An interview with MMA Legend Lee Hasdell
When it comes to MMA Lee Hasdell can truly say "Been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt!" as he fought to bring recognition to the fledgling sport in this country.
Now universally respected as a pioneering and inspirational figure, Lee has turned his attention and wealth of knowledge of the combat sport industry towards helping Tim Izli develop his groundbreaking KTMMA format. With this in mind Lee kindly agreed to talk to us about his illustrious past and what the future holds for him.
Lee you are now famous as an MMA pioneer: what are your memories of those early days?
I was a lone voice in the wilderness in the early days, I was practicing MMA in 1992 by default as I was teaching Kickboxing at a Japanese boarding school and some of the in house Japanese martial arts instructors where teaching Judo, Karate and Jujitsu etc.
They asked me to teach them kickboxing and in return they would teach me their arts, so in one session we would train kick, punch, throw and submit and they were crazy sessions!
Then I become the WKA British Kickboxing champion and I was invited to train at the Seidokikan in Japan as part of a new project and combat sport called the 'K-1′. So I was out in Japan training in 1994 and I watched the K-1 event as a spectator and on the undercard they had some MMA bouts.
When I returned to the UK I told everyone that I wanted to do this mixed style. It was very hard as we had to put everything together for our training, a lot of trial and error. But year by year it became more popular. I saw myself as an adventurer and researcher into hybrid style fighting, to date I have fought in Karate, Muaythai, Full Contact, Kickboxing, K-1 (official), Shoot-fighting, No Holds Barred (No Rules), BJJ, Vale Tudo, Shoot-Boxing, Submission Grappling, MMA and Japanese Hybrid Fighting.
I wanted to get inside the technique for myself and not just the theory so I put myself in the eye of the hurricane so to speak, never regretted a moment as I am now a 100% pressure tested martial artist and proud of that status.
How have you seen MMA develop and what do you believe are the most important changes?
MMA has come a long way from the early days, it's evolved, some got left behind but others including myself evolved with it and have a deep understanding of it but every day I am still learning better ways of doing things. My focus now is in the Global style MMA rules as opposed to the unified rules, my MMA path was always via Japan and not America, so I am working hard to push Japanese style MMA. I have been going to Japan every year since 1994 and I have also been sending UK fighters to Japan. I recently sent 5 UK fighters to fight in a Japan vs Japan this year and my connections to Japan run very, very deep.
You must have seemed like a voice in the wilderness in those early days, how hard was it to gain credibility?
You just have to keep doing what you do regardless of any negative vibes that people try to put on you, follow your dreams, focus and be productive. You will always get haters but they either want what you have got and generally pick up what you had, in my time I've seen most things and I'm a professional so you just keep your head down and work hard, then things always work out in the end. I was told that MMA would never ever take off !
Can you give us a brief summary of the organisations you have fought for or had association with?
I have fought on a lot of associations and promotions including NKBB Holland, WKA, ISKA, RINGS Japan, Shoot-Boxing Japan, K-1 Japan, FENASCO Italy, Absolute FC Russia and Abu Dhabi Combat Wrestling to name a few. I was fighting under contract in Japan for 7 years which to my knowledge is the longest contract for any UK fighter in Japan.
What has been the outstanding highlight of your fight career?
Winning the 8 man Shoot-Boxing tournament in Italy in 1996. Fighting at the Budokan in Japan, this is th e Mecca the martial arts and defeating UFC-Japan champion Kenichi Yamamoto by KO.
You are also a veteran promoter. How have promotions changed over the years?
Hmm, there have been a lot of changes but not all for the best. I feel that there are too many small events that are killing off the ability to stage anything major. My early events attracted over 2500 spectators with fighters from Japan, USA, Italy, Spain and France etc all on one card but this type of event doesn't seem to happen much now. I also see that many promoters are pushing the amateur scene forwards which is good to see, investing in grass-roots for the future. I feel the fighters on the whole have improved but you do see too many fighters who are not prepared and ready to fight rushing in because the gym wants volume and quantity but not quality. All in all MMA is better now with a lot more media interest, TV and sponsors.
What was it about the KTMMA concept that captured your imagination?
The KTMMA concept suits my mind as its Kickboxing and MMA in one match and this will test the fighters out in a whole new dimension. Too many people in the MMA world have underestimated kickboxing- personally I feel that kickboxing is a tougher combat sport than MMA, and with the advent of promotions like Glory the fight world is starting to sit up and take notice. During the early meetings KTMMA was going to be either a Kickboxing or MMA promotion, we settled on doing both, in one fight.
You are a vital part of the team behind KTMMA- What is it that you bring to the table?
30 years of combat sport experience, being an ex fighter in Pro Kickboxing and MMA. I have worked as a consultant on many successful kickboxing and MMA promotions, but my main role is overseeing the rules and cohesion of the changeover from Kick Thai to the MMA phase.
I have promoted so many rule sets from straight kickboxing right through to Hybrid formats, mixing kickboxing with MMA and mix style matches.
My middle name is 'Hybrid' lol, I am a big fan of innovation and pushing the boundaries.
How do you see the future for KTMMA?
We are looking at the long term with this project and we are working hard to make this a success. I am happy with the team we have put together and after the first event the fight world will sit up and take notice of the KTMAA format.