We already have plenty of fight nights. So why not some knight fights?
M-1 Global initially started running full-contact jousting matches, with "knights" dressed in armor and wielding swords, as filler during MMA events in August. The response has been so positive that the Russian promotion has committed to featuring more of these unorthodox battles -- with the possibility of an entire series of events filled with knight bouts in the future, M-1 president Vadim Finkelchtein told MMAFighting.com.
The new venture is called M-1 Medieval.
"I liked the fans' reaction when we did it for the first time in St. Petersburg at M-1 Challenge 50," Finkelchtein said via e-mail. "They seemed to really like it. They were impressed and supported the knights. So, I thought it was worth continuing. At that time, the knight fight was to fill the pause between the undercard and main card fights. If we find enough fighters to make enough fights, we will have a separate medieval show with its own weight categories, title fights and champions."
Finkelchtein said he had the same feeling the first time he saw full-contact jousting as when he saw his first MMA fight.
"I think it is similar to MMA," he said. "The rules are similar: you can punch, strike and wrestle. The fighters have swords and shields, wear special clothing, and all that looks really impressive and exciting."
The full rules are still being hashed out. The fights will take place in what M-1 calls a "rage" -- a combination of a ring and a cage that has six sides. That's where the promotion typically houses its bouts. But Finkelchtein said he could see knight fights taking place anywhere, from a ring or cage to open air. M-1 puts down a special surface on the canvas to protect the mats from damage during these bouts.
The swords the knights carry must be blunt, of course. Headbutts are not allowed and neither are submission holds. Strikes to the back of the neck, spine, feet and ankles are also prohibited. If a knight is knocked down, his opponent can finish him by only using three strikes, Finkelchtein said.
M-1 plans on publishing a full list of rules soon. Finkelchtein expects the fights to catch on across Europe, because of the history of knights in the continent, especially in places like Germany, Spain and England.
"There were a lot of knightly orders and it has a big cultural heritage," he said. "And now we see a lot of schools where people can experience these traditions, the way knights lived. They can study how to fight using swords and learn a lot about Medieval times. And that makes me think the M-1 Medieval idea will have a good future in Europe."
What also excites Finkelchtein about full-contact jousting is the nationalistic overtones. Fighters will enter the rage in the colors and clothing of their countries.
"National clothing adds color and makes the fights even more spectacular," he said.
The next M-1 Medieval bout is set for M-1 Challenge 56 on April 10 in Moscow. And there is likely more to come after that.
"I do believe it will become popular in Europe, because of a rich knight background," Finkelchtein said.