The very future of Greece was on the line last weekend as its people headed to the polls to decide whether or not to accept austerity proposals from the country’s creditors. While life in Athens might be far from normal it still goes on and just a few hours before the referendum promoter Giagkos Polatidis held the fourth installment of his Cage Survivor series.
Cage Survivor 4 took place at the Olympic Stadium and the event might as well have been entitled “against all odds.” The country was already running out of cash and its capital besieged by protestors urging their compatriots to either vote “yes” or “no” but Polatidis and his promotional partners decided that despite all this turmoil the show would go on.
In the end, 16 fights were held and three titles handed out with over 1,000 MMA fans in attendance. Polatidis admits, however, that he gave serious consideration to cancelling the entire event,
“Yes we thought about it for a moment to cancel because banks were closed one week prior to our event and a referendum vote was announced to take place one day after the event. It was a very bad situation not just for us but all our country. But our main priority was to be reliable to the athletes and to our audience so we wanted to keep fighting. So we did not cancel and we all enjoyed just taking a breath and seeing an MMA show.”
The audience saw a couple of blue chip Greek prospects claim the first titles of their careers. Marios Loulakis beat Alexandros Dimaras in the main event to claim the organization’s inaugural 170 lbs title and move up to 5-0. Female fighter Elina Kallionidou claimed the 135 lbs belt with a win over Foteini Kromida that takes her to 3-0 and both matches went the distance.
Amid the protests, celebrations, resignations and all round chaos that gripped Greece last weekend Cage Survivor 4 barely warranted a mention in the media. The country could still exit the European Union with billions of dollars of debt currently hanging in the balance but Polatidis says nothing will deter the Greek fighters from pursuing their MMA dreams,
“It would mean a lot for the Greek people to have a world recognized fighter considering the fact that the MMA of today is a copy of ancient Pankration. Greece already has a lot of talent with promising fighters like Alexis Savvidis, Sokolis Nikos, Vladimiros Manias, Elina Kallionidou, Foteini Kromyda and Marios Loulakis.”
Pankration was first introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC as a blend of boxing and wrestling with very few rules. Only biting and eye gouging were illegal and some of the locks and holds bore fairly close resemblance to the submissions we see being used in MMA today.
Just as the Olympic Games went on a hiatus for approximately 18 centuries before being resurrected in 1896 there is scant evidence to suggest that Pankration was continually practiced in Greece. Instead the sport was resurrected in the form of MMA and Polatidis says he is trying to increase interest and awareness in his homeland,
“I launched Cage Survivor in November of 2013 because I’ve been a martial artist since a young age and I had a vision of bringing the MMA into the Greek scene. At the time most MMA shows in Greece were hybrid events including other martial arts like kickboxing, Thai boxing, boxing etc but we wanted a pure MMA show.”
Greece’s ATMs are rapidly running out of cash with people queuing for hours to withdraw money and payouts limited to €60 ($66) a day. In this uncertain economic climate it would have been understandable if Polatidis had struggled to pay some of the 32 fighters on the Cage Survivor 4 card but he says no one walked away empty handed,
“So far in a total of 67 fights we had no issues in paying our staff or athletes, even in the middle of a serious financial crisis. We have been consistent to the managers as well as the athletes but for this show we did have the lowest ticket sales in the history of Cage Survivor, around 1100-1150.”
With the event taking place hours before a referendum that would dictate the country’s future, it would have been understandable if prospective ticket buyers had decided to stay home. Getting such a decent turn out during the epicenter of an economic crisis bodes well for the future of Cage Survivor and Polatidis is already planning the next show,
“In the past two years we’ve seen a rapid growth in interest in martial arts and Greek people are starting to follow MMA. We were pioneers in all this and we will continue doing it and putting on successful events.”
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