Update: Controversy Strikes X-1 Show; Junk, Mahe Battle to Draw

By James Meinhardt Feb 28, 2009
KAHULUI, Hawaii -- X-1 World Events’ statewide tour of the islands got off to a rocky start on Friday, as promoters struggled to keep their main event intact and satiate the hungry Maui fans who packed the War Memorial Gymnasium for “New Beginning.”

Local mixed martial arts superstar Falaniko Vitale was originally slated to face veteran Shannon Ritch in the featured bout, but the card suffered many setbacks.

“Ritch had a signed contract; that was a done deal. Basically, Shannon pulled out,” X-1 promoter Mike Miller told Sherdog.com. “[Ritch] committed to a 185-pound fight, but then he claimed he wanted to fight at 170 [pounds]. We had to keep it at 185, and when Shannon was notified of that, he stopped answering his phone.”

Still trying to keep Vitale on the card, the promotion contacted Texas-based middleweight and EliteXC veteran Jon Kirk in an effort to fill the empty spot in the main event.

“Kirk’s manager committed, and then we talked to Jon Kirk himself and he was OK with it,” Miller said. “Apparently, [Kirk] went to the airport, called us from the airport and wanted to change his cornerman. We had already purchased non-refundable plane tickets. We tried to change the tickets for the new cornerman. It didn’t work out, and Jon Kirk elected not to get on the plane. We specifically told him, ‘If you jump on the plane today, I’ll fly your cornerman in tomorrow,’ and he just left the airport. That was the last we heard of Jon Kirk.”

Damian Pilarte -- Kirk’s teammate and the cornerman who was planning to fly to Hawaii with him -- disputes Miller’s claims.

“Before Jon’s manager called and asked him who he wanted to take with him, [the manager] put down the head coach,” Pilarte said. “[The head coach] couldn’t go out to Hawaii for a whole week; they wanted us to fly out there on Monday. Jon called me up, told me the coach couldn’t go and asked me if I wanted to go. I said, ‘Sure.’”

From there, plans went awry, according to Pilarte.

“We called up the airline and tried to switch one of the names, and they wouldn’t change it because they were non-refundable tickets,” he said. “Jon called [the promotion] and asked them what he was supposed to do, and they said, ‘Tough luck.’ They told him to get on the plane and they would provide him with a cornerman. And he told them he wasn’t flying to Hawaii without a teammate in his corner.”

According to Pilarte, the promotion never offered to fly him out the next day.

“Had they offered that,” he said, “I would have gone. We never made it to the airport. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we called the promotion [to see if I could fly in separately] and a lady said, ‘Well, the promoter’s not made of money.’ That was the last we heard of it. We wanted to go. They were really unorganized. It was pretty much their fault it didn’t happen.”

Miller wants to get Vitale back in action soon.

“A lot of people wanted to watch him fight. It didn’t matter who he was going to fight; they were going to be here to support Niko,” said Miller, who hopes to get Vitale back in the ring as soon as May 30. “A lot of people don’t have money to fly to the mainland to go see Niko, so they were real happy he was going to fight here.”

With Vitale on the sidelines, local heavyweights Scott Junk and Lolohea Mahe took center stage in the new main event.

James Meinhardt/Sherdog.com

Hansen dominated Pedro.
The two big men went back and forth for 15 minutes before judges at ringside ruled the bout a draw. Much of the fight featured Junk (6-2-1) working for the takedown and Mahe holding him off and landing strikes to the head and body. During one of these exchanges, the unbeaten Mahe (3-0-1) landed an illegal elbow to the back of Junk’s head that may have ultimately cost him the fight.

“I pushed his head, and I elbowed; they said I hit him in the back of the head,” Mahe said. “It wasn’t intentional.”

Junk took time to recover, and the match continued. In the final frame, Junk employed a different strategy.

“In the third, I started faking the takedowns and throwing the hands, and I started scoring,” the UFC veteran said. “But by then, it was just too little too late.”

With this first meeting a draw, both fighters think it’s likely they will meet again.

“We talked already; it looks like we’ll get a rematch,” Junk said. “This time, we can hopefully do it on Oahu. He had his crowd behind him here. Next time, I’ll have the crowd behind me, and we’ll see what happens.”

Michael Brightmon was victorious in his 155-pound debut, as he won a close unanimous decision and the X-1 lightweight state championship in a three-round war against Dominic Ahnee. The bout was not without controversy, however. Early in the first round, Ahnee (5-3) took Brightmon’s back and began working for a choke, which he believed caused Brightmon (8-2) to tap.

“We’re going to have them review the tape on the rear-naked choke,” Ahnee said. “He tapped three times. I looked at the referee to stop it; he said he didn’t tap, and then I lost the choke.”

“I don’t know what kind of games he pulled or what’s going through his head, but he knows that’s not true,” Brightmon said. “If you watch the video, I never tapped, and he knows it.”

In another title bout, Bryson Hansen dominated Maui’s Mike Pedro and captured the 135-pound state championship.

Hansen (4-0) got to work early, as he scored with a takedown and cut open Pedro with some vicious elbows from the guard. Pedro attempted a number of submissions but was ultimately unable to stop Hansen’s ground-and-pound assault.

The second round was just as brutal as the first, only much shorter. Just 21 seconds into the frame, Hansen scooped up Pedro (1-4) in a deep double-leg, slammed him to the canvas and then proceeded to land a number of blows on his already unconscious foe.

“The knockout was probably from the slam,” Hansen said. “The punches were just for good measure.”

In addition to the featured attraction, a highly anticipated bout between two up-and-coming local fighters was also nixed at the last moment.

Undefeated Brandon Visher was scheduled to take on Justin Mercado, but he pulled out of the bout, citing a conflict with work as his reason for not competing.

“Visher signed a contract and was ready to fight, and then a job supposedly popped up,” Miller said.

Gene Gregory, who was at the event to corner his training partner, Jason Dacquel, stepped up to take on Mercado. A member of the highly regarded MMA Development team, Mercado (7-6) needed only 2:47 to secure the fight-ending armbar from the mounted position. Gregory (0-3) has yet to taste victory as a professional.

In the first professional match of the night, welterweight Koa Ramos kept on rolling with another first-round stoppage, as he caught Dacquel (3-6) with an armbar from the guard 1:44 into the first round. Ramos (5-0) has finished all five of his opponents inside one round.

This report was updated at 11:10 a.m. on March 1 after Kirk’s cornerman was reached for comment.
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