One of the world's premier sport karate tournaments is just five weeks away, as the events at the Battle of Atlanta will begin Thursday, June 17th with the Professional Martial Arts Conference (PROMAC) Championships and Award Ceremonies. The Battle is PROMAC's marquee event and a number of competitors vying for national PROMAC titles will likely bolster the expected large turnout for the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) portion of the event taking place on Friday and Saturday.
Despite the Battle of Atlanta promoters still hosting their event in 2020, the tournament was not NASKA-sanctioned as a result of a hiatus related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the 2021 Battle of Atlanta will be the first in-person event for the most talent-packed sport karate league in the western hemisphere since the last Compete Nationals in February of 2020. The NASKA comeback, combined with impressive crowds at PROMAC events such as the Destin Open, Memphis Open, and North Georgia Open in the past year, could be the makings of a very successful event at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel this June. This is great news for sport karate fans and competitors alike.
What will the competition look like? The unprecedented time off for many competitors and sponsored teams makes it difficult to predict which faces to expect, but it makes for plenty of exciting storylines.
Forms and Weapons
In forms and weapons, many top competitors opted out of participating in online events during the heat of the pandemic for a myriad of reasons. It is uncertain which of these defending champions and veteran contenders will be in action, but we know that the competition and skills on display will be top-notch. Some speculation can be based on competitors who have been active on PROMAC, appeared on the Virtual Forms Tour, or have been public about their training like Sammy Smith, Danny Etkin, Rashad Eugene, Gabrielle Dunn, and more. However, there is a whole roster of young talent who turned eighteen in 2020 and early 2021 who are ready to test their skills against the adults.
In the men's division, junior weapons dual-threat Jake Presley of Team Paul Mitchell is likely to make his adult debut on NASKA in the Creative/Musical/Extreme (CMX) and traditional divisions. Connor Chasteen of Team Infinity has also risen to prominence in the weapons division during the pandemic, winning several PROMAC grand championships with his kama routine and taking home another victory in the main event of Virtual Forms Tour I.
Connor Chasteen accepts his grand championship guitar from promoter and PROMAC Vice President Joey Perry at The Memphis Open earlier this year. Photo courtesy of SportMartialArts.com
Junior forms juggernaut Mason Stowell of Top Ten Team USA is also old enough now to compete against the men with his high-flying extreme forms and powerful traditional routines, but his pursuit of the Tokyo Olympics as a Team USA kata athlete could interfere with his competition schedule at NASKA events in the immediate future. On the women's side, Team Infinity's Haley "Bulletproof" Glass will introduce herself to the adult division as an instant threat to win both forms and weapons overall grands.
With regard to point fighting, it is a bit easier to predict which mainstay competitors will be in action based on participation in major pay-per-view sport karate promotions such as Pro Point and the Virtual Fight Tour. Point fighting's iron man, who seems to fight in tournaments nearly every weekend, Kevin Walker of Team All Stars is expected to display his skills at The Battle. It is also a safe bet that Team Straight Up coach Joe Greenhalgh will be sending his tough squad featuring superstar Bailey Murphy, the talented and gritty Brandon Ballou, and other solid contenders like Romani Alicea. Several members of Team Dojo Elite – Power have also been active during the pandemic such as Devon Hopper, Zain Pedraza, and Pro Point 4 Winner Ryan "RPG" George.
Ryan George poses with his check for winning Pro Point 4, streamed by several major platforms including Black Belt Magazine.
Other fighters that have not been as active as those mentioned above could be back in action as well. Super-sibling duo Avery and Morgan Plowden of Team Impex have voiced motivation to be back on the mats and would be favorites to win the men's heavyweight and women's fighting grands respectively if they were to attend. The heavyweight bracket in particular could get very interesting, as undeniable force Kameren Dawson recovers from a back injury suffered at the North Georgia Open and other heavyweights have been staying sharp like Team Next Level's Anthony Merricks, Team Proper's Brayan Rodriguez, and many more.
What about the up-and-comers? There is a ton of talent that is expected to be moving up in the near future. Team Next Level's dynamic duo of Tyson Wray and Darren Payne have the potential to do some damage, Team Paul Mitchell's newest acquisition Alex Mancillas is hungry to make an impact for sport karate's most decorated team, and Top Ten Team USA's Jason Letona has potential to be a threat in the adult division when he joins his older brother Enrique. There are of course more fighters than that who will be new faces in the adult division, but that group has been active and there is a reasonable public consensus that they are coming to the adult divisions soon.
Tyson Wray gets his hand raised alongside teammate Darren Payne after they defeated Team All Stars' duo of Paolo Rafael Serafico and James Roberts IV at Virtual Fight Tour VII.
The 2021 Battle of Atlanta is almost guaranteed to be a historic event. The Friday Night Fights night show on June 18th will put several fighting divisions on display including the next Pro Point event with several incredible matchups. The Battle Zone night show on the 19th will continue the storied legacy of the Battle of Atlanta finals. Competitors should expect to begin NASKA competition early Friday morning with specialty divisions like Team Demonstration and Team Synchronized Forms, with their individual divisions to follow in sessions after that. Additionally on Friday morning, The Battle will be running special BATTLEMANIA sparring divisions that include continuous, double-elimination, mixed doubles, and tag-team.
Not able to attend this year? No worries, Black Belt Magazine will be in attendance and will bring you all the important news and updates from the event. Stay tuned to Black Belt on social media and our website for more information.
Before the event, catch up on the current Black Belt Magazine World Sport Karate Rankings by clicking HERE.