They may be leaving it characteristically late, but the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) are assembling a strong card to banish the disappointment of their Channel 5 live debut at BAMMA 11, with Judo Jimmy Wallhead leading the charge.
Feedback was invariably negative and- despite the fact a boxing match with the notorious Tyson Fury drew 1.2m viewers immediately prior to broadcast- the viewing figures for the evening are thought to have dropped to below 800,000. Reid's primacy on television was an understandable gamble from the point of view of Channel 5- he remains by far the most famous name in the sport in the UK outside its devotees- but now BAMMA 12 seems set to return to the fundamentals by naming a stellar card for a live show due for broadcast over 2 hours on 5*.
Other former UFC and TUF fighters include "Smashes" alumni Luke Newman and Bola Omoyele, who will face Ryan Scope and Wayne Murrie respectively. Both men underachieved in the cage in Australia, but also demonstrated enough promise in their performances and in training under the North East's own Ross Pearson that they can look forward to successful careers, both on the UK scene and internationally, if blessed with appropriate guidance.
BAMMA seem keen to improve their roster in the higher weight classes, as an intriguing pairing of hotly tipped 265 lb fighters suggests. Darren Towler- an experienced fighter who really seems to have found himself as a professional martial artist in recent years- has been signed while riding high on a 5 fight win streak and will be pitted against rising star, Sunderland's Callum Cook. Cook is just three fights into a professional career, but has already turned the heads of MMA followers in the UK by finishing two of those bouts by KO in under 30 seconds. Something of an MMA "derby" as Towler is a Newcastle native, there is sure to be added spice to the occasion in addition to that which comes when the big men throw down.
Kevin Thompson will be desperate to arrest a two fight losing streak by moving down weight classes to challenge the unbeaten Scott Askham at middleweight. Askham, making his BAMMA debut, is a lanky undefeated striking specialist who has built a reputation for his hand-speed and brutal knees from the clinch, and will provide a big test for the experienced Thompson. Should he triumph he really will be thrust to the forefront of the middleweight division at BAMMA, which is seeking rejuvenation following the loss of Frank Trigg, and Jim Wallhead returning to welterweight.
Along with the fights announced hitherto, BAMMA also announced this week multi-fight contracts for two other fighters including the charismatic Leeroy Barnes and the Swedish phenom, Max "Power" Nunes. Nunes, now based in London, is an unbeaten light heavyweight whom many have tipped to one day fight in the UFC, so it will be a huge boost for BAMMA CEO David Green to have secured such a sparkling talent for his next three fights. Nunes will begin his contract against undefeated Pole, Marcin Lazarz.
The card is befitting of the popularity the sport holds in the north east of England, and it is to be hoped this will encourage local fans to pack the Metro Radio Arena. Returning to a 2 hour format on Channel 5* should- injuries excepted- demonstrate the strength in depth at the promotion to a wider public. BAMMA 12 will be the first fought under the Safe MMA banner.