A few years ago, there was popular NOS Energy Drink commercial commonly seen during MMA events called “No Nonsense.” In it there was a rather flamboyant fighter who enters a prize ring in spectacular fashion, doing flips and playing to the crowd, refusing to touch gloves with his opponent, smiting his chest and going into further theatrics after the opening bell. On his first kick lavish attempt, the nondescript man he is facing coolly catches his leg and throws a right hand which knocks him out.
There is always something satisfactory in seeing hubris treated with such casual disdain. It was one of the reasons Anderson Silva’s knockout loss in the first Chris Weidman fight stood out in ways that became impossible to shake. If a showboat gets caught, it’s accompanied by a “serves you right” moment of exultation by the onlooker.
It happened in real life again last month in Essex, England, when a young French fighter named Johan Segas made the trek across the Channel for an amateur title fight at BCMMA 18. He was standing in against a more seasoned amateur named Joe Harding, who had the English crowd on his side just like the antagonist in the NOS commercial. And just like the NOS character, Harding couldn’t resist the urge to style on his opponent, dropping his hands, playing to the audience, and daring Segas to try and touch his chin.
Well, Segas did 20 seconds into the third round, right as Harding went into a kind of Ali Shuffle-meets-Michael Page balloon man dance. Segas abbreviated the show by landing a beautifully timed kick to Harding’s head that flattened him. The video went viral within hours.
What’s it like to be the real life equivalent of the NOS character, and to take out somebody mid-showboat? According to Segas, it was like any situation where you are forced to cut through the B.S.
“I was really focused on his jaw, and really honed in on the job I’d have to do to kick it,” he told MMA Fighting. “So when Harding did his showboating, I wasn’t disturbed over that at all. I was just focused on my own performance.”
For the 22-year-old Segas, who carries the apt nickname “The Silencer,” it was only his fifth amateur fight. He says he took the fight on eight days’ notice, and therefore didn’t know exactly what he would encounter on fight night.
“I’d just seen some video clips of him a week before the event, so I just saw a little bit of him,” he says. “I didn’t know he would showboat. I didn’t know that. I expected a versatile person, a versatile fighter with a high technical caliber. But I didn’t know that Joe Harding would play this kind of game.”
Segas, who has been competing for just two years in MMA, trains at the Spartan Fighting Academy in the south of France. He lives in the seaside town of Hendaye, on the Bay of Biscay, between Bayonne and San Sebastian, Spain. He attempted to land that same high kick on Harding in the first round, when Harding was initially dropping his hands and tempting his own fate.
Segas didn’t get close initially. But he kept the idea in mind for when the sequence might come around again. It did early in the third round. When the kick landed, there was a moment of disbelief with Harding’s faithful at Colchester Charter Hall.
“At the beginning, when I got into the cage, the people were quiet — they were really silent,” he said. “The people were there to see Joe, and they didn’t care about me. So, yeah, during the fight all the spectators cheered for Joe and wanted him to win. It was really special for him, but I just stayed focused on the fight.”
At that moment in time, Segas was happy to have caught Harding, especially because it was entirely possible he was down on the scorecards. What he didn’t anticipate was the kick going viral on the Internet.
“Of course, I wasn’t expecting a viral video clip like this,” he says. “When these things happen I didn’t have the ambition to make it something as exceptional as it is, and it seems the buzz of this fight is now based on the morality. Like Joe was showboating a lot and I finished him.”
Segas’ next fight is slated to happen in late-April, back in England. Though he’s already made a big splash by becoming the forerunner to win Knockout of the Year honors in 2017, he says he’s not ready to bolt the amateur circuit yet. He wants to gain more experience and eventually make his way to the show.
“The goal for me is to be a professional in the UFC, but I want to first of all do some other fights to improve my skills and improve,” he says. “I want to fight another one year or at maximum two years, and then when my skills are there I want to be a professional in the UFC.”
Segas’ KO of Harding was also a reminder that France — a country where MMA is still illegal — has some fighters to keep an eye on. One of the UFC’s brightest up-and-comers, Francis Ngannou, hails from Paris. The Cameroonian-French heavyweight looks poised to make a run at the title in the near future.
If anything, Segas is happy to see his kick help put France on the MMA map.
“Yeah, in France MMA is really, really going up,” he says. “A lot of fighters are interesting, and nowadays a lot of people in France are practicing in MMA.”
For now, the young Segas is content being the no-nonsense fighter who gonged a man trying to style on him. He’s called “The Silencer” because he doesn’t talk a lot, preferring to let his actions speak for him. He saw past Harding’s movement, and through it he saw the chin. And that wasn’t all.
“I saw that NOS commercial,” he says. “And it made me smile.”