HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a gym in Waianae young men beat on heavy bags, work up a sweat, and share in a dream to revive Hawaii's interest in kickboxing.
That's what their coach wants too.
“We’re trying to bring the kickboxing scene back. I guess it just fell behind the MMA scene,” Michael Talalotu said.
Unlike mixed martial arts, there’s no ground and pound in the sport.
"There's mostly striking. There's only striking with kickboxing with the feet and the hands. In MMA there's a lot grappling and submission stuff." Talalotu said.
He coaches about 30 fighters in the Westside Striking kickboxing club. Three of his athletes made Team USA and fought at last month’s World Games in Bosnia.
Brandon Abiva, Taz Kaleipo and Cody Lasconia faced international fighters.
“Out here, we like to stand and bang,” Abiva said. “Out there, they’re real fast. They score their points and get in and out.”
The trio fought four bouts, winning one and losing three.
“The level of competition is very high," Lasconia said. "Everyone has 70-plus fights. They’re pros in international competition.”
"Their tournaments up there you can get hurt really fast. If you get injured really fast then you're out of the games," Kaleipo said.
They fundraised to get to Bosnia.
"Lot of car washes. Lot of selling pastries, doughnuts and stuff," Talalotu said.
He believes kickboxing could once again be a main event here like it was in the glory days of Dennis Alexio, but it needs proper promotion.
"I'd like to get all my kids, all my fighters more experience than just the local scene," he said.
Westside Striking is taking aim at next year’s national tournament. The prize would be qualifying as many fighters as possible for Team USA in 2020.
“I’m planning to go to the Pan Am Games in Brazil. I’m shooting for Gold,”Abiva said.
The Hawaii kickboxers hope their hard work in the gym will pay off in the ring.