Art of War brings MMA to China

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BEIJING – While the western half of the mixed martial arts world has its eyes firmly focused on the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the eastern hemisphere is witnessing the dawn of a new element in the fight game. As Dream and Sengoku fight for position in Japan, it is the Art of War in China that is hoping to soon emerge on the world stage.

The brainchild of Andrew and Konrad Pi, Art of War is set for its twelfth event on Saturday night at the Beijing Olympic Sports Center Auditorium. It is the one and only mixed martial arts promotion approved for operation by the Chinese government.

The roster of fighters has steadily evolved into a mix of home grown talent interspersed with an international flavoring. Although the fight card itself isn't yet ready to draw major attention around the globe, the recently added patronage of

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, will allow the Pi brothers to take a huge step up in competing for the best fighters in the world.

Art of War 12 features Chinese favorite Wu Hao Tian against Japanese fighter Yutaka Kobayashi and Rolles Gracie, of the world's famed fight family, facing Russia's Baga Agaev. Though the fights promise a night of action, more impressive for this event is the guest list.

In attendance for Art of War 12 is a star-studded array of MMA talent and persuasion. Guests include the Gracie quartet of Rickson, Royce, Royler, and Renzo; Dream Lightweight Grand Prix champion Joachim Hansen; former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia; veteran Jeremy Horn; Brazilians Fabricio Werdum, Thales Leites, Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro, Demian Maia, and Fabio Leopoldo, among others; the legendary Bas Rutten; pioneering broadcaster Stephen Quadros; American Top Team's Ricardo Liborio; and many, many others.

Eventually hoping to fill the void created when Pride Fighting Championships left the Asian market, Art of War already has a strong following in China and airs on national television to millions of viewers.

The fights are conducted under a melding of Pride and UFC style rules that allow for the most open array of attacks in the sport. Elbow strikes (including 12 to 6, point of elbow strikes), knees to the head of a grounded opponent, stomps and soccer kicks, are all allowed in Art of War. The rounds consist of one ten-minute round followed by one five-minute round with a two-minute rest period in between. Any fight that is not decided during that time is considered a draw; there are no judges.

Presiding over Art of War 12 is cast of pioneering referees headed by John McCarthy and Yuji Shimada. Ring announcing duties will be conducted by Michael Buffer, who famously coined the "let's get ready to rumble" phrase in boxing.

The fighters had no trouble making weight at Friday's weigh-ins at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, save for one. Nemat Bobomukhamedov weighed in 6 kg (or 13 pounds) over his contracted fight weight. He has until 10 a.m. Saturday morning to make weight. If he does not make weight, the fight could still take place if both fight camps agree. There is no athletic commission to refuse the fight regardless of weight, so it is completely up to the fight camps and the promoters to determine if the fight will continue. Bobmukhamedov will be penalized a portion of his purse for missing weight.

Art of War 12 Fight Card:

–Wu Hao Tian (72 kg/158.7 lbs) vs. Yutaka Kobayashi (71.8 kg/158.3 lbs)

–Rolles Gracie (113 kg/249.1 lbs) vs. Baga Agaev (104 kg/229.3 lbs)

–Dai Shuang Hai (70.7 kg/155.9 lbs) vs. Atsuhiro Tsuboi (71.7 kg/158.1 lbs)

–Malik Arash Mawlayi (72.2 kg/159.2 lbs) vs. Fransino Tirta (71.6 kg/157.9 lbs)

–Ning Guang You (65.9 kg/145.3 lbs) vs. Sirojiddin Uzakbaev (64.7 kg/142.6 lbs)

–Ole Baguio Laursen (72.4 kg/159.6 lbs) vs. Shawn David (71.8 kg/158.3 lbs)

–Kelvin Fitial (112 kg/246.9 lbs) vs. Kanechika Koji (110 kg/242.5 lbs)

–Xue Guo Bin (72 kg/158.7 lbs) vs. Marko Huusansaari (72 kg/158.7 lbs)

–Chris Bostick (89.7 kg/197.8 lbs) vs. Kim Ho Jin (87 kg/191.8 lbs)

–Wang Sai (78 kg/172 lbs) vs. Kim Whi Gyu (78.5 kg/173.1 lbs)

–Justin Holdaas (77.9 kg/171.7 lbs) vs. Lee Hyeung Seok (78 kg/172 lbs)

–Yao Qiang (71.6 kg/157.9 lbs) vs. Nemat Bobomukhamedov (78 kg/172 lbs)