By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on February 8, 2024.
With all eyes on the Super Bowl in Las Vegas this weekend, Canadian Eddie (Spaghetti) Brahimir is ready to make his own mark in Sin City.
Preferably on the face of American middleweight Branden (The Butcher) Bordeaux.
Brahimir and Bordeaux are set to face off Friday on the “Power Slap 6: KO Chris vs Muniz” card at the Durango Casino & Resort.
The brainchild of UFC president Dana White, Power Slap looks akin to arm-wrestling at first glance. But instead of locking hands, competitors take turns delivering open-handed slaps to their opponent’s face in a three-round contest with one blow per round.
Not for everyone, it is both brutal and popular.
With two officials protectively positioned behind the competitor about to get hit, it is clear violence is coming. Blows are shown in super-slow motion, with grimacing faces contorted in unnatural positions due to the force of the slaps.
Sometimes the slap-receiver doesn’t get up in time to continue. If each competitor can absorb three blows, it goes to the judges.
White calls it “the ultimate test of toughness.”
Brahimir, a chiselled 26-year-old from Caledonia, Ont., is the lone Canadian currently on the Power Slap roster.
“I’m absolutely stoked,” Brahimir said Thursday from Las Vegas. “It’s Super Bowl weekend. Vegas is going to be packed and I’m ready to put on a show for a real crowd.”
Friday’s card is the first Power Slap event open to the public.
Brahimir (1-1 with one knockout) trains with his brother Emerson, a body builder, working on his slap time and time again.
“I just try to stay dialed, eat healthy and get in as many slaps in as I can just to make sure that when I go up there on stage, I’m going to do what I came here to do.”
While he works on perfecting his slap, he does not take them in training. For obvious reasons.
Instead he works on his neck and jaw. And he trains jiu-jitsu five or six days a week, which helps strengthens the neck.
Asked what it’s like to take a slap to the face from a pro, Brahimir says the first blow is usually the worst.
“After the first slap, you kind of see what it feels like and how it is,” he explained. “And to be honest, when you’re in the moment and your adrenalin’s going and you’re up on stage and you’ve got the lights and the cameras on you, you don’t feel it at all.”
Competitors wear a mouthpiece and put cotton wool in their ears, to avoid having their eardrums blown out. The person getting hit stands dead straight, holding a swimming-style noodle behind their back to keep their hands out of the way.
Power Slap calls itself “the world’s premier slap-fighting promotion.” Founded by White, former UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and veteran reality TV producer Craig Piligian, in partnership with the UFC, it is regulated and sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the California State Athletic Commission.
Power Slap has drawn on the “The Ultimate Fighter” reality TV format that served the UFC so well.
In Season 1 of “Power Slap: Road to the Title,” 22 fighters went into the so-called Power Slap House to live, train and fight. That produced the organization’s first four champions.
Season 2 drew 24 competitors, including Brahimir, whose day job is as a CNC (computer numerically controlled) operator at a carpentry millwork shop.
The five-11, 184-pound Brahimir lost to Bordeaux in Episode 5 in a three-round affair, but did enough to be kept on the show as an alternate.
“He’s got a chin on him,” White marvelled after Brahimir absorbed a mighty slap.
A pimple popped on one of the blows, leaving Brahimir with a bloody divot on his cheek.
The 30-year-old Bordeaux (2-0) comes by his nickname honestly. He and his brother own a mobile slaughtering operation in Michigan.
“We respect each other “¦ I really like Branden,” Brahimir said. “I’m ready to put on a show with him.”
Bordeaux is ranked fourth among middleweight contenders. Brahimir is No. 6.
Brahimir got a second chance in Episode 9 when he stopped American Amir Nuriddeen with his first blow. That earned him a spot on Friday’s card. Bordeaux went on to beat (Slappy) Joe Landman to secure his spot.
After first seeing a Power Slap video, Brahimir was encouraged to get involved by friends.
He contacted Power Slap matchmaker Erica Olsthoorn, a fellow Canadian from Niagara Falls, Ont., via social media. And after several months of interviews and tests, he was accepted into the ranks.
Brahimir entered the Power Slap house in October, spending three weeks with fellow competitors.
“It was little much at first, but after getting to know everyone – everyone that was in the house with me was a good guy – I had no quarrels with anyone,” he said.
“I think some of these guys I’m probably going to be friends with for a very long time,” he added. “It was a lot of fun “¦ a good experience.”
Season 2 started airing in mid-November with 12 episodes featuring fighters in five weight classes from welterweight to super-heavyweight.
“My mom wasn’t too stoked about it at first,” Brahimir said. “But after seeing the whole process and how much I enjoy everything that I’m doing now “¦ my friends and family are very supportive. Even my grandma thinks it’s cool.”
Brahimir isn’t concerned about critics of Power Slap, saying only “people have their own opinions on everything.”
He says the sport has done wonders for his confidence. And helped his bank balance.
“There’s a nice bit of money to be made,” he said. “And I feel like this has already been a life-changing experience. I think from here it’s only up.”
Friday’s main event features the Season 2 coaches – welterweight champion (KO) Chris Thomas (5-0 with five knockouts) and Emanuel (No Love) Muniz (4-2 with one KO). In the co-main event, Sheena (The Hungarian Hurricane) Bathory faces Jackie (The Hybrid) Cataline.
Bathory won Power Slap’s Instagram fan vote for knockout of the year for her second-round victory over Christine Wolmarans at Power Slap 5 in the first regulated women’s match. Bathory is featured in Power Slap’s largest Instagram video, which drew 159 million views.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8., 2024.