throughout has been amazing and unconditional.”