Las Vegas, Nevada – On Saturday, September 29, 2007, World Grappling Games hosted the first annual “Quest for the Best” Submission Grappling Championships at the world-famous Mr. Olympia exposition in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.Las Vegas, Nevada – On Saturday, September 29, 2007, World Grappling Games hosted the first annual “Quest for the Best” Submission Grappling Championships at the world-famous Mr. Olympia exposition in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the first time a Submission Grappling event has ever been hosted as part of the Mr. Olympia festivities, which allowed the Submission Grappling scene to further cement its mark on the masses of mainstream health and fitness enthusiasts who were in attendance at the colossal mall-like facility of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Located just off the Las Vegas Strip, this WGG promotion took center stage as the weekend’s premier sporting event in Las Vegas, sandwiched comfortably between the “Florian vs. Thomas” UFC event 10 days prior and the “Pacquiao vs. Barrera” boxing event 7 days later. Some of jiu-jitsu and submission grappling’s finest showed up to compete, while others showed up to show their support and coach their teammates and students. Just as important, many more up-and-comers, children, and teens in the sport attended either to get their feet wet in the sport of competitive Submission Grappling for the very first time or to further hone their skills on the mat, as they continue on their quest to be the best at this sport.
The event started with the kids, children, and teen divisions, followed nicely with the first Superfight, before the Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced divisions began. Next came the second Superfight, which was followed by the Advanced division finals. The first Superfight of the day was between local Cobra Kai Academy teammates Simpson Go and Sonny Nohara. These two young featherweight phenoms are brown-belts in jiu-jitsu under the “American Ronin” himself Marc Laimon. To those familiar with these two grappling studs, they thought they would be in store for nothing more than a friendly grappling demonstration between two of the finest 140-pounders in the country. However, just because they are close friends and training partners, things aren’t always as they seem in this sport, and this match would prove to be no different. Simpson was born in the Philippines and had his hotty girlfriend in attendance. Sonny was born in Hawaii and had his wife and baby daughter at home. This was a battle of the islands, Philippines vs. Hawaii at its finest, and neither man dared return to their woman a defeated man in this Battle of the Pacific!
Simpson “Pekinese” Go vs. Sonny “Boy” Nohara
This match started off with fireworks! As Sonny put on his trademark colors in a green and gold rasta-man colored ankle band, he tossed Sim the red and white one, only to bean him in the head accidentally! Or was it?! Marc Laimon made sure this gesture did not go unnoticed and began razzing Sim by saying, “OooOooo are you gonna take that? Did you see what he just did??” As Sim, Sonny, and the surrounding crowd laughed, one had to wonder if Sim had plans to settle the matter once the match began! That is when Sim removed his hooded sweatshirt, sporting a sleeveless OTM rash guard, which immediately prompted Laimon to have the referee inspect Sim for a concealed weapon’s permit before the match began, due to Sim giving everyone in attendance two free tickets to the gun show!
The two combatants touched hands and began the match with a bang. Sim came at Sonny like a spider monkey! This instantly showed us that he didn’t like being punk’d with that 1/2 oz. cotton ankle band, whether it was intentional or not! He jumped into a flying-armbar, nearly finishing the match right then and there! Sonny calmly and smoothly spun out of it and transitioned into a beautiful rolling kneebar. Sim made like The Fonz and stayed cooler than a Polar Bear’s toenail (due to his extensive training with bears) and countered the kneebar by taking Sonny’s back. From there he kicked out Sonny’ base and went for both hooks, as Sonny spun into him and began to pass his guard with a torreando. He managed to get half way there, before Sim’s blender-like butterfly guard managed to juggle Sonny off balance just enough to set up a triangulio*. However, due to Sonny also being a training partner of one Mark Bieri, he was able to avert the attack. (The “triangulio” is a registered trademark of one Mark Bieri.*). Sonny backed out and went to his knees, where he immediately dove into a ninja roll on his knees to a triangle, which I guess is now called the ninja-angle, which got the crowd hootin’ and hollarin’ for more! Sim defended, but Sonny rolled right past Sim and ended up on top in side control. Sim turtled to prevent the points and the two young samurai carried on with this nonstop submission-to-submission, technique-to-technique jiu-jitsu battle of agility and cat-like quickness until time expired. The crowd cheered wildly during each exchange, which was done with the utmost fluidity and technical genius. The only way to properly illustrate this match in your mind is to watch “Animal Planet” during “Eel Week” and watch two rabid eels go at it! After it was all said and done, this match with all of its excitement and drama, officially went down as a scoreless draw in the books, but a battle of epic proportions in the minds of all those who witnessed it!
UFC fighters, WWE wrestlers, and Hotties Galore!
Some of the notable names in attendance Saturday, who were there signing autographs, taking pictures with fans, supporting the event, and coaching some of the competitors, were UFC stars Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Keith Jardine, Houston Alexander, Diego Sanchez, Nathan Marquardt, and Mike Whitehead, as well as the WWE’s John Cena and Batista. At one point, someone suggested that there should be a special division created for these “spectators”, just to see who would prevail in a special Submission Grappling rules tournament. Forrest, who was fresh off his huge UFC win just 7 days prior, seemed game about the idea if it weren’t for some fresh stitches he had received courtesy of his monumental win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
The “Hotty Quota”, which is also a must-have at any legitimate sporting event, was also in full effect at the “Quest for the Best” as cougars were running rampant throughout the event. Both UFC ring card girls, Ali Sonoma (who is engaged to Diego Sanchez) and her BFF Arianny Celeste (who went to high school with Ulysses Gomez) were in attendance supporting the event. Also in attendance, was the official OTM girl Rebecca Leigh ( www.rebeccahmodel.com ). After being crowned as the official OTM girl in January, she has fallen in love with the sports of jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. Always a fan of MMA and originally a student of kickboxing, she is now an avid fan of the ground game and was quick to take notes with some of her other model friends during some of the day’s Advanced division matches. Some of these Advanced matches that took place, featured the aforementioned Simpson Go and Sonny Nohara in their regular Advanced division, as well as grappling wizards Sean Spangler, Mark Bieri, Joseph Gutierrez, Cameron Diffley, Adrian Ramirez, and Chris Holdsworth. Out of all the action that went down in the individual Advanced weight classes and Advanced Open division, my two personal highlights of the Advanced divisions were from Chris Holdsworth and Mark Bieri. In the semi-finals of the Advanced Men’s 149-pound division, Holdsworth (a roommate of Jeff Glover) pulled guard directly into a slick D’Arce choke against a very tough wrestler (dressed in a blue singlet), which forced the tapout at about one minute into the match. Holdsworth would later win the finals match via triangle choke. My second highlight came from Mark “Bombs Away” Bieri (not to be confused with his older brother Scott “Maverick” Bieri). In the finals of the Advanced Men’s 169-pound division, Mark hit a lightning fast Marcelinho-esque arm drag to take the back of his very strong, rough n’ tumble opponent. From there, Mark sunk both hooks and forced the tapout via RNC, also at around one minute into the match.
The female side of the sport was also well represented, as America’s two most highly decorated female black-belts Felicia Oh and Gazzy Parman were on hand to assist with officiating and administrative duties. It should also be noted that Felicia Oh (a.k.a. FLO) was one of the grapplers in attendance that was heavily scouted by the NBC executives that were in attendance scouting for potential cast members and contestants for the reincarnation of its hit show “American Gladiators”, which will air in 2008. Along with Oh and Parman, was MMA star Tonya Evinger, who was fresh off her debut in the EliteXC on Showtime against Gina Carano. Some had hoped to see her rematch her friend and rival Gina Carano (who trains jiu-jitsu with Scott Bieri) under Submission Grappling rules. However, due to prior commitments, Gina wasn’t able to make it. This left the door open for an equally intriguing match-up. Tonya, who is a wrestler by trade and has recently taken up jiu-jitsu in southern California under Ryan Gregg, was still willing to compete after Gina couldn’t make it. That is when I got the idea to ask fitness supermodel Priscilla Tuft ( www.priscillatuft.com ), who I had met earlier that day, if she wanted a Superfight with Tonya. Priscilla had mentioned that she had trained in Submission Grappling for four years and thought it was great that we were at Mr. Olympia representing the sport in front of such a huge crowd of people. So when I asked her if she wanted to grapple Tonya, she happily agreed to it, even with her busy schedule making appearances throughout Mr. Olympia. That set up the match of the day or at least the most carefully watched match of the day by the men in attendance, between Tonya Evinger and Priscilla Tuft!
Tonya Evinger vs. Priscilla Tuft
The second Superfight of the day began with two very contrasting styles and competitors. On one side, we had MMA veteran Tonya Evinger, adorned in her OTM fight shorts and rash guard with her hair cropped up just as she does when she goes to war in a cage. On the other side of the mat, we had the epitome of a girly girl in Pricilla Tuft, who to the approval of the many men in attendance, literally pranced out onto the mat with nothing more than a spandex sports bra with matching spandex short shorts! She was all too giggly and excited about the ensuing match, but at the same time seemed confident, which made many wonder if she had an ace up her sleeve in the realm of some serious Submission Grappling skills. Tonya, who most felt would toy with Priscilla in the form of a friendly grappling demonstration, took no chances and immediately took Priscilla to the mat with a textbook lateral drop! Priscilla quickly tried to reestablish her guard, which looked like it would be tough due to her fitness modeling physique and long legs. However, that was never really allowed to be tested, as Tonya quickly jumped through Pricilla’s guard and into side control. After gaining the points, she secured a mount to the resounding cheers of the ogling men in attendance, as Priscilla tried to wiggle her way out of danger. Just as people thought Tonya would let up and give Priscilla a chance to display some of her obvious athleticism, Tonya mounted a triangle and fell to the side to tighten the choke. Priscilla fought it off valiantly for about 10 seconds, but soon submitted to the triangle choke at around 3:30 into the match. The girls then showed us all something that we don’t really see that often after men’s matches. As Priscilla raised Tonya’s arm in victory after the official result was announced, she then jumped into Tonya’s open arms, and shared a long, warm embrace with Tonya. That is when I thought to myself, wow… what a great show of sportsmanship! ;~)
All together the World Grappling Games did a great job in promoting and organizing this event along with the support of its event sponsor On The Mat. OTM and WGG’s first annual “Quest for the Best” at Mr. Olympia, not only gave the sport of Submission Grappling further exposure in the mainstream public’s collective eyes, but it also gave the sport of Submission Grappling credibility in the eyes of some of the countries most athletic and health conscious individuals. As one of the only athletic competitions in the venue, unlike the many athletic competitions present at a number of other health expos across the country, Submission Grappling was on display as the way of the future in the minds of the many fans that attended. Furthermore, the great number of UFC fighters, WWE wrestlers, body building champions, fitness models, NBC “American Gladiator” scouts, and celebrities alike, that watched Simpson Go vs. Sonny Nohara, Tonya Evinger vs. Priscilla Tuft, and the large number of other grappling superstars battle it out on the mat, paid credence to the fact that the sports of Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Grappling are well on their way to gaining mainstream global acceptance, and for that, everyone that made the trip, supported, competed, and helped run this tournament on Saturday, September 29th should feel truly satisfied!