Muay Thai coming to local ring

The first Muay Thai fights Mehrdad Kham Moayedi hosted when he started his own dojo in St. Petersburg back in 1992 were what are called “smokers.” The name comes from the informal atmosphere accompanying the miniature brawls that take place within a gym between two amateur fighters. Traditionally, the crowd might be filled with drinkers and smokers.

The crowds at Master Mehrdad’s Martial Arts and Muay Thai were never big. Moayedi always had to plan a Muay Thai primer for outsiders new to the sport.

“People did not know what Muay Thai was,” Moayedi said. “It was a long road for me to educate people for many years.”

This was a year before the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) even hosted its first bout, let alone brought mixed martial arts — and, by proxy, Muay Thai — into the mainstream. It’s taken nearly 25 years, but Moayedi now expects thousands of spectators at the events he promotes for MKM Knockout Productions out of Clearwater.

On Aug. 20, he’ll bring his first bout down to Manatee County when Cyrus Washington squares off against Alex Berrios for Shin Do Kumate XVII at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. Washington, nicknamed “Black Dynamite,” is currently the No. 8 Muay Thai fighter in the world and No. 2 in the United States. Berrios, who has more than 40 fights under his belt, is based out of Tampa Muay Thai.

“The Muay Thai world and our organization, we choose very high-end, high-caliber fighters,” Moayedi said, “fighters that can be very great icons and role models for other people.”

Moayedi is the most experienced Muay Thai promoter in Florida. In 2002, he hosted the first state-sanctioned professional fight in 2002 and has consistently been promoting fights, mainly in the Tampa Bay Area, since.

Moving a fight down to Palmetto pushes him into a different market, and one that is a bit less saturated than Tampa or St. Petersburg. He hopes to draw 2,000 to 3,000 spectators for the event, which will be his first of its kind in the county.

International soccer star comes to Lakewood Ranch

Luis Figo, a Ballon d’Or as best European soccer player in 2000 and one of the most decorated players in Portuguese history, will be in Manatee County on Thursday to promote a new tournament at The Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch he hopes can become an annual event.

The European Showcase By Figo is scheduled for Nov. 11-13 and plans to host more than 400 teams of boys and girls from ages 8-18. The goal, according to a release sent by The Premier Sports Campus, is to expose American players to the European methodologies which have developed players like Figo.

Figo began his career domestically in Portugal, first with U.F.C. Os Pastilhas and then with Sporting Clube de Portugal, where he spent nearly a decade. He then bounced around Europe with some of the top teams in the world, including FC Barcelona, Real Madrid C.F. and Inter Milan. He won four La Liga titles in Spain with Barcelona and Real Madrid, four Serie A championships in Italy with Inter, and his 106 La Liga assists are second most in league history behind only Lionel Messi.

Figo will bring that resume to the fields at Premier Sports Campus in the fall, along with a hand-picked coaching staff, to provide Americans some of the European experience. Winning teams will travel to Europe to play in international tournaments, paid for by the International Visibility Program for youth soccer.

Desoto Speedway celebrates fans

With the summer nearing its end, Desoto Speedway will hold a fan appreciation night Saturday to accompany a Sunoco Challenge race in Bradenton.

Fan appreciation night will run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with $1 hot dogs and draft beers. The actual race portion will include pure stock bombers, pro trucks and super late models.

David Wilson: 941-745-7057, @DBWilson2