Jeff Monson (right): Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
The sport of mixed martial arts constantly broadens its horizons, with events being held on six continents in any given week.
The Middle East has been slow to embrace MMA, but those behind the Israeli Fighting Championship promotion aim to change that. The IFC will hold its first event, appropriately titled “Genesis,” on Tuesday at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel. A matchup pitting former UFC heavyweight title contender Jeff Monson against Russian Sergey Shemetov tops the 13-fight lineup. The event, which kicks off at 2 p.m. ET, will be available via pay-per-view for $9.99 at GoFightLive.tv.
“The IFC is a new organization,” said Mike Ben Avi, the IFC’s U.S. spokesperson. “A lot of people talk about a new organization being a smaller organization. It’s new, but it’s not small. Budget-wise, it’s probably third behind Strikeforce and the UFC. There hasn’t been a card recently with so many ticket-selling names. It’s stacked.”
Monson, a 13-year veteran of the sport who has fought everyone from former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell to heavyweights like Pedro Rizzo and Tim Sylvia, looks forward to headlining the show.
“I’m excited about it,” said the 39-year-old Monson, who has already fought eight times in 2010. “I grew up going to a Catholic school, and I’ve always wanted to go to the Holy Land. It’s got to be one of the top two or three places I’ve wanted to visit, and to have a chance to fight there is great.”
Along with Monson, the event features a co-headliner of Ricco Rodriguez against Daniel Tabera. Daniel Gracie and UFC veterans Frank Trigg, Hermes Franca, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Shonie Carter will all compete in separate bouts.
“We pretty much want to be the pioneers of MMA in Israel,” said Ben Avi. “There are a lot of martial arts fans in Israel. The owners of the IFC are two businessmen who are fight fans and decided to start a promotion and bring the MMA world to Israel.”
Starting a promotion to bring the sport of mixed martial arts to Israel seems a good and noble intention, and Ben Avi vowed the IFC would not become a one-show-and-done organization.
“The IFC has wanted to be professional down to every detail,” said Ben Avi. “The show is being held in the Nokia Arena, which has a capacity of 12,000 and is well-known throughout Israel and Europe, as well. We want to deliver the best show to the biggest number of fans possible.
“We’re not sure on when a second show might be,” he added. “That’s sort of up to the first one. We’re not sure we want to run monthly, but we want to at least have shows every few months. When you look at the production costs involved, it might be tough to do shows every month, but we want to keep stuff fresh and run shows over a consistent number of months.”
Ben Avi addressed concerns involving security. He does not believe the IFC event to be in danger of being targeted in a terrorist attack or other incident.
“We're absolutely not worried about an attack,” said Ben Avi. “All people see on the news is attacks, but [Tel Aviv] is one of [the] safest places in Israel. Most of the violence or attacks that happen are either way north or way south, not where the event is.”
Monson, a native of Olympia, Wash., and member of the American Top Team camp, is not worried about an incident occurring at the IFC show.
“I don’t think anything’s going to happen,” said Monson. “If people were to kidnap me and find out what I believe in, I’d probably be the last one they’d want to torture. I would like to visit the West Bank, though. That’s a situation that I’ve followed throughout the years.”
Israeli Fighting Championship “Genesis”
Tuesday, Nov. 9
Tel Aviv, Israel
Jeff Monson vs. Sergey Shemetov
Daniel Tabera vs. Ricco Rodriguez
Roy Neeman vs. Frank Trigg
Serob Minasyan vs. Vitali Krbrsky
Martin Wojcik vs. Daniel Gracie
Valdas Pocevicius vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
Vitaly Shemetov vs. Alexandro Ceconi
Moishe Kaitz vs. Hermes Franca
Jeremy Knafo vs. Shonie Carter
Ariel Abergel vs. Thiago Meller
Fabrice Riconneau vs. Marc Berger
Joshua Hewlett vs. Ido Pariente