ALVIN AGUILAR, outspoken URCC CEO, on longevity, international growth, and the competition

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The Universal Reality Combat Championship has cemented itself as the longest-running Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the Philippines and one of the earliest MMA institutions in Asia. Since its inception in 2002, the URCC has put on a combined fifty major and provincial events in the Philippines, producing some world-class Filipino talents like Dave Galera, Eduard Folayang, Eric Kelly, Honorio Banario, Kevin Belingon, and many other brilliant fighters. They have also played host to international fighters who became superstars, like UFC’s Zhang TieQuan and Will Chope, and TUF Coach Ao HaiLin.

The URCC has witnessed not only the rise of top notch fighters, but also the growth of MMA camps in the Philippines. DEFTAC, Sprawl, Yaw Yan, Submission Sport Philippines and numerous other teams have all developed top talents in the URCC.  MMA powerhouse Team Lakay is currently at the top of the food chain considering the number of title holders they have produced and their expansion across the country, from new gyms to number of active fighters.

This year, the URCC has held three provincial shows and as of this writing, one major show.  On 30 November 2013, at the SMX Convention Center in Manila, they will stage their 24th installment and their second major show of the year tagged as “Uprising”.  The card will feature a Superfight between hometown hero Eric “The Natural” Kelly versus one of Xi’An Sports’ standouts Jianbo Lu.  The current URCC Heavyweight Champion Igor Subora pits his title against the returning heavyweight legend Marcus Valda, and URCC Featherweight Champion Ricardo Sapno looks to keep his title against Deftac’s Red Romero.

Ahead of “Uprising”, MMA-in-ASIA’s Zike Sugawara caught up with outspoken URCC Founder and CEO Alvin Aguilar regarding the upcoming “Uprising”. He also attested the longevity of his promotion to open business practices and honest accountability in comparison to what he hinted at are less than such from other promotions participating in the sport in the Philippines. Aguilar also gives his impression of the growth of MMA in the Philippines and across Asia, including the UFC’s impending Southeast Asia entrance.

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Zike: Can you give us your thoughts on your upcoming show on November 30th and how you developed the card?

Alvin: This is called the URCC 24 “Uprising”. We always get the best fighters here in our country. Everybody who is really in the know in the Philippines knows that if you’re not in the URCC then you are not the best. So we are all really very excited for this card. Every match has the potential to be fight of the night. We have two titles on the line, a superfight and lastly part three of the famed rivalry between DEFTAC and Submission Sport. Surround this with fights of the best upcoming fighters in their respective weight classes and you have our fight card. Tickets have been selling really fast and I am happy that unlike the other promotions here we do not give away thousands of tickets to fill our arenas.

Zike: What was your reasoning behind choosing Lu as Kelly’s first opponent for his return to the URCC?

Alvin: Eric never left the URCC. We “loan” our fighters out to other promotions if we feel that they will get added exposure that will be good for them. Some promotions do shady stuff when we “loan” them out like try to sign them even when they have live contracts… but in the end they all fail. We chose Lu as his opponent as he is a complete fighter very much like Eric. He is a national kickboxing champion who can knock you out with his hands or feet. He also actively trains in BJJ and has a blue belt plus also trains extensively in wrestling. So this is basically a fight between very complete fighters. We are all really looking forward to this. We try to give our champions the toughest opponents out there always.

Zike: Aside from Kelly versus Lu, what are the other match ups that excite you?

Alvin: Where do I start? All the matches actually do – seriously – and this is not me just plugging my event! Red versus Sapno, Marcus versus Igor, Ali versus Adrian – all the matches here really kick ass.

Zike: Is URCC 24 going to be streamed live?

Alvin: Yes, but only in selected areas.

Zike: Can you discuss your plans for and the progress of your amateur league, the Academy Fighting Championship?

Alvin: The AFC is now the biggest amateur MMA tournament in Asia. I am really happy about its progress as by the time our fighters become pros and go to the URCC, they will have been veterans of many MMA wars. We have been having events every month, and on some months we even hold two events.

Zike: What are your plans for the URCC in 2014?

Alvin: Expand worldwide and make the URCC as best as it can be. You will see in 2014.

Zike: There has been more talk about the URCC planning to do events outside of the Philippines since you spoke of this earlier with MMA-in-ASIA.  Are there any updates on when this will happen? 

Alvin: Yes, you will be seeing us around the world next year. This will open up more opportunities for our countrymen. I am so excited for this!

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Zike:  Growth is one indicator of success.  To what else do you credit the URCC’s success?

Alvin: Well, first is we started this movement from scratch here in the Philippines. We weren’t like every other MMA promotion that was like “Hey, let’s try copy that UFC thing we watched and put up our own event”. We actually had so many matches like that way before the UFC was around. We have the stories, scars, videos and court cases to prove this!  [laughs]  We also are all fighters and martial artists ourselves that train everyday right up to today. The other promotions are just some guys who want to make money with no ties to the martial arts. This is also why we stand out in the community here because we are part of what we started.

The URCC also was the result of so many people helping us because they believed in what we stood for. There are so many well wishers and friends who helped us unconditionally. This also put us above the rest. What other promotions have to pay people for, we get it as help from so many people.

We don’t claim to be anything. We are what we are and the fans know that. We have the best fighters in the country which is why all these “Mickey Mouse” promotions try to pirate them or bring us down – keep trying! We will continue to do this well and continue to get bigger and better.

Lastly, which I think the most important is that we have real fans who have been with us from the underground more than a decade ago today. We do not give thousands of tickets away and say we are the largest. Fans buy our tickets and support us because they know regardless of whatever hype and BS is being spewed by others, the URCC is the “real deal”. So also as a parting shot, I would like to thank all the URCC fans: thank you so much! We continue to get bigger and better because of your support!

Zike: What your thoughts on the tremendous growth of MMA in the Philippines and in Asia over the past decade?

Alvin: When we first started MMA in the Philippines, everybody laughed and said that would never work in our country. The same people who laughed at the URCC are now the same people trying to make a buck capitalizing on the success and awareness the URCC gave regarding MMA to the Philippines. With the structure we have in place in the Philippines, we are sure that we will produce lots of new fighters! Around Asia, it is expanding rapidly but not as fast as it should be and we should always be wary of crooked and dishonest promoters who can harm the sport.

Zike: UFC will have their first-ever event in Singapore in January. Give us your thoughts about UFC coming to Asia and a possible event next year in the Philippines.

Alvin: This is awesome as that makes the pie of MMA even bigger everywhere. More publicity means more opportunities for everybody. Every MMA fighter wants to be in the UFC.  See you guys November 30, URCC24 Uprising – BAKBAKAN NA!