Diamonds is Back!


Diamonds has been a staple of Sport Karate forever; especially in the midwest regions. A common question heard through every tournament and every school is as the weather cools is: 

“You’re going to Diamonds, right?”

Last year, the entire world said “no” and we all sat at home and wondered what to do. 

However, we made it through, and Diamonds is back! 

Held in the lovely Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis, Diamond Nationals was a meeting ground for competitors from all over the US and surrounding countries, including Canada, to come together and celebrate with some incredible martial arts. 

Friday night eliminations were high energy and, while slightly long-winded, the energy in the room was positive and the competition was PHENOMENAL. Between some incredible fights and surprising upsets in the Mens’ and Womens’ open weight and some new faces on the mats competing with old friends, it was a night of smiles, stunning performances, and quite a few drops. The closing of Friday night eliminations had everyone excited for Saturday. 

Starting at 9 AM sharp, Saturday eliminations were fierce and focused. The black belt divisions didn’t seem as deep as they had been in past years, but there was still solid competition in the range of 6-14 competitors in a division. Throughout the day, Century Martial Arts and Black Belt Magazine were shooting some photos and conducting interviews at their booths in front. Keep an eye out for the content from both of them!

Throughout the day, the competition, camaraderie, and sense of community flooded the space. Yes, all were all there to compete and try to win the title, but there were rounds of applause when a competitor picked their weapon up after a drop or got back up after a fall. Crowds gathered and cheered wildly as fighters charged around the stage and, in several cases, off of it. There was an incredible knockout kick from Baily Murphy, a beautiful traditional form from Mason Stowell, and a thousand other performances that showcased the best of martial arts.  

But the Saturday Night Finals is where the action really showed. With Team Infinity opening the night with their winning Team Demo performance and The Overall 30+ taking the stage with a new face and an old friend. Sam Diaz III faced off against Becca Leiker in a battle between form and weapons. Leiker took the win, securing another Diamond ring and showcasing her energy and power. 

Team Infinity took another win with Diego Rodriguez-Florez and Connor Chasteen’s team kata followed closely by Team Straight dominating 3 Man Team sparring with Baily Murphy making the first of his several appearances on stage. 

Isabella Nicoli took the girls 13 and under Grands, while Christian “Cheeks” Elizando took the 13 and Under Boys Grands. These two powerhouses were phenomenal on stage, promising a bright future for Sport Martial Arts. 

Haley Glass made a powerful entrance onto the stage with a dominating form that secured her the Women’s Weapons grands and earned her a Diamond Ring. Jake Presley has secured his dominance in the Adult divisions, making stage several times this year and showcasing the power and speed of traditional with his win for the Men’s Traditional Weapons Grands.

Women’s overall form was a study between the speed and creativity of extreme, balanced against the power and grace of traditional as Haley Glass returned to stage to battle it out with Gabrielle Dunn. Though the competition was close, Glass was able to take the win, securing her second Diamond Ring of the evening. 

For one of the incredible fights of the night, It was Morgan Plowden vs Ki’tana Everett in a close match for 18+ women’s sparring. Everett was able to pull ahead in the first round, but Plowden scored the decisive final points, edging her out for a Diamonds victory. 

Bailey Murphy took his win in the Men’s sparring Overall Lightweight, while Richard Avery Plowden took the win in Overall Heavy Weight. The crowd was thrilled to see both fighters, but even more excited to see them match up against each other later that evening.

But, before that monumentous event, Mason Stowell proved his skill and power in the Men’s Overall Traditional Form Grands while Danny Etkin secured his title for Men’s Overall CMX Grands.  

Then, finally, it was time for the Last Man Standing, sponsored by Virtual Fight Tour. Bailey Murphy versus Richard Avery Plowden. It was an oft-discussed match-up with people throwing their opinions in every which way. But now, all would get to see how it played out. 

For three minutes Plowden and Murphy traded points. Plowden’s blazing fast backfist met an even match with Muphy’s supersonic blitz. Plowden took a short trip off the stage as Murphy evaded an attack and left him nothing but air to stop him. Mike Welch and Joseph Bein of Team Infinity caught the fighter and had him returned to the ring promptly. Points were called and the two titans of point fighting dove right back into it. At the end of three minutes, the score was tied. 13-13. 

The crowd was wild. This was sudden victory, the next clean point would win! 

Murphy blitzed. No point. Murphy blitzed again. No point. Clash after clash occurred and nothing was quite clean enough to be seen. Finally, catching Plowden in a flat moment, Murphy blitzed and made contact. The entire room exploded into cheers as Murphy, looking slightly worse for wear, was awarded the win, claiming the title of Last Man Standing. 

And, just like that, Diamonds was over. 

But the connections made, the friendships fostered, and the sense of community that we had all been missing so very desperately, would remain. The year without Diamonds was an interesting one. But to be able to come back and see the very best in the world still pushing themselves to the highest of levels, and to have the entire martial arts community back in a space together was something truly special. 

So, next year, when it gets around to the time when everyone starts asking, “are you going to Diamonds?” Make the trip. It’ll be worth it. 


-Corey Holzman