LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two-time World Series champion Shane Victorino has been intrigued by the sport of slap fighting since becoming enamored with one of the sport’s best strikers, Koa Viernes, known to his fans as “Da Crazy Hawaiian.”
That was long before his good friend and UFC president Dana White created the Power Slap League. Both Victorino and Viernes were among an energetic crowd at the UFC Apex on Saturday night to watch Power Slap 1, where four first champions were crowned.
“I think this is amazing,” Victorino said of competitors standing rigidly upright with their hands behind their backs, waiting to absorb a brutal slap to the face.
When the open-handed blow is delivered, some fighters barely move, while others stumble backward or fall to the floor. Some are knocked out.
Also in the audience were injured Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Logan Thompson and Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby. They were joined by NFL free agents and “Bussin With the Boys” podcast hosts Will Compton and Taylor Lewan, Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars, Dan Blizerian and a slew of UFC fighters.
“We had a lot of influential people in the room tonight and everybody loved it,” White told The Associated Press after the event. “I’m a psycho when it comes to the live event and the television events, so we put a lot of work into it. The show was a complete success.”
It only took the first match of the evening to send the crowd into a frenzy, when Robert Trujillo dropped Jewel Scott with a powerful right hand and then strutted around the stage before giving a wide-smiling White a glance and a nod.
From there, the energy level increased with each match, from striker introductions to the backstage interviews with TV personality Charly Arnolt.
“The energy in general is just viral,” Lewan said. “It is an absolute spectacle to see some of these guys, all the confidence in the world, 15 seconds they’re gasping for air, they’re trying to stand back up and they just can’t. Truly amazing. It’s gonna be a massive sport for sure.”
Compton said by combining a little-known sport with White’s experience from building UFC’s platform, and inviting the “who’s who around Vegas,” will create a “party surrounding” future events.
“And then when it gets quiet you see these dudes slap the (expletive) out of each other, it makes it that much better,” Compton said.
Said Viernes: “Watching it on TV does it no justice, you’ve got to be here. I’m happy and I’m glad that the sport is where it’s at now.”
Of the 12 matches on the card, which lasted a little more than three hours, nine ended by way of knockout. Christopher Thomas earned the first strike of the welterweight championship via coin flip, and that’s all he needed to score a one-strike knockout over Jesus Gaspar Diaz.
John Davis won the middleweight championship on his first strike on Azael Rodriguez.
After being knocked down on the initial slap of the light heavyweight championship, Ayjay Hintz won the belt with his first strike to Vernon Cathay’s face.
In the main event, Ron Bata scored the upset of the night by knocking out Darius Mata-Varona to win the heavyweight belt. It was the fourth time the rivals met and Mata-Varona’s first loss.
“I had to get past somebody I’ve been trying to for years,” Bata said. “The energy was awesome. Everybody screaming.”
White, who admitted in January he slapped his wife, Anne, on New Year’s Eve, said he couldn’t have scripted a better night for Power Slap 1.