TEN years can make quite a difference, especially for Malaysia’s mixed martial arts (MMA) scene.
One athlete who has been in the sport for almost a decade is Sabah’s AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansor.
The 43-year-old who made his professional debut in 2011 at Malaysia Full Contact Martial Arts said with newly elected president Rashid Salleh in charge, things will start to look more promising for the local scene.
“The Malaysian Mixed Martial Arts Association (MASMMAA) is something we’ve always needed and with him on board, things can surely get better,” said the Borneo Tribal Squad owner.
He added: “The scene is getting bigger. We have so many martial arts tournaments in Malaysia, one for every sport, boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, karate and I’m so happy to see this because when I started, I had to fly overseas just to compete,” he said in a sad tone.
AJ recalled his debut and said nearly ten years on, things have improved tremendously.
“During my debut against Keanu Subba, I think the referee was Melvin Yeoh (former ONE Championship athlete).”
“I laugh at times when I think back because it shows we’ve grown quite a long way. Especially with MASMMAA to back us up and big organizations like ONE Championship getting even stronger in Malaysia.”
“I’m really proud to be part of this and pave way for the younger generation right now. Seeing them train puts a smile in my heart,” AJ confessed.
In end-November, actor Rashid Salleh was appointed as President of MASMMAA, an association in place to create awareness and develop the sport in Malaysia.
Salleh has been active in the local industry, having worked with Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts (MIMMA) for several years.
The association will also provide welfare to all MMA athletes.
Among the welfare officers on board are ONE Championship's Peter Davis, Agilan “Alligator” Thani and Saiful “Vampire” Merican.
Another Malaysian hero who echoed the same sentiments is Saiful.
The 30-year-old said at MASMMAA, they want to make sure every aspect of the sport is taken care off.
“We are going to do it in a proper way. We’ve had three meetings for now, and things are looking brighter for the younger athletes,” the ONE Bantamweight athlete said.
“We are trying to get all the gyms to get together for the MMA community. The sport is growing bigger, but the business owners need to get together to ensure the word is spread out."
Former ONE Championship Featherweight athlete Melvin “Overkill” Yeoh also poured his thoughts, saying that he has a lot of confidence in MASMMAA and its new president Rashid Salleh.
“I have a lot of faith in the new committee, especially Salleh. I believe he will do the right thing and step up the game for the local scene.
Yeoh, who is ONE Atomweight athlete, Jihin “Shadowcat” Radzuan’s head coach said that MASMMAA could benefit athletes in the long run.
“During my era, there wasn’t any organization but we did okay. Some organizations had certain rules set but MASMMAA focuses on building more local quality officials, staff, trainers which will benefit athletes in the long run,” the 37-year-old stressed.