Leading up to the fight, Niko Vitale and Kala Kolohe Hose never said a bad word about each other, showing the utmost respect.
Then they went out and fought each other like the worst of enemies.
In the end, Vitale played to his biggest strength, submitting Hose with an Ezekiel choke midway through the fourth round in a thrilling main event to conclude last night’s X-1: Heroes event at the Blaisdell Arena.
Not one of the 2,500 people in attendance stayed silent as the two local boys slugged it out back and forth for more than 15 minutes.
Vitale’s ground game proved to be the difference in the end as he forced the referee to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 26 seconds of the fourth round.
Vitale retained his X-1 middleweight title, improving to 28-9 overall. Hose fell to 7-4.
After the fight, Hose put the belt around Vitale’s waist as the two hugged following an emotional scrap that had the hometown crowd split between Waianae’s Hose and Waipahu’s Vitale.
"He whupped my ass tonight, but these guys right here have whupped my ass in the gym for the last month and a half," Vitale said, motioning toward his teammates. "I tried to stand up from Kala, but there’s no way. I’m all banged up right now."
Hose, who needed five stitches following the fight, gave it everything he had. After he was dominated in the first round, Hose opened up his striking in the second and went to work.
He won the majority of the exchanges as the fight stayed on its feet for the next 10 minutes. Multiple times, he hit Vitale with combinations to the body and the head that sent Vitale backward into the cage.
"I thought I had him a few times, but Niko is tough," Hose said. "He was still there."
Vitale opened the fourth round the same way he did the first, shooting in and immediately taking down Hose. He eventually wore down Hose and locked on the choke that ended the fight. Hose never tapped, but his left arm looked to go limp and the referee moved in to stop it.
"I’m not going to take nothing away from Niko," Hose said. "I felt him choking me, and I was defending and then a little fade to black. I felt some weakness in me, then he got off me.
"I don’t want to take anything away from him. He choked me out."
Unlike most previous MMA main events in Hawaii, this one was unique, as it pitted two local guys against each other.
Both guys seemed hesitant during pre-fight interviews about fighting each other, but once they were in the cage, it was an all-out war.
"In the beginning it felt a little awkward, but once you start banging you’ve got to fight," Hose said. "I don’t want to ever fight one local again."