Piotr Hallmann (center) cashed in in Casino Fight Night's one-night tourney. | Tim Leidecker/Sherdog.com
ERFURT, Germany -- It’s not easy to make a name for yourself as a young Polish MMA fighter, particularly when you’re not a member of a big show-affiliated team. Piotr Hallmann can tell you a thing or two about it.
A master chief officer in the Polish Navy, the 23-year-old Gdynia native is also in the midst of completing his diploma thesis, all while training for a professional career in fighting. Hallmann sees hard work and dedication as his way out of poverty.
Even after knocking out former KSW star and Mamed Khalidov cousin Kerim Abzailov in May 2010, decent offers were hard to come by for the student of “sztuk walki” legend Grzegorz Jakubowski. Looking to further improve his record, Hallmann enlisted himself in an eight-man, no time limit, no judges, 165-pound tournament in Erfurt, Germany.
As fighting worldwide becomes more and more complex, Ready2Fight promoter Christian Schwablein deliberately wanted to go “back to basics” for his second VIP- and invitation-only “Casino Fight Night” at Thuringia’s sassiest gambling temple, Erfurt’s Casino.
After driving 500 miles from the Polish Baltic coast to the heart of Germany, wearing a sweatsuit and three layers of clothes on the 11-hour trip to cut weight on the way, Hallmann drew Georgian judoka Avtandil Shoshiashvili in his quarterfinal matchup. The first three tournament fights ended with a pair of quick knockouts at the hands of Tamirlan Dadaev and Yves Marthaler, as well as an upset of local hero Thomas Wichmann by Austrian all-rounder Michael Pfundner.
Shoshiashvili, a top performer at German second-division judo club JC RBS 1991 Leipzig, lasted all of 12 seconds against the heavy-handed Pole. Hallman was cut on the eyebrow with an overhand right, but rolled with the punch and came back with a huge left hook that sent the Georgian crumbling to the canvas, where Shoshiashvili remained in a state of unconsciousness for the next few minutes. The knockout earned Hallmann an additional $300 bonus of the fastest knockout of the night.
With the quarterfinals in the books, the wheat was separated from the chaff.
On-site paramedics determined that Pfundner had fractured his right hand in the dying seconds of his fight against Wichmann, necessitating a replacement. Frenchman Wilfried Wauters was already on his way to the hospital and Austria’s Christian Draxler was deemed unfit to continue by the promoter, leaving Wichmann in line to face Hallmann. However, the German balked at the challenge of facing the Polish “Mighty Bull,” thus granting Hallmann a bye to the final.
“I was pretty disappointed when I found out that I would have no opponent in the semifinals,” Hallmann told Sherdog.com after the event. “Of course, I had to work less for my money tonight, but I was looking forward to competing three times. The plan was to go 3-0 here.”
Meanwhile, Viennese youngster Dadaev punched his ticket to the tournament final with a submission of Swiss representative Marthaler.
The Fight Club Zurich product displayed good takedown defense and solid guard-play early, but Dadaev was able to take Marthaler’s back after a leg lock battle and secure a fight-winning rear-naked choke at the four-minute mark.
After a couple kickboxing fights and a short break -- during which the upper 10,000 were able to nibble their finger food -- it was time for the big finale.
Hallmann -- who traveled to Germany with only his best friend, Marcin Gulas, and younger brother, Pawel -- cut 20 pounds in the days before the tournament, making his conditioning a question entering the final. Another question mark came in the form of a cut Hallmann sustained in his first fight of the night.
Neither played any kind of role, however, as the young Pole put on a dominant ground-and-pound clinic against Dadaev in the final. The crowd “oohed” and “ahhed” as Hallman’s punches rained down on his opponent’s head and the wooden boards below the two-inch thick mattress banged hollowly. Hallmann spent the majority of the fight sitting in Dadaev’s half guard, looking to pound his head into the mat.
Ten minutes in, Hallmann’s corner changed its strategy, instructing their fighter to pass Dadaev’s guard and mount. Hallmann listened and, after a couple more heavy blows, Dadaev could not help but give up his back. In textbook style, Hallmann took advantage of the position and forced Dadaev to tap out to a rear-naked choke at the 11:23 mark.
“I was very disappointed when I suffered my first and only defeat in Germany last year,” Hallmann said after the fight. “I was very ill going into that fight; that’s why I wanted to come back and prove that I can do it better. Tonight, the German fans were able to see the true Piotr Hallmann.”
There was no time for Hallmann to celebrate his victory, however. Just minutes after having his hand raised and being overwhelmed with trophies of different shapes and sizes, he was sitting in his too-small Fiat Punto again, making the 500-mile trip back to Gdynia. Hallmann was to report to his Naval superior at 9 a.m. the next morning. His diploma thesis was due in two weeks, and Hallmann had yet to write a word.
Contact Tim Leidecker at www.facebook.com/Rossonero1 or follow him on twitter @Rossonero1.