IT’S been three years since the Universal Reality Combat Championships invaded Cebu, generally considered the Mecca of boxing in our country.

So far, there have been four installments featuring mixed-martial arts matches and the crowds remain to be relatively sparse compared to those in boxing events.

But arguably—thanks also to the popularity of its American counterpart shown on TV, the UFC—the sport has caught on with most of its devoted followers coming from the younger demographics.

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Chances are, your teenage son will know what a kimura is, while you on the other hand, will mistake it for that Japanese dish (which is the wifey’s favorite, by the way).

URCC 5. This weekend, URCC 5: “Deliverance” hits us at the CICC on Jan.15 at 8 p.m.

I think its aptly titled as it is about time a local fighter steps up to make a statement. I have always maintained that a young sport needs a few flagship fighters to help sell it, as opposed to it being the continuing enclave of an esoteric few.

Last year, I featured Cary Bullos in my column, who was touted to be a possible candidate. This young man from Lapu-lapu holds the record for fastest knockout in URCC history, but at URCC 3, he was bested by Lino Tagacay.

Bullos will fight again this Saturday against Arie Zarco of Team Benibe MMA Manila. (Note: As I was about to email this, I got word that Cary will not be able fight this weekend due to medical reasons)

Zarco, you will recall was dominated by Sabah Fadai at URCC 15 (Manila). Fadai is another Cebu-based fighter with an awesome stand-up game from the CJRS Gym, who has the potential to be the sport’s local flagship fighter.

BOXING LESSON. Back in the early ‘90s, when boxing patron Antonio “ALA” Aldeguer solidified his benefaction of the sport, several local fighters stepped up to capture the public’s attention and adulation.

Gerry Peñalosa, Edito Villamor readily come to mind. Regardless of their contrasting fortunes in the international stage, still they were the local gods of the sweet science. The fans came in droves to pack the stadiums and at least keep the marketing and financial aspect of the sport alive.

For mixed martial arts, the sport’s long term health will be determined by the emergence of a local star that will keep the fans glued to their seats and their eyeballs to the television sets.

PILOTO. Enter Engie “The Destroyer” Piloto, a policeman was defeated by Mark Eddiva at URCC 4. Controversy erupted post-fight as Engie’s camp complained of excessive wax on Eddiva’s body which allegedly gave the latter an unfair advantage.

Some insiders have opined that —wax or no wax— Eddiva was too much for Engie. But the latter thinks otherwise.

He will be up against Richie Redman of Iloilo. Prior to the Eddiva defeat, Piloto won ten straight mixed martial arts fights and is hell bent on redeeming himself.

Step up to the plate and deliver, Engie.

PRESS RELEASES. Tickets for URCC V are pegged at P1,000 (VIP Seating), P500 Upper Box, and P300 General Admission. Tickets are available at LOFT Restaurant & Lounge (Asiatown IT Park) and BISTRO Ecila (The Terraces, Ayala Center Cebu). Call 238-0532 for details. 

On Jan. 16, it will be the turn of Fearless and Extreme Combat Sports to hold its own mixed martial arts event called “Cage of Vengeance” at the Mango Square Mall, 7 p.m.

The protagonists will be fighting inside an Octogon, with live bands interspersing the matches. Tickets are available at the site.

LAST ROUND. It’s on a dear friend, Marie Blance Regual-Braun who recently celebrated her birthday. Cheers!

(jingo_quijano@yahoo.com)