Just over 15 months since his last fight in Chicago, Newark’s Bailey ‘The British Bulldog’ Sugden was finally back in action on Saturday 27 February when, with the permission of GLORY Kickboxing, he headed to Brno in the Czech Republic to take part in an 8 Man Tournament.
Fighting under Muay Thai rules in the cage, the Suggy’s Gym 23-year old was one of 24 professionals on the full card of Oktagon MMA’s Underground Last Man Standing.
“What a trip, what an experience and what a show,” said Bailey. “And what a great name for it, as this tournament had so many trials and tribulations!”
After a long day travelling due to the various exemptions required, the Suggy’s Gym team reached its destination late on Thursday night, ready for the weigh ins and the draw for the Quarter Finals on Friday morning.
The draw saw the undefeated favourite Vasek Sivak picked out first and taking up position number one. But no one anticipated what would happen next when Bailey, much to the surprise of everyone in attendance, chose the favourite as his opponent.
“Everyone wanted to avoid Vasek,” said Bailey’s manager and coach Dean Sugden. “But not Bailey, who walked straight up to him, shook his hand and picked none other than the unbeaten favourite as his opponent in the first round. The atmosphere changed completely and from that moment on Bailey was inundated with media requests wanting to know why he’d chosen Vasek.”
“I wanted to show everyone just what I’m capable of,” said Bailey. “Although this was a new rule set and not my weight category, I’ve been competing in the premier league of kickboxing for the past three and a half years – fear is not something that scares me, it excites me.”
The fight was intense right from the get-go, with everyone’s eyes glued to this first Quarter Final, convinced that the winner would go on to be The Last Man Standing and win the tournament.
In a close first round, neither one of the fighters was giving any ground as they exchanged big punches and kicks, with Bailey landing more punches but getting caught with more kicks.
“We thought we might have drawn the first round but away from home against the favourite that wasn’t enough and we knew it,” said Dean.
“So Bailey turned up the heat in the second, dominating with speed, power and volume. It was intense but the Newark fighter they all call The British Bulldog definitely lived up to his ring name.”
With the fight in the balance at the end of round two, there was everything to play for in the third and final one. Bailey was up first ready to go and, with Vasek appearing tired, the Newark corner knew that they needed to look for that one big shot, although with hindsight felt they had probably focused too much on the knockout and not enough on scoring points.
After the bell at the end of the third, both fighters looked battle-worn and were expecting an extra round. But the judges were split, one scoring it a draw and the other two giving it to the home fighter.
Following a contest that set the tournament on fire from the start, what happened next gave everyone an idea of just how great and how close the fight by these two incredible warriors really was when Vasek announced that he was unable to continue due to the damage caused by Bailey. Their fight left him with a suspected broken leg and arm, along with eye damage which required multiple stitches.
Hearing this, Bailey was excited about taking his place in the Semi Finals but unfortunately this was not to be. Normally, if the winner of a fight is unable to continue, the man who caused the injuries and damage is offered the chance to progress first but, much to Bailey’s disappointment, under OKTAGON rules the reserve fighter was put in to replace Vasek.
Despite this, all of the other fighters in the tournament were pleased that Bailey had ruled out the favourite and fight fans across the Czech Republic and beyond were quick to start sending messages to the British warrior.
Before heading back to the UK on Sunday, Bailey had this to say about the fight and the future.
“Overall, I’m not very satisfied with my performance – I was trying too hard to knock him out, got a little tense and also tired quickly.
“The weight maybe played a part in it too but no excuses – Vasek is a very good fighter. I spoke to him briefly afterwards and it was a shame, I think he would have taken the title of Last Man Standing if he’d been able to continue.
“Although I probably wasn’t at my best on Saturday night, from all the great messages I received afterwards perhaps I’m being a little hard on myself. I went out there to excite the fans and show everyone just who I am and of course I wanted to win the tournament and was disappointed that I didn’t get to replace Vasek in the Semi Final.
“But overall it was an amazing promotion by OKTAGON. The whole team was so friendly and helpful before, during and after the event – I definitely want to come back and next time would like to fight at -65kg.
“I heal really quickly so, after 10 days in quarantine, I’ll be straight back to the gym developing my craft. And I’m already looking forward to my next fight, whenever and wherever that might be. My journey and my destination will not change – this is what I do and it’s what I’ll continue to do!”
Pictures by OKTAGON MMA