Wanna fight? As previously mentioned, Freestyle Combat League recently launched a website with three videos for download. An offshoot of UCW-Wrestling, FCL promises submission grappling, collegiate-style wrestling, and boxing, all played for real, no gimmicks, no ball grabbing, no clowning around, no promoter-picked winners and losers. Speedos are the one obvious concession to kink tastes like mine, but two strong athletes in focused, serious contention with each other would hold a powerful allure for me even if they were dressed neck to ankles in polo shirts and chinos. Like UCW, FCL touts its working-class creds: "Hardworking men, who want to blow off some steam and prove they have what it takes to stand up to another man and never back down from a challenge!" I'm in! You had me at "hard"!
The pilot and purported inspiration for the whole shebang (#0001) pits FCL co-owner Axel against Aron in a submission bout, surrounded by the familiar (if not iconic) UCW blue tarps. Both fighters can boast of extensive training and some competitive experience in wrestling and other martial arts. Both are young, smooth, long-legged boy-next-door types, with a quiet earnestness about their passion for the manly arts of self-defense. This is a lot like the old NHB-Battle, which vanished a little over a year ago. This match features 10-minute rounds, with interviews before and after. For obvious reasons of safety and, well, the real limits of human bodies, this and the other two releases are slightly shorter than UCW's grueling, marathon-length matches, and, for even more obvious reasons, less theatrical. Every second of it is real: two rough and hardy grapplers determined to find out who's the best on the mat ... legitimately.
The tarps disappear for the next number (#0002), leaving us the bare gray concrete blocks of UCW's garage studio. This contest pits hot young Simba (in blue) against Clay (in yellow), a bigger and deadlier fighter, in a five-round gloves-on boxing match (in Speedos). Simba has the upper body for the sport (miles of it), so far the sweetest eye-candy at FCL, and at first he seems distressingly unprepared for a pugilist of Clay's caliber. Complicating matters and adding some color by way of trash talk, Eli Black is the ref for the event. Boxing has never held the appeal for me that wrestling has, yet it does carry a certain fascination. My ambivalence about boxing centers on its explosive violence, which simultaneously attracts and repels me. Don't expect the kind of ab-punch porn you find elsewhere. Neither of these guys is going to stand still for long enough to let his opponent get free shots at his gut, and as in ring boxing the outcome hinges on strategy and mental agility as much as strength and stamina, hence the sport's reputation as the "sweet science" and "sport of kings."
The third release (#0003) takes us back to submission grappling, with Joey Cantrell (in blue trunks) taking on Brian (in green). Clay, from the previous video, steps in as the ref this time. Back in March Joey told me, "I have always been a street fighter at heart. I sort of got into a lot of fights when I was younger." No wonder then that Axel Lee and Michael Tovar tapped him for one of FCL's first releases. His opponent is new to me, new to everybody. A little shorter than Joey, but more sturdily built, Brian vows "to bring him down to my level." It's not an exaggeration to say that, in the opening interviews, Brian's eyes burn with sociopathic intensity, and he steps on the mat with considerably more cock-sureness than Joey brings, and takes a fast, early lead over him in Round 1. Like Simba and Clay, Brian is a new face that's sure to draw fans. His stealthy menace and surprising strength against the more experienced Joey are what put the freckled, ginger-haired grappler over for me. I hope we see more of him in the company's upcoming issues.
As if to attest to FCL's authenticity, the third match ends in an injury. It does not stop the fight, but it just might be decisive. The company's initial outputs show promise and pack a wallop. I'm especially excited about the participation of Axel and Eli in this enterprise, whose presence enhances the company's credibility and prospects of success. And all the new guys look like they have the makings of underground stardom, especially (I would say) Brian. Simba's got the body-beautiful to attract a bevy of fans, too, but it's Brian who stands out as the eye of the storm, stony quiet and spooky hungry.