EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally posted on Oregon Sports News.
As the house lights came up and the crowd exited the building, it was clear to everyone in the room – Submission Underground was an absolute success. The inaugural event put on by FloCombat and Chael Sonnen proved to be captivating to the capacity crowd at the Roseland Theater in NW Portland. From the first match to the last, the crowd was completely engaged as fight after fight was finished with heel hooks, arm bars, and rear naked chokes. Of the twelve total matches, only two were decided without submissions as competitors hunted for finishes at nearly every turn.
Following the event, I had a chance to speak with Chael Sonnen about how he felt the night went and what lies ahead for Submission Underground as well as for Chael himself.
“You know you have two things you can look at, the act of being entertained and the business. We set a record for FloCombat with traffic to their site. [The event] was sold out and business wise it was an absolute success. Then secondly, you have entertainment. I loved it! The crowd was so unique. Grappling fans are different … you have fans who knew exactly what they were looking for, knew when to exhale, knew when to hold their breath because a submission was getting close. The anticipation and energy level throughout the night was awesome.”
Sonnen went on to say that the evening reminded him of the old PRIDE Fighting Championship events. At times, the crowd fell eerily silent as the competitors transitioned for submissions while applause broke out for sweeps, guard passes, and escapes. The only negative, if there were any, was the loss of some of the card’s biggest stars in the weeks leading up to the event. Benson Henderson, Kenny Florian, and “King Mo” Muhammad Lawal were all forced off the card with injuries. Sonnen admitted he would have liked for them to be there but that was out of his control.
“I would have loved to see Kenny Florian in there. There was a backstory there with him and Filipe Costa. They wanted to work that out, so that [would have been] fun. Everybody loves a grudge match. And Benson Henderson is an absolute stud. Yeah, you know I would have liked to see Benson in there but the reality is, we did our best to give guys the best matchups.”
As the card ended, Sonnen thanked the crowd and announced that the next Submission Underground event would be back at the Roseland Theater on December 11th. The question on everyone’s mind was clear – who would be grappling on that card? Every winning competitor said during their post match interview that they’d love to be back and it seems likely that some of them will. However, one of the slots appears to have already been filled by Chael Sonnen.
“I have a match lined up with Tim Kennedy. It would have been [tonight] … and he did accept, I have to give him a full pass here. He did accept [the match], but he is doing some important work for our government [and couldn’t be here]. I have nothing but appreciation for Tim Kennedy and when the time is right, I will whip his ass!”