Fight by the rules: Enriko Kehl vs Arbi Emiev

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Opinion: Kehl vs Emiev at MFC 23

What really is the difference between a kickboxing match and a street fight? I mean, it’s obvious if you Youtube “street fight” and “kickboxing” you’ll get loads of different examples and it’s easy to tell, but what really is the difference?

For me, one of the most obvious differences is the lack of rules in a street fight. Anything goes including pulling hair, eye poking, head butting and kicks to the family jewels. In pro kickboxing, however, there is a very strict set of rules that is agreed upon by both fighters before the fight and is enforced by a governing body of referees and judges. That’s the whole point of having a referee in the ring, right?

The reason seems clear for all of this – at the level of pro kickboxing such as in promotions like Mix Fight Championship. We’re talking about trained killers, some of the most dangerous fighters in the world. The rules have to be enforced for the safety of both fighters. Both fighters are taught to respect their opponents, fight by the rules. No matter what happens, respect the other fighter after the fight. Therefore, it would be a pretty crappy thing to do, for example, to elbow somebody in the face when the other fighter would not expect this to happen, seeing as how both fighters shook hands before the bout, agreeing that elbows would not be allowed.

Emiev Takes matters into his own hands (or elbows)

Somebody evidently forgot to give Arbi Emiev the memo about all of this. In his co-main event bout (under kickboxing rules) of MFC 23 Emiev suddenly went off the deep end in the second round, unloading illegal elbows on an unexpecting Enriko Kehl, even opening him up with blood freely flowing from under his chin as a result. But that wasn’t it. There was a plethora of other unsportsmanlike behavior from Emiev that shined a light on his blatant disregard for the rules.

Before the fight at the weigh-ins, completely unaware of what was to happen the next day, I very innocently interviewed Enriko Kehl who was originally scheduled to fight journeyman lightweight fighter Warren Stevelmans at this event.

The Fight

The fireworks really start to happen at the end of round one when Emiev refuses to touch gloves with Kehl and stares him down on his way back to his corner. Then, as round two opens up, Emiev unloads with two blatantly illegal elbows. As the fight goes on, it becomes obvious that Emiev has absolutely no sportsmanship, no class and no respect for the rules.

After the event, I left the ringside commentary position and headed backstage to see if I could get an interview with Enriko. I found him in his locker room with his coach and a bandage on his chin.

The other side of the story

After the show I also found Emiev’s coach and tried to get an interview out of him, since Arbi doesn’t speak English, but he just blew me off saying “I don’t do interviews”. I found this strange seeing as how just the day before I heard him boasting about how important of a person he is and how he’s the president of this federation and that federation and so on. You’d think that such a VIP would be giving interviews all the time.

I did, however, manage to get a few remarks out of him ‘off the record’, so to speak. When I asked him about the illegal elbows he again not only tried to just brush me off, but tried to embarrass me as well, by saying that because I’m not a pro fighter, I probably don’t know the difference between an elbow and a push, and that Emiev was not elbowing Kehl, but just pushing him. Sheesh, this guy has some nerve, right? Well hell, I may not be Col. Sanders either, but I sure as hell know the difference between chicken salad and chicken s**t.

Completely unsatisfied, I continued to probe this man for more insight on the fight. I then asked him what he was telling Emiev during the fight and between rounds. He simply responded by telling me that Emiev was doing exactly what he was telling him to do. Now that statement can certainly be taken a number of ways. Either that means that he was telling Emiev to elbow Kehl and he listened to him, or it simply means that Emiev was doing everything else he was being told, and that the elbows were only his idea [Emiev’s idea]. I’ll let you make your own judgment.

Speculation

One has to wonder why all of this happened. In my research before the event I watched several of Emiev’s fights and I never saw him fighting like this before. In fact, I have a lot of respect for Emiev as a fighter. He’s powerful, quick, has great timing and reflexes and is very self-confident. So, why would he resort to tactics like this in such an important fight?

There are two theories I have about this. I’ll save the juicier one for last, but first of all, I’ll say this.

I don’t think Emiev was happy about the knockdown in the first round. Maybe he started thinking that he has absolutely no chance now, seeing as how he’s already lost the first round 10 : 8 and on top of that he’s fighting in Kehl’s country in front of Kehl’s fans and the promoter of the event is Kehl’s manager. Maybe he just said “screw it” and just wanted to burn the whole place to the ground. At some point, who cares, right?

My second theory I can’t get into too much detail about publicly, but I was also witness to a very… let’s say… “heated” situation involving Emiev’s coach at the hotel just prior to the event. Taking that into account, not to mention the complete lack of concern from his coach after the event about the actions of his fighter, it would lead me believe that perhaps Emiev was instructed to rough up Kehl a little bit. But that’s just pure speculation on my behalf.

What’s next

If I were the match maker at Mix Fight Championship, I’d immediately try to get a rematch between these two signed, but this time under Muay Thai rules. The reasoning is simple – elbows are illegal in kickboxing and Emiev tried to blatantly break the rules to purposefully hurt, anger and embarrass an unsuspecting Enriko Kehl. If elbows are legal under Muay Thai rules and Kehl knows they are coming, then Emiev has no reasons left to think that he’s the better fighter if Kehl wins again. And why not do the fight somewhere else this time? Why not do it outside of Germany? I know MFC has a show coming up on January 27th in Izmir, Turkey. Why not do it there? Then Emiev can’t say that Kehl has the deck stacked his favor either.

That’s a Wrap

At any rate, I think the actions of Emiev during that fight were inexcusable. Big respect to Enriko Kehl for playing it cool and not lowering himself to Emiev’s level. He continued to fight hard and play by the rules and in the end he won the fight, so good for him.

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