With two fighters headlining major cards card in Asia and Europe this weekend Bali MMA is well and truly starting to make a name for itself on the global stage. Co-owning brothers Andrew and Anthony Leone have huge fights coming up in Manila and Italy respectively.
Andrew is set to challenge Kevin Belingon in the main event of ONE: ‘Heroes of Honor’ on Friday night. Approximately 30 hours later Anthony will step into the cage to face top ranked Russian bantamweight Magomed Ginazov at ACB 85.
Andrew, the younger of the two Leone brothers, says the trainers and teammates at Bali MMA have played a vital role in his competitive career.
“I have almost been out here 10 years now. We’ve got everything we need out here (and) I think Bali is a level up in a lot of ways than training in the US. There is a certain kind of focus going on over here that everyone has.”
The Leone brothers are not the only Bali MMA fighters making waves at the moment. Ev Ting does most of his training camps there as do his compatriots Gianni Subba and Muhammad Aiman who are both signed with ONE Championship.
I THINK BALI IS A LEVEL UP IN A LOT OF WAYS THAN TRAINING IN THE US. THERE IS A CERTAIN KIND OF FOCUS THAT EVERYONE HAS.
Indonesia’s Stefer Rahardian has also made a big impact with Asia’s biggest MMA promotion and was all set to challenge for the flyweight title. That posed a problem to the camp because Subba was also a top contender and head coach Don Carlo-Clauss came up with the solution.
“Stefer is going down a weight class because he makes flyweight relatively easy. I think with a couple of adjustments, he can make strawweight and I think that puts him in contention for the world title right off the bat,” Carlo-Clauss says.
Rahardian (7-0) makes his strawweight debut at ONE: Grit and Glory in Jakarta next month. A few weeks ago Bali MMA fighters Muhammad Aiman, Riski Umar and Subba both fought on the same card in Kuala Lumpur and Carlo-Clauss says the team has benefited from having such a hectic schedule.
“I like it. For us, especially, the mood in our gym right now is awesome, because we have guys in the gym preparing together. That makes it easy as a coach, because everyone is excited. Even the guys not competing are excited.”
With so many fighters in the strawweight, flyweight and bantamweight divisions preparing for bouts Carlo-Clauss says there has been a certain intensity to the training sessions.
“The practices have had a lot of energy, because, like I said, we have a tight team. When we have a bunch of guys competing, and the rest of the team is here supporting them, it takes the level up, and it is awesome. It always makes it better.”
Mixed martial artists from all over Indonesia and Malaysia have headed to Bali MMA to prepare for fights. The gym has also helped propel Indonesian flyweight to the brink of a flyweight title shot with ONE Championship.
Having two top contenders fighting for one promotion in the same division is a good problem for a camp to have. Besides, Bali MMA’s head coach Don Carlo-Clauss says his team have come up with a straightforward solution.
Carlo-Clauss is one of several coaches at Bali MMA who had previously worked at Phuket Top Team. He says comparison’s between the two tourist islands are inevitable but the martial arts scenes are very different.
“It is a little bit of a different scene here because there are, like, a hundred gyms in Phuket. The bulk of our business is for people who want to train and have fun. We have beginners and people who have been training for a while but we have a competition team as well. We keep that separate from the normal classes though.”
When it comes to tourism Indonesia can’t compete with Thailand. But Bali has been a popular destination for many years and Carlo-Clauss can see why.
IT’S GOT EVERYTHING PHUKET’S GOT. THE BIG THING THAT SEPARATES US IS WE HAVE AMAZING, WORLD-CLASS SURFING.
“It’s got everything Phuket’s got. It has a cheap cost of living, and a high standard of training. The big thing that separates us is we have amazing, world-class surfing, and I would say the international cuisine is of a higher standard and better here than Phuket. Bali is quite a bit bigger than Phuket as far as size of the island, so here you can go up in the mountains, find different beaches and things like that.”
Andrew Leone will be looking to lock in a second shot at the ONE bantamweight title with a win over Belingon. Regardless of whether he achieves his ambitious personal goals this year the 28 year old believes the future is bright for his team,
“There is a lot we see for Bali MMA, long term. We’ve got a lot of projects going on right now. With time, we will start talking about those things, but we are really excited about the future. It is really just the beginning. We are only at the three and a half year mark of being open, and we are just starting to hit a stride and get our momentum.”
With both Leone brothers headlining cards this weekend and Ting, Rahardian and Umar all in action next month it’s going to be a busy few weeks at Bali MMA . The camp already has an excellent reputation on the South East Asian scene and if the wins keep rolling in then sooner or later the rest of the world will stand up and take notice.
All photos by Stev Bonhage.