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On Saturday the 11th of March, the Spartan battle of the century commenced at Somers Town Community Centre. No, I’m not talking about Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather, I’m talking about something better; the London Varsity Series 2017. On that fateful day, five of UCLU Muay Thai’s most hardened warriors went to war with fighters of Kings Muay Thai society. 

For those who aren’t quite sure what Muay Thai is, it involves a combination of boxing, knees, elbows, kicks, clinches, and throws, all in one ring. For Varsity, each fight consisted of four 1.5 minute rounds, and the winner was decided by the veteran referee, Sol. Each fighter forced themselves into a gruelling regime of preparation in the run up to Varsity. This involved sparring, alcohol withdrawal, weight cutting and generally morphing from normal university student into a fierce gladiator determined to inflict pain and suffering. 

On this historic evening, the first hero to step into the ring was Maxie Chopard, a Muay Thai Queen with fists of steel and the reactions of a wild predator. Her opponent, Eleanor Lansner had just as much drive, precision and skill as our warrior, but it was not enough to defeat the sheer tenacity of Maxie. The fight commenced with a brutal onslaught from both, but soon it was clear that Maxie had the edge; she began to land punches to the face, precise kicks to the body and took over the fight by driving her opponent into the corner and attacking her with a flurry of knees. By the end of the final round, UCLU Muay Thai was whipped into a frenzy of cheers and shouts, watching Maxie be crowned the rightful winner of the fight.

Whispers of our talent spread through the worried cluster of Kings fighters; their faces etched with fear and trepidation as the feeling of loss washed over them. Up next was Muay Thai darling, George Kuhn. This man may look like a kind and gentle soul, but he harbours a hidden dark side filled with illegal dank memes, aggressive punches and kicks as sharp as his wit. When his opponent, Danny, stepped into the ring, it was clear there was a big height difference between the two. George fought with everything he had, dodging kicks to the head, punches to the ribs and barely flinching at the kicks hammering his thighs. It was clear by the fourth round that both fighters were utterly exhausted having expended all  their willpower in a vicious bout. The referee decided Danny to be the winner, and the cheers from Kings were deafening. At a draw of 1-1, the competitiveness truly commenced. 

Third up to the challenge was Zita Méhész, a Hungarian first year who was raised eating nails for breakfast and drinking the tears of those she defeated in Kung Fu. Her opponent India Brough had the courage and grit to face this killing machine, and was a worthy opponent in every way. Zita struck her opponent with precision and efficiently placed kicks; timing her strikes exactly right to inflict the most damage she could. India had phenomenal stamina, throwing blow after blow that often hit their mark. However, at the commencement of the fourth round, Zita held her nerve and fought India into a corner; punishing her with a frenzy of punches and knees to prove her worth. By the end of the fight, Zita was announced as the winner and UCLU Muay Thai were ecstatic - they knew one more win would crown them the champion of Varsity.

The fourth fight was perhaps one of the most brutal UCLU Muay Thai had ever seen. It was time for Muhammad Ashraf Yusoff to step into the ring. One thing was clear, he was here to battle. His opponent commenced the fight with a hard kick to the ribs that barely fazed Ashraf, who responded with a spell of punches to the head quickly turning up the intensity of the atmosphere. By the third round, the fight began to get more chaotic as Ashraf’s opponent repeatedly threw him to the ground, resulting in jeers and hecklings from the heated crowd. As the final round finished, Kings was announced the winner and we all realised the Varsity trophy would be decided by the final fight. 

No man was better for that job than Marc Newall. A man who hailed from the ‘mean streets’ of Milton Keynes, Marc has trained and honed his skill for years. His opponent, Mike Vilen-Letts appeared equal in every way; their weight, height and skill set almost identical. The attack began in pure, unadulterated savagery. Both threw formidable punches, weighty kicks and were so ferocious that both UCL and Kings were on their feet, screaming themselves into a rapturous frenzy. Choruses rang out from our side of the ring, one hundred people bellowing ‘UCL! UCL! UCL!’. Even the odd squawk of ‘Kill him!’ rang out from the crowd as some members lost it and were consumed by their blood lust. Both fighters transformed the crowd’s buzzing energy into more left hooks, more head kicks, more sweat and fortitude. They gave it their absolute all. As the final round finished, both teams were certain of their victory; coaches lifting the fighters up to the cheers and shrieks of the crowd. The final moment came. The moment everyone had been waiting for. sol held his breath for a moment and the presenter bellowed the words: ‘This fight has been ruled a draw!’ A loud gasp was followed by boos. The crowd was sent into turmoil. UCLU Muay Thai President Ana-Lin rushed over to the referee to try and find a resolution. The situation was impossible: there HAD to be a winner. After a couple of nail-biting minutes, a solution was suggested. Both fighters would engage in a fifth and final round to decide upon the true winner. Marc Newall, being the utter beast that he is, agreed immediately. He wanted his crown and was willing to fight for it. His opponent agreed warily, still exhausted from the carnage that was those first four rounds. This was unprecedented in UCLU Muay Thai history, and the crowd were ecstatic. 

The deciding round commenced in a vicious onslaught, the noise of their brutal strikes silenced by the thunderous roars of the crowd. Even the usually placid and calm coaches, Greg and Ash, were yelling; banging their fists on the edge of the right and instructing from the side-lines. Both fighters were exhausted and running on a reserve of adrenaline, determination and instinctual passion. It truly felt like a fight to the death. Marc began to take charge more and more as seconds ticked away. He caught Mike in a clinch and hit him with brutal knees, then pushed him back and knocked him with a huge hook to the head. That aggression merely continued as he deftly dodged hits and threw kicks to the stomach in response. The final bell rang and the crowd was shrieking like the angry primates in ‘Planet of the Apes’, desperate for the win to be theirs.

The warriors were clearly beyond exhausted; both were champions for making it through another round, and their performances had been extremely close. Sol was discussing the result with the presenter. Everyone held their breath, our hearts rushing in anticipation, fingers trembling with excitement. Then the presenter yelled down the mic, the words that will forever be ingrained in UCLU Muay Thai history: ‘The winner… by the narrowest of margins… Marc! UCL are the winners of 2017 Muay Thai Varsity!’ The roar from the crowd has probably given much of the audience lifelong tinnitus. It was the loudest and most elated moment for UCLU Muay Thai, as the society jumped up and down in joy for their warrior consumed by a delirious elation of victory.

It was an incredible night and we could not have been prouder of the efforts and the sportsmanship that our fighters and club demonstrated. This was the first time in several years that UCLU Muay Thai had featured in the London Varsity Series, and will hopefully be the first of many victories against Strand Poly.

If you missed out or want to relive the excitement, footage of the bouts can be watched here:

By Ana-Lin