Two Belfast amateur fighters have emerged victorious in their debut appearances in the United States as part of a prestigious Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event.
Lee McKibben and Colin McKee won their debut US bouts in front of 5000 people at the Xtreme Total Combat IV tournament, which took place at the Mobile Civic Centre Arena, in Alabama, on May 31.
In his first fight since breaking his hand in Glasgow in March, Lee “The Dragon” McKibben beat undefeated American fighter James Nevels after securing an armbar in the first round.
The victory meant that the 25-year-old scaffolder was crowned the 185lb champion of the tournament and presented with a world title belt to mark his achievement.
He said: “I’m delighted to have come away with the win. I’d been doing some intense training during the run up to the fight and was in good shape, so it’s very pleasing that all the hard work paid off.
“There wasn’t really any pressure on me, as none of my family or friends came to Alabama to watch, so I was pretty relaxed and able to go out and give my best performance.
“I don’t think the audience had any idea about fighters from Ireland, so it’s great that we got to show them how good we are.”
In one of the other main events of the tournament, fitness instructor Colin “The Gift” McKee defeated US pro star and fan favourite Todd Leiterman with a first round standing guillotine choke.
The 24-year-old, who works at LA Fitness in Belfast, was on impressive form throughout the bout and his dazzling array of moves gave his opponent no chance of victory.
The two fighters were joined on the fight card by fellow Belfast competitor Gerard Donnelly, with all three taking part in special Ireland vs. USA bouts.
In what was only his second-ever fight, 26-year-old computer programmer Donnelly fought a cagey battle with US star Scott o’Shauncey but, despite some impressive ground work, he lost a unanimous points decision against his opponent.
The trio’s appearance at the event was secured by Belfast-based promoter MAX Xtreme Fighting, who staged a sell-out MAX Xtreme Fighting event in Belfast’s King’s Hall in March.
Jonny Burrows, MAX Xtreme Fighting spokesman, said: “We were delighted to take part in the Xtreme Total Combat event and are very proud of all three of our fighters who took part.
“Colin really impressed the US crowd with his victory and, in what was only his second ever fight, Gerard showed that he can hold his own against a very experienced competitor. It was also especially thrilling to see Lee winning a title belt at the tournament and I am sure he is delighted with his performance.
“MMA fighters are some of the most finely tuned athletes in the world and each of the Belfast competitors impressed the crowd in Mobile with their skills.
“We hope that their appearance in Alabama will lead to more exciting opportunities between ourselves and major US fight promotions.”