S'pore MMA coach to compete in UFC fight

Mixed martial arts (MMA) coach Royston Wee (right) training with Bruce Loh, head coach of Impact MMA Singapore, ahead of his 4 January 2014 fight with Dave “The Scarecrow” Galera of the Philippines.

His last professional fight was two years ago, and when he failed to make the final cut for Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC's) reality series The Ultimate Fighter in September, Royston Wee would be forgiven for thinking that his fighting days were behind him.

Instead, he got a lifeline.

Come Jan 4, the 27-year-old mixed martial arts (MMA) coach will be the first Singaporean to compete in the UFC's inaugural South-east Asia fight.

Wee, an instructor at local gym Impact MMA, will take on Dave "The Scarecrow" Galera of the Philippines in a bantamweight showdown at Marina Bay Sands.

Both men will be making their UFC debuts.

The event, UFC Fight Night 34, will be headlined by a clash between Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger and Tarec "Sponge" Saffiedine.

Said Wee, who picked up MMA five years ago: "I am happy, honoured, and excited to be the first Singaporean to fight in the UFC.

"I'm confident. I think I am better in every single aspect than my opponent. I'm ready for him."

The 1.71m-tall Wee will have his hands full against an opponent with a 9cm height advantage and a perfect win record in his five-bout professional career.

Galera is also the bantamweight title holder at the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC) - the Philippines' first professional MMA competition.

Said Galera: "Fighting in the UFC is a dream come true for me. I just want to concentrate on training full time and help build (his gym) Team Lakay's legacy."

Wee, who models himself after UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre of Canada, says he is not concerned that his opponent comes with bigger credentials.

He said: "To me, it doesn't matter if he's the URCC bantamweight champion. I respect that, but I'm not afraid.

"Height doesn't matter. If you look at UFC (fights), a lot of tall guys get knocked out by shorter guys.

"Look at Stefan Struve, who was knocked out by the much shorter Mark Hunt."

The 1.78m-tall Hunt, a New Zealander, knocked out the 2.11m-tall Dutchman Struve after breaking his jaw in a UFC Japan fight in March.

Wee's selection, however, has raised some eyebrows in the local MMA community.

The Straits Times understands that as part of its commitment to the sport in Singapore, the UFC wants to help raise the profile and level of MMA here.

But MMA experts in Singapore wonder if there were better candidates, considering that Wee has not fought in two years.

Juan Wen Jie, Wee's colleague at Impact MMA, Stephen Langdown from Brazilian Fight Club MMA, and Syafiq Abdul Samad from Juggernaut Fight Club have all fought, and won, this year. Female fighter Sherilyn Lim (Fight G) also made a successful start to her pro career.

Juan, Langdown and Lim are contracted to rival promoter ONE Fighting Championship, while Syafiq has signed up to fight in the Rebel Fighting Championship at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Dec 21.

Juggernaut Fight Club coach Arvind Lalwani wishes Wee all the best, but thinks Syafiq is more deserving of the coveted spot.

"I was a little bit surprised that Royston was chosen because I thought my guy Syafiq would be the one," said Lalwani.

"If Syafiq wins his fight, then maybe he can get on a UFC card in the future.

"But as a Singaporean, I will be cheering for Royston and hope he will also be victorious."

Wee, who boasts a 2-0 record and whose last victory came in December 2011 at the Malaysian Fighting Championship, is not letting any doubters affect his preparation for the fight.

He said: "I have nothing to prove to anyone. I wouldn't want to waste my energy on people who look down on me, and who criticise me.

"My opponent's a new guy (on UFC), I'm a new guy, what matters is what happens on Jan 4."

siangyee@sph.com.sg


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