Global Fighting Championship gives kick-boxing a shot in the arm

Australian fighter Peter Graham says the martial art is on the up again, and promises fans in Dubai for the Dh 1million Global Fighting Championship on Thursday that they are in for a treat.
Peter Graham of Australia attacks Jason Suttie of Auckland with a rolling dragon kick in the final at the K1 Kings of Oceania Championship at ASB Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. 16th July 2004. Peter Graham won the fight, defending his title. Sandra Teddy / Getty Images
Peter Graham of Australia attacks Jason Suttie of Auckland with a rolling dragon kick in the final at the K1 Kings of Oceania Championship at ASB Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. 16th July 2004. Peter Graham won the fight, defending his title. Sandra Teddy / Getty Images

They say nice guys always finish last. They obviously have not met Peter Graham.

Since turning professional in 2000, the super heavyweight kick-boxer has racked up several titles across different martial arts: the 2000 WKBF Amateur Super Heavyweight Championship, the 2002 WKBF world championship, the 2003 K-1 World Grand Prix and Kings of Oceania in 2004.

On Monday, a day after he landed in Dubai, his wife Silvia delivered him an even bigger prize back home in Sydney. The birth of baby girl Valentine.

Ecstatic, Graham remains focused on winning the Dh1 million up for grabs at Thursday night’s Global Fighting Championship in Dubai.

“I’m not affected one way or the other at all by things that happen outside,” he said. “I take the same attitude when I fight all the time, I try to find a solution for everything, no excuses.”

If anything, he seems boosted by what must have been an emotional, and tiring, past few days.

“My wife giving birth while I’m away motivates me, not distracts me. It makes me happy, makes me relaxed,” Graham said.

“I do my best fighting, doesn’t matter if things are good or bad, I put it all in the ring and I fight very hard every single time.”

It is an attitude he has maintained throughout a long career.

“Anyone who’s seen me fight, there’s a reason why I’ve fought at a high-class level for so long and kept at it, because I do fight to win,” he said.

Thursday, Graham will be taking on 24-year-old Lithuanian fighter Arnold Oborotov at Za’abeel Hall in Dubai’s World Trade Centre.

“I enjoy what I do, I’m happy to be here in Dubai,” Graham said.

“It’s a very exciting place to be, I’ve never been here before. It’s like an ultra-futuristic country, it’s very cool. Except for the weather.”

So have the scorching temperatures and high level of humidity affected his training.

“No, I’ve only been here for a day and a half but, you know, Australia gets very hot in the summer too,” he said. “Maybe not as hot as here, but hot weather is something I’m used to.”

Throughout his career, Graham has seen the rise and fall of kick-boxing, mainly because of the spread of other martial arts. But he said it is on the rise again.

“When I started, what was dominating the sport was K1, and then that took a bit of a nosedive for a while as some other companies popped up,” said Graham, who has a record of 58 wins, 12 losses and one draw.

“Kick-boxing looked like it might disappear, miss the boat again, with the rise of mixed martial arts, but then, just recently, in the last year and a half, it’s had a resurgence and come back even stronger.

“It’s exciting because I’ve always liked kick-boxing, striking sports.

“I like MMA as well, boxing and karate. But what’s really exciting is that such a professional organisation has taken such a positive interest in kick-boxing again.”

New markets, such as the UAE, have given martial arts in general a big boost and the Australian promises a treat for the fans in Dubai.

“For this part of the world it’s going to be very exciting, everyone knows about Abu Dhabi and the interest in Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” he said.

“I think they will like this.”

Despite his preference for kick-boxing, Graham is keen not to pigeon hole himself, or his strengths.

“I come from a karate background. Guys who started karate years and years ago, they didn’t say let’s fight under these rules or those rules, they tested themselves against everyone,” he said.

“So I like to think of myself as a martial artist rather than just a kick-boxer. I’m a boxer, too, I was the champion of the biggest state in Australia. Sometimes it’s hard but that’s what you do, you improve your personal style by fighting as many ways as you can.”

Should Graham defeat Oborotov, he will take on the winner of the fight between Stefan Leko and Badr Hari, who he beat in 2006, before losing a return bout on points in 2007.

“I’m ready, I’m confident, I feel I’m going to win otherwise I would never have turned up,” he said.

“It’s hard to tell what will happen, but I’ll just work hard, stick that jab in his face, smash that low kick in his leg.”

His trademark “Rolling Thunder” somersault kick might just be what wins that jackpot.

akhaled@thenational.ae

Published: May 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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