Road to Contenders: Fightcard details, preview and everything you need to know
A new fight promotion launches this weekend in Norwich, aimed at putting amateur fighters from across the region in the spotlight. Here's a look at what you can expect from Road to Contenders...
WHAT, WHEN, WHERE?
The new show, the brainchild of exciting pro fighter Jack Mezzetti, takes place at the Epic Studios in Norwich on Saturday night.
Doors open at 5.30pm, with the first fight set for 6pm.
Tickets, which start at £30, will be available on the door - first come, first served.
The event, linked to the established and renowned Contenders promotion, is all about giving amateur fighters and those starting out on their fighting journey a platform on which to build their name.
Cromer’s Mezzetti, a K1 champion on Contenders, said: “It’s a pure amateur show to try and give them something back, and make them the show. They’re sometimes overlooked on a show with pros competing, but they often put on the best fights.
“Fans should expect to see some great amateur fights, and fighters who can go on to be very successful professionals. We’re happy to be that stepping stone for fighters – it would be nice for them to be able to say one day that they started on the Road to Contenders.”
As it stands, there are 18 fights on the card, a mixture of boxing, K1 kickboxing and MMA clashes.
All of the bouts will be fought inside a cage, which makes for a thrilling spectacle.
And the main event is for the first-ever Road to Contenders MMA title, as Thetford’s rising prospect Chey Veal steps up a weight to fight Duncan Djillali in the bantamweight division.
Veal (3-2-1) who fights out of Tsunami Norfolk and Norwich’s thriving Elite Gym, is coming off a career-best armbar win on Cage Warriors 99 in Colchester, the biggest MMA event ever held in this region.
He’s on a two-fight win streak, but steps up from his natural weight of 125lbs here to face the experienced Djillali (5-5), who’s riding a two-fight win streak of his own and is the reigning Battle Arena bantamweight champion.
The likeable Veal is a grinder, a strong wrestler with a good ground game, and it will be interesting to see if he can impose his will on a foe who is likely to be the naturally bigger man.
A classic striker v grappler match-up as Helton Lukeny, of Norwich BJJ, faces off with AJ Antonio of Elite in a 73kg MMA battle.
Lukeny, who makes his MMA debut here, is a BJJ ace under world-class black belt Baruc Martin and, one would imagine, will want this scrap on the floor.
In contrast, Antonio is a flashy, confident striker who will fancy he can light Lukeny up on the feet. The fighter who is able to dictate where the fight happens is the one who will have their hand raised.
FIGHT OF THE NIGHT
As soon as it was announced, the Jack Purdy v Adrian Wu K1 battle at 60kg stood out for me.
Purdy, of Suffolk’s Mamba Martial Arts, is a champion in the Contenders promotion, and boasts great footwork and movement, high volume striking and some nasty teep kicks to the face.
But Wu, of Elite, throws some of the most technically perfect kicks you will ever see – really whips them in – and has a mean left hook. This is not the fight to choose if you need to head to the bar!
Norwich’s newest combat sports gym, owned and run by Steve Newman and Adi Harper – the team behind the Contenders show – is quickly making waves on the fight scene.
This show has no fewer than ten Elite fighters in action – Danny Gotts, brothers Luke and Reece Ward, Sam Smith, Aaron Rolfe, Jay Durrant and the aforementioned trio of Wu, Antonio and Veal.
Look out, too, for their gigantic heavyweight boxer Jakub Adamski – and don’t blink when he’s fighting!
Mezzetti fights out of Cromer’s fabled Fighting Fit Martial Arts gym, under his dad John, so it’s no surprise there’s a few from FFMA in action on the show too.
Bartek Grabowski, Jen Stoner, Ben Hicks, Mindaugas Matelliunas and Brett Stanforth are all set to compete.
My favourite of the FFMA fight team on this card though is Beth Boland, who fights Ewelina Rolinska in a 57kg K1 battle. Her movement and the angles she creates are fantastic.