Bare knuckles, headbutts, no rounds, and a one night, eight-person openweight tournament, it would be fair to say Polish promotion WOTORE is carving out a unique niche in an increasingly crowded combat sports scene.
The recent arrival held its first two shows earlier this year, and returns this week, with WOTORE 3 taking place on Sat. September 19 inside the Alwernia Studios in Poland. The event will feature fighters from multiple countries, including the US, and Kyrgyzstan.
“The idea to create WOTORE evolved over many months. The founders are also the owners of the promotion with whom I created this project. We were inspired mainly by films we grew up with such as Bloodsport or The Quest,” says WOTORE’s Jakub Hajduś.
Fights take place in an open arena, with a small crowd in a set carefully crafted by a design team to bring a sense of occasion and drama to the evening’s events. It’s a refreshing change of pace for martial arts fans tired of seeing promotions all reading from the same playbook. Alongside Hajduś, the key figures behind WOTORE are Mirosław Barszowski, coach of the Polish Wushu team, and former professional MMA fighter Maciej Browarski. All three are devoted martial arts fans.
“Our first tagline was “The history of martial arts comes full circle,” which means a return to the roots, primal instincts, and bare fists,” Hajduś says.
“We want to create an atmosphere for the real gladiators who have combat in their DNA and want to test themselves with minimum protection, but above all who have the strength of character that pushes them to compete in the WOTORE arena.”
The rules of WOTORE are simple, fights only end when a knockout or submission takes place; almost all strikes, including headbutts, are legal, and there are no weight categories in the eight-person tournament. Fighters only discover, on the day of the event, through a drawing of lots, their opening-round opponent. The events are reminiscent of the early Vale Tudo Championships in the 1990s, and according to Hajduś, fighters are lining up for the chance to compete under the WOTORE banner.
“The fighters participating in WOTORE reacted very enthusiastically to the above rules; they are excited to be able to prove themselves in such an environment. We must remember that such people are known for their very strong character and great courage. Therefore, instead of insulting each other or pre-bout scuffles, our fighters are focused on the task at hand and have great respect for their opponent.
“The interest in the first tournament was very high, fighters from all over the world wanted to compete in the second tournament, but unfortunately, the coronavirus’s situation blocked participants from outside of Poland. “
The promotion takes fighter safety seriously but is also aware the aesthetics of bare-knuckle, barefooted bouts are always going to be more on the graphic side compared to boxing and MMA.
“We must remember that the formula of barefoot fights is bloody. There are many cuts and broken noses. However, it is safer than cyclical blows of a boxing glove to the head where the effects are often not visible immediately, but flare up after leaving the ring,” Hajduś explains.
“After two tournaments, we can confidently say that we are going in the right direction. First of all, we have learned how to care for every minor detail, and we learn more from each edition. In this upcoming event, fans will be able to see, for example, head strikes to grounded opponents, which were previously forbidden.”
Covid-19 has forced sporting organizations worldwide to alter their scheduled plans, and WOTORE is no exception. However, the promotion is rolling with the punches and is already making plans for 2021 and beyond.
“We will definitely not limit ourselves to organizing tournaments only in Poland. I don’t want to reveal the details, but maybe it will be in the rain forests of Asia? We focus mainly on the sale of tickets in the PPV system. Events can be watched in-person but only by a very small number of people, this gives us great opportunities in choosing locations.
“We are continually developing and striving to create the best events because we do not do it for ourselves; it’s for the fans.”
WOTORE 3 will be available via PPV for only $5 USD, and fans wanting to check out this weekend’s event can click on the link below.