12 May USA vs. China, China wins. Fair Play or Foul Play?
On April 23, 2016, Team Sityodtong LA’s undefeated Pro Muay Thai Fighter, Josh “El Gato” Aragon competed in the Group 10 Tournament Semi Finals at Kunlun Fight 43 in Zhangzhou, the biggest K1 event in China. Other super fights on the card included American, Adam Rothweiler, Thailand’s Sittichai Sitsongpeennong and Russia’s Artur Kyshenko. Chok dee!
Josh’s first match in the 4-man tournament was against one of China’s top fighters, Kong Lingfeng. After 3 rounds of K1 rules (knees with no clinching and no elbows), Josh lost by decision. The first round clearly went to Kong Lingfeng, but Josh came back and took the second round and dominated the third. If the fight was called a draw, they would have fought one more round.
It’s the nature of the fight game, if you don’t win by KO or TKO, the decision goes to the judges and many times it’s subjective rather than objective.
Sometimes the win swings your way and sometimes not. Although a loss is always disappointing, especially after all the hard work and sacrifices, it doesn’t define who you are and most importantly it’s also lessons learned.
The point in question is not about the loss, it’s whether the circumstances leading up to the fight gave the Chinese team an unfair advantage. Could it have been a string of unfortunate coincidences or a well-planned conspiracy? You decide, was it fair play or foul play? Anything is possible, but there was something undeniable in the air besides the pollution.
After almost 24 hours of travel time, Sityodtong LA’s Head Coach, Kru Walter Michalowski, and Pro Fighter, Josh Aragon finally reached their hotel. They were tired and exhausted, which was to be expected after flying half way across the world to a time zone that was 15 hours ahead of Pacific Standard time. All they wanted to do was hit the sack and get a good night sleep.
Did the American team assume they would be booked at the Four Seasons? Certainly not, but they also didn’t expect an insect nestled in between the sheets of one of the beds. In addition to the room not being clean, housekeeping never came by during their stay except to drop off towels. The condition of the room made them wonder if it was even cleaned after the previous guests checked out. Fair play or foul play? The fight venue was over the top impressive with a production value that could rival the UFC, yet the fighters were housed at a not so clean, second rate hotel.
One of the most important necessities when training and preparing for a fight is to eat clean and healthy. When traveling, especially abroad, it sometimes limits your options. Limited options was an understatement. The food served at the hotel restaurant was not fresh and the quality was straight up subpar. The entrees were prepared with such a high sodium content that it was unpalatable. They also could barely eat the rice, because it was cooked in a way that was unlike anything they had ever had. That’s coming from Kru Walter and Josh who are no strangers to unusual foreign foods. Training in Thailand for years they’ve feasted on “home style” local dishes, that are a bit more gamy then the tourist friendly Pad Thai.
One morning they almost had eggs for breakfast, but saw a live roach. When it was pointed out to the server, she laughed and just whisked it away. If there was a roach in the food in the dining area, one can only imagine what the kitchen must be like. How did the American fighters sustain themselves day to day? They ate mostly pieces of bread and fruit. Several meals were at local restaurants, their options were greasy take out and McDonalds. Fair play or foul play? Food is fuel, what you put in your body affects your strength and athletic performance.
The Day of the Fight
It’s now the “day of” the fight and although it hadn’t been the best of conditions, Josh is a professional fighter. He stayed focused, knew he had a job to do and was ready to go to war. Then at 11am while in the lobby of the hotel, Kru Walter and Josh were approached by members of the promoter’s staff. They told them that there was an issue with their passports and directed them to an awaiting bus that would take them where they needed to go to resolve it. The bus took them to a local police station, their passports were confiscated and they were detained for three hours with no food, no water and no explanation of why they were being held. Although the interpreter was with them, she too was given no information from the Chinese officials.
It was finally determined that they were being detained because the Chinese government required “work permits” from the foreign fighters. Oddly enough, not all of the foreign fighters got hauled down to the police station the day of the fight, just the foreigners competing against fighters from China.
After hours of being detained, the government officials agreed to let the fighters go back to the hotel if the coaches stayed until the paperwork was completed. Having the fighters return to the hotel without their Coaches was a double edged sword. Granted, it gave them a chance to eat what they could and rest, but they were concerned that their coaches would not make it back in time for their fight. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case and all of the Coaches were released shortly after. Fair play or foul play? Every foreign fighter that fought against a Chinese fighter lost.
While at the police station in China, the reality sunk in for Kru Walter and Josh that they were in a communist country, they had no rights and there was no place like home. A couple good things did happen as a result of their experience. One was that they forged new friendships with other fighters and coaches, another was finding out first hand that our American Embassy was on it! A representative said it was illegal to detain a US Citizens for a “work permit” issue and kept in contact to be sure all the Americans had returned home. After the fights, Kru Walter and Josh were asked about a rematch. Will Josh Aragon take a rematch against Kong Lingfeng? Most definitely, but this time it is going down in the good ole U.S. of A . . .Vegas baby, chok dee on that!