SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Fired up and furious, ‘The Dragon’ prowled the dressing room as the seconds ticked down toward his turn to fight in the cage.
Fists, feet, elbows and knees thudded into the coach’s training pads as Mitch Chilson worked up his fight sweat.
His coaches and cornermen, eyes narrowed searching for flaws, looked on quietly, proudly, anxiously. They had invested much in Chilson. Walking away without the Martial Combat Superfight title was not an option.
In a former life Chilson had been a male model. But standing here, shorn of his smile and stripped down to bare bone, muscle and heart, it was clear he belonged to the fight world.
“Time to go, Mitch,” said coach Chatri Sityodtong. “Time to fight.”
And with that Chilson was up on his toes, the whole room rising with him, emotional outbursts of Thai, Brazilian Portuguese and English filling the air.
An embrace for his fight team, quiet words of encouragement from his coaches and then he gone, 2,000 fans greeting his arrival on the lonely walk to the cage.
Chilson v Zhang Jing Xong, a Taiwanese sando expert, was Thursday’s final fight on Martial Combat’s two-day mixed martial arts (MMA) card.
Most of the event’s fights had failed to make it beyond the first round, the capacity crowd treated to haymaker knockouts, a series of submissions, one dislocated elbow and the gut-wrenching sight of a South Korean fighter choked unconscious.
Chilson controlled the early action, taking Zhang to the mat and setting up the ‘ground and pound’. By the end of the third round the Taiwan fighter’s face was a puffy, bloody mess as Chilson worked to the dominant position astride Zhang’s chest and rained down a barrage of brutal elbows.
Early in the fourth, Chilson unloaded a right hand to Zhang’s jaw that sent him spinning to the floor, his eyes rolling back in his head.
“That was incredible, 25 years of martial arts and I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Chilson told Reuters after the fight, still cradling the shiny championship belt while tenderly checking the bones in his nose.
“I thought I was going to submit him, that was the game plan. Take him down, soften him up with elbows and finish him with an armbar.”
Chilson had several opportunities to finish the fight with an armbar, a lock that puts intense pressure on the elbow and can lead to breaks or dislocation, but Zhang would not tap out.
“I thought I was going to have to rip his arm off,” said Chilson.
Editing Alison Wildey