Wayne Bermudez hopes to usher in a new era of organized fighting Saturday..
Bermudez, the creator of the World Striking Challenge, will debut his mixed striking arts (MSA) tournament at Magic City Casino’s 305 Stage in Miami. MSA features fighters of all different styles in bouts centered on hand-to-hand combat, with takedowns and submissions not allowed.
“Everyone was asking for something different,” Bermudez said. “This will evolve the striking game. It’s going to open the doors for so many people.”
Bermudez is hoping to capitalize on the rising popularity of mixed martial arts. But his sport will focus on what he believes to be the most exciting aspect — two fighters standing up, exchanging blows. Kicks below the belt are allowed, including sweeps. But when a fighter hits the ground, he must get back on his feet. There can only be knockouts, no tapouts.
The event comes after two years of planning. Upon receiving permission from Florida’s boxing commission, Bermudez went to work designing the proper glove for his strikers. A year and a half later, he ended up with the MSA 5-ounce EVO glove, designed specifically for the sport.
The glove is padded nearly all the way to the fingertips, which are exposed. The thumb is covered to help prevent eye-poking. Most importantly, the glove is fixed in a nearly closed-fist position, only allowing fighters to strike.
The typical fight is five rounds of three minutes each, with championship bouts going eight rounds.
Saturday’s event features fighters from a host of different backgrounds ranging from wrestling to karate. Bermudez enlisted matchmaker Greg Bloom to help set up the matchups. The main event will pit “Super Duper” Bobby Cooper against Joe Ray.
“It’s a great idea, this whole concept of only striking,” Ray said. “It’s got a lot of life, it’s going to take off. [On Saturday] we’ll let it fly and see what happens.”
Ray trained for the bout in Thailand for six months, while Cooper worked with many other fighters in the Midwest. The night’s other big bout features Cyrus “Black Dynamite” Washington and Johnavan “The Immortal Warrior” Vistante.
For the future, Bermudez said he hopes to have fights every three months. And although Miami was always his ideal venue for the first fight, he also hopes “to take the show on the road.”
Saturday’s fighters seemed legitimately excited for the new sport. Washington, who has fought in three MMA matches since April, expects MSA to catch on quickly.
“I see striking arts to have the potential to be very big,” Washington said. “The main thing people want to see is guys standing and fighting.”