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Old Mainstream Coverage of MMA


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Put simply what follows is a collection of old mainstream coverage of MMA that has been collated from various places online.

If the pieces are from North American media outlets they ran before January 18, 2005. The first season of The Ultimate Fighter having debuted on January 17, 2005.

If they're from British or Irish outlets then they ran before September 10, 2007. The UFC's re-entry into the British market post TUF having happened with UFC 75, which took place on September 8, 2007 in London.

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In 2006 when Tyson came over to the UK to ref an MMA fight the Daily Mail ran this all-time classic article. It doesn't seem to be on their website, but it did the rounds on the MMA messageboards at the time and that's where I got it from. If I recall correctly, I got the below from a Sherdog post where someone had transcribed the article.

It ran in the Daily Mail on March 18, 2006.

By Jane Fryer

"SNARLING, cursing and muttering obscenities, the gladiators strut into the arena. Barefoot and semi-naked beneath their ornate embroidered gowns, they wear neither boxing gloves nor body protection just the scars and bruises of earlier bouts and expressions cemented with hate.

As they enter the octagonal metal cage and the 7ft steel door slams and locks behind them, the 15,000 strong crowd goes wild-cheering, yelling and baying for blood.

Meanwhile, girls in bikinis dance to thumping music, fireworks explode above, and to mark the start of a fight, a deafening claxon sounds. Within just 15 minutes, one of them may be dead or maimed - and the other could be very rich indeed.

Fists, elbows, knees, feet and fear are the weapons. As the crowd roars and jeers, the combatants kick, punch, knee, beat, crush, wrestle and strangle each other.

They are bound by just four basic rules - no biting, no head butting, no eye-gouging and no jabs to the genitals. Every other form of violence is encouraged.

Many fighters follow another, unwritten rule: no timidity.

Just another day in ancient Rome's Colosseum? A clip from Gladiator or Mad Max?

No, this is the gory, blood-splattering scene that will unfold this evening at the World Cage Fighting Championship (WCFC) in a giant sports arena in Manchester before a delighted audience, including celebrities such as footballers Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown and pop-singer Kym Marsh.

And the man responsible for policing the bouts and protecting against fatalities? Who else but the former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who in 1996 famously bit a chunk from opponent Evander Holyfield's ear and in 1992 was jailed for three years for rape.

Speaking of his appointment as official referee, 39-year-old Tyson who retired from boxing after being defeated by Irish club fighter Kevin McBride last June says he believes this event will be a huge hit with the British audience.

"When I go to the UK, the people are extremely aggressive more so than Americans. I would think [the British public] will take to this with open arms," he says.

"Unlike boxing, where youre protected by the gloves, this is basically bone on bone, so there's probably going to be some blood, some broken bones. Its not for the weak to watch."

No wonder that this sport has been dubbed the human equivalent of cock-fighing.

So what on earth is it that could lure audiences willing to pay up to £375 for the best seats (within blood and sweat-splattering range of the fighters)?

And what kind of person volunteers to enter a cage where they will take part in a form of combat so bestial and so degrading that when previous contests were released on DVD they were accompanied by boasts of teeth knocked out, sprays of blood, bouncing skulls, dislocated arms and broken jaws?

UNSURPRISINGLY, cage fighting has attracted some rather unsavoury characters, not least Lee "Lightning" Murray, 28 Britains No.1 middleweight who police yesterday named as the suspected man in charge of the logistics and planning of last month's £53million Securitas heist.

In America, the sport has been deemed so barbaric it has been banned in most states. Here in Britain too, medical experts have urged the Government to intervene. The British Medical Association has long warned of injury or death and called for the highly dangerous sport to be made illegal.

A spokesman says: "Fighters face a serious risk of severe brain damage if they take part in close combat events of this kind. All such events should be banned."

But supporters claim the sport has a better safety record that than boxing ("Boxing can give you brain damage, this is more superficial cut eyes, broken nose, ripped tendons," says fight promoter Chris Bacon).

Try telling that to the family of Douglas Dedge, a 31-year-old American father-of-five who died from severe brain injuries after taking part in a fight in Kiev in 1998.

He was floored by Yevhen Zolotaryov in front of 4,000 screaming spectators who screamed "Kill the Yankee" and "Finish Him! Finish Him!" as Zolotaryov repeatedly punched him as he lay semi-conscious on the floor.

In Britain, however, the sport remains legal, subject to a licence being granted for each event. Which is how, tonight, Manchester will be hosting the first international cage fighting tournament of this scale in Europe.

AN INTERNATIONAL line-up including Holland's Alistair "Demolition Man" Overeem will do battle alongside Britain's Terry "Hit Em" Etim, Carl "The Murderer Morgan" and James "The Colossus" Thompson, for the £100,000 prize to be the last man standing.

As Chris Bacon, 36, a former cage fighter himself, puts it: "This is full-on, exciting and raw, anything goes. It's the nearest thing to a real fight you can get. People are tired of going to see a boxing match that only lasts half a minute with two guys slugging each other with gloves. Why watch them punch, when you can watch them punch, knee, kick and wrestle each other into submission?"

Throughout the contest, combatants wear only thin fingerless gloves and shorts.

A match consists of three five-minute rounds and the winner is decided by knock-out, judges decision or submission, signalled by a fighter tapping on the floor, although, says Bacon: "Some of them have such big egos their legs would be breaking before they tapped out."

Kicking off tonight's fight will be Terry Etim, 20, who has been working towards this event for four years. In his regular life, Terry is a softly-spoken Liverpudlian builder. But tonight he will take part in a bout against Manchester's Ozzy Haluk, 29. Etim is tall (6ft 1in), slight (just 11 stone), shy and terribly polite. He is devoted to his family and his girlfriend Jodie.

Dressed neatly in a fleece, pressed jeans and spotless white tennis shoes, he looks more like a skinny computer geek than a currently undefeated cage fighter, or as he prefers to call it, Mixed Martial Arts.

"Outside the cage, I'm not aggressive at all", he concedes, sheepishly. "But when the door slams and the crown roars, it's as if a switch goes in my head. I'm a different person until the horn sounds again and, hopefully, I've won." He insists it is not the brutal blood-letting it appears to be. "It's more than just two people kicking the s*** out of each other."

"I don't see it as a fight, I see it as a sport. Everyone is doing it of their own free will. We enjoy it. Cage fighting is about becoming the ultimate athlete. You can get injuries in every sort of sport and this is no different. So far, touch wood, I've never been injured."

Among his fellow combatants tonight will be Paul "British Bulldog" Cahoon, 29, from Liverpool a 10-year veteran who has fought and taught cage fighting in Japan, Holland, Russia and America. He is Etim's opposite short, squat nearly 15 stone and very chatty.

"Cage fighting is the most exciting thing you could imagine", he enthuses, wincing from the pain of a knee injury the legacy of an over zealous training session.

"It's hard to explain what goes through your mind when you step into the cage. It's fear, instinct, adrenaline and excitement, but most of all nerves. You don't know if the other guy is going to knee you, kick you, hurl you to the ground or smash you in the head. It's amazing, it makes you feel so alive."

"When I first saw it on TV I thought it was sickening. I wondered how they could show it? But then I watched it again and again and I got used to the level of violence and started to understand it was a sport with rules, albeit not many."

"It's much safer here than it is in Japan", chips in Chris Bacon, blowing his badly broken nose.

"In Japan, if your opponent is on the ground you can stomp on their head and kick them in the face. We've cut that out because we want to minimise serious injuries, but you can still punch, elbow, slap, knee-poke to the head, armlock, strangle, leglock and crush and we always have paramedics, doctors and plastic surgeons on hand."

The mood of extreme violence is not confined to those inside the cage. Such is the atmosphere among the audience for the fights that skirmishes often break out between overwrought spectators.

In 2000, two men were stabbed at a match in Simi Valley, California. And last August, a cage fight night in Bristol was abandoned after members of the audience started throwing punches.

According to Carl Merritt, a retired fighter who wrote a book on the subject entitled Inside The Cage, the crowd is whipped up into a mob frenzy by the spectacle in front of them.

"People get a kick out of the violence", He says. "I suppose it was just like the Gladiators in Rome people get off on that sort of thing, get a thrill."

Perhaps surprisingly, the crowd is made up of well-to-do professionals who find somewhat of a primitive thrill in watching what amounts to legalised street-fighting.

HOLLYWOOD blockbusters such as Guy Ritchie's Snatch, which featured bare-knuckle boxing, and Fight Club, both starring Brad Pitt, have helped boost its popularity in America, VIP tickets can cost thousands of dollars, with George Clooney, Paris Hilton and Cindy Crawford all big fans.

Sport and exercise psychologist Dr Barry Cripps says the sport appeals to mans most brutal instincts. "The sight of blood psyches the audience up", he says. "In short it's blood lust a primitive and destructive response dating back to the gladiatorial entertainment developed by the Romans. Which should be a warning in itself."

"The Roman empire fell in part because it concentrated on this narcissistic form of entertainment. If cage fighting is allowed to expand as predicted, it could have very dangerous consequences."

"It is paradoxical that we have campaigned against cockfighting, badger baiting and fox hunting and yet appear to openly encourage its human equivalent. It might not go as far as death, but it's not very far removed."

Paul Cahoon and Terry Etim are too busy focusing on the fight ahead to question the ethics or the dangers of the sport in which they take part. Indeed it becomes clear that the thought of death inside the 24ft by 7ft cage has never crossed their minds. Etim is much to busy pumping his muscles with 50 press-ups and smearing his torso with sweat for the photo shoot.

Cahoon prefers to talk tactics: "Some people like to treat it like a game of chess, but I just like to knock them out."

Right now the two combatants care more about meeting their mutual hero Tyson, who arrived in Manchester on Thursday. Tyson has long been a fan of the sport: "We love cage fighting in the States and can't get enough of it," he said.

"Even if they do have a death, you have got to understand we are grown men and no one has a gun to our head telling us to do this."

"This was the first form of fighting, even before boxing. It went from the Greeks to the Romans and the Romans took it to another perspective."

Sid Gore, president of the World Cage Fighting Championships, couldn't agree more.

"This is the gladiatorial way, the way fighting should be. Back to the old days of Caesar and his mob. It's a wonderful thing to watch in its own way its artistic.'"

Aesthetic merit, however does not hold much interest for 17-stone, one eyed cage fighting veteran Barrington Patterson. Describing the mentality that made him one of the sport's champions, he said: "I want to destroy whoever gets in that cage with me. I'm going to rip his head off. He's dared to stand up against me and I'm going to annihilate him."

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For contrast, Jane Fryer (the author of the article in the post above) wrote a fawning piece on David Haye in June 2011. No worrying about David beating anyone to death (or being beaten to death).



He dotes on his chihuahuas and his mum would wring his neck if he had a tattoo... Meet David Haye, Britain's most unlikely heavyweight world champion

By Jane Fryer for the Daily Mail
Updated: 11:26, 27 June 2011

David Haye is not a man troubled by self-doubt. He describes himself as 'by far the best boxer in the world'; says of his world heavyweight fight on Saturday against Vladimir Klitschko (a 17st, 6ft 8in Ukrainian giant): 'I'm literally going to punch his head off'; and of life after boxing, declares: 'I'm going to have the same success in the movies as I've had in the sporting field — massive!'

He is also fabulously vain: 'I like to have a whole wall of mirrors to look at myself in'; brilliantly childish, insulting his opponents by calling them 'smelly', 'hairy' and 'the ugliest thing I've ever seen'; and fusses like an old woman over his pet chihuahuas, Oscar and Millie.

But, for all that, he's strangely likeable. And breathtakingly chatty, if rather smaller than you'd expect from the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion.

Indeed, at first glance he doesn't look like a boxer. Barely 15st, neat-waisted, with smooth untattooed skin (his mum Jane won't let him have a tattoo — 'she'd kill me'), elegant hands, very white teeth and immaculate hair.

But this Saturday, he will face Klitschko in a £50  million showdown in Hamburg's Imtech Arena, hailed as the biggest fight since Lennox Lewis met Mike Tyson nine years ago.

'It's going to be massive,' says Haye. 'Screened in 150 countries, half a billion people watching — everyone's going to see this round the world. How brilliant is that?'

And Klitschko is likely to be very, very angry. Because what Haye lacks in stature and craggy profile, he makes up for in bravado, insults and general rudeness — or 'trash talk' — as it's called in the ring.

Over the past couple of months, he has insulted his opponent — who speaks five languages, is a gifted chess player, an obsessive charity worker and has a PhD in sports science — by sticking his tongue out in press conferences and saying: 'Your momma is so fat, the back of her neck looks like a pack of sausages', and calling him 'Borat — because he was born in Kazakstan, ha ha ha'.

Oh yes, and wearing a T-shirt depicting Vladimir and his brother Vitali (also a champion boxer) with their heads knocked off and blood spurting from their necks.

Both men desperately want to win — between them, they hold five of the six world heavyweight titles. And for Haye, who has always vowed to retire at 30 (he's 31 on October 13), it is also likely to be his last big fight.

Ladbrokes are offering 11-2 on a unanimous decision win by Klitschko. If Haye does somehow win — and according to experts it's all down to whether he can floor Klitschko with one of his powerful 'Hayemaker' punches in the early rounds — he will be crowned WBA, WBO, IBF, IBO and The Ring heavyweight champion.

'I've chartered a private jet for my trip home, so there'll be a seat for me and each of my new belts and I'll be home in time to watch my mate Andy Murray win Wimbledon,' he says.

But before that, there's one final week of training. The past six months have been one long trail of press-ups, lunges, sparring sessions and admiring his reflection in the mirrors of his gym under the arches in Vauxhall, South London.

'Training's boring, but it'll all be worth it,' he says. 'This is my defining fight — the fight I've been training for since I was a little kid. This is the night I can prove to everyone that I am finally a man.'

It all started for Haye when he was just three, living in an 18th-floor council flat in Bermondsey, South London, second of three children to father Deren, a panel beater, and mother Jane, who has watched every one of his fights 'but always with her hands over her eyes'.

'My dad would get his mates to put their hands up, and my party piece was to punch them hard. There'd be a crunch and they'd be cradling their hands and saying: “How the hell does this little kid produce that much power?” If you put up your hand now, I'd probably break your arm.'

Aged ten and spurred on by British heroes such as Nigel Benn, Frank Bruno and Chris Eubank, he laced his first glove at the Fitzroy Lodge Amateur Boxing Club in Lambeth.

'I was like a little lunatic running round — hyperactive, always in trouble — but then along came boxing. It was my destiny,' Haye recalls. 'So I pretty much gave up on school — I could have been top in the class in anything I'd wanted, but I thought that if I put all my eggs in one basket then I couldn't risk failing.'

Six years later, he was boxing for England and modelling in his spare time ('it was fine for a teenager, but as you get older you get bigger and fatter and your nose grows after all those punches in the face'). He turned pro in 2002, has lost only one professional fight since, and is now facing the biggest fight of his career.

So come this Saturday, how will he prepare himself as he paces about his hotel room in Hamburg? Press-ups, sit-ups, prayer beads, meditation?

'Nah. I'll do the same as normal — watch telly, relax,' he says. And does he have any superstitions — a lucky pair of pants, perhaps? 'Whatever's clean. But I always put my right glove on before my left. And I tidy my hotel room obsessively. But the one thing I'm really obsessive about is the chi.'

The chi? 'It's a Chinese thing. They've been holding back the chi for thousands of years and it makes a massive difference.'

Eh? 'It's a no-climax ban,' he explains helpfully. 'It's been scientifically proven — six weeks and no release makes all the difference.'

Gosh. Exactly six weeks?

'Well, I haven't timed it that carefully. Some people think it's rubbish, but I truly believe in it. It makes you more aggressive, it gives you more stamina.'

With us both rather flushed in the cheeks, we move onto his other obsession: retiring before he's 31 — a target he set himself when he was just ten. 'I could go on fighting, but I don't want to be some saddo hanging on, with everyone saying: “Come on, you should retire, David — you've gone too far, your speech has deteriorated . . .” '

So, instead, he's decided to become an international film star.

'I've had offers, but it has to be the right film — a big action film,' he says. 'My favourite film ever is The Expendables. If I could be in the sequel, I'd be a very happy man.'

And, er, it's probably a silly question, but can he act?

'I've got some lessons booked in for after the fight — so that's sorted.'

But won't he miss boxing — the thrills, the spills, the spangly shorts? 'I won't miss being punched in the face, but I'd miss the thrill. I'll need other things to fill the void. I'd need some decent highs. Some boxers have found the wrong sort of high. I have to make sure that's not me.

'I'm hoping that going to a big premiere of your own movie will be a similar sort of buzz I get from being in the ring.'

Which he describes as just like turning into the Incredible Hulk.

'When the bell rings, all your senses heighten — you change,' he explains. 'People who know me say that when I'm in the ring they don't recognise me — the look in my eyes, the way I'm moving, my ruthlessness. They say: “That's not you, you're just a happy-go-lucky bloke.” ' And he is, usually.

David likes playing with his chihuahuas ('they're small, but they're bloody dangerous'), eating rib-eye steaks in Stringfellows lap-dancing club ('It just seems to taste nicer there — it must be the scenery!') and shaving his chest ('I like it to be a bit stubbly for my opponent') and roaring about in one of his many fast cars.

'I'm like any 30-year-old — I like silly six-litre cars that I don't need. I'm driving a Bentley at the moment, but the novelty wears off a lot quicker now than it used to — I'm not driven by money any more.

'Now it's all about the glory — all I want is to be the best and to prove I'm the best.'

So finally, what about the silly trash talking — does he really believe any of it? 'Nah, it's stupid playground stuff. There's nothing clever about it and it always draws a good few “Oh Davids!” from my mum. But it's worked, hasn't it — it's really p***** Klitschko off!'

A chat with David Haye is an extraordinary experience. He is feisty, spoilt and a bit on the small side — rather like one of his beloved chihuahuas. But he's also funny, bright and brilliantly unafraid.

And he's right about the trash talking, because I for one will be tuning in this weekend.

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As a post script, twelve and a half years after it ran, in case your wondering what happened to Terry Etim and Paul Cahoon who were the main subjects of Fryer's article...

Etim went onto the fight 11 times in the UFC (and last fought in Bellator in 2013). He knocks around with Darren Till and was featured in the hype videos for the recent Till/Woodley welterweight title fight. Etim won more than he lost in the UFC (he went 6-5) but his UFC career is (probably) most famous for being on the receiving end of an Edson Barboza wheel kick knock-out in 2012. It's the Barboza wheelkick knockout that they show all the time.

Cahoon never made it to the big show, and mainly knocked around the UK scene – fighting for Cage Rage and such. He did lose to Kazuhiro Nakamura at a World Victory Road show in Tokyo in 2008.

Last I heard, Cahoon was wanted by Merseyside Police due to alleged drug offences.


Drugs cops on the trail of "dangerous" MMA star who could be in Dubai

Members of the public warned not to approach 'potentially violent and dangerous individual'

By Tom Duffy
16:18, 21 JUN 2018
Updated00:22, 22 JUN 2018

A former mixed martial arts fighter who might be in Dubai is wanted by police in relation to alleged drug offences.

Detectives wish to speak to Paul 'Boom Boom' Cahoon in relation to a plot to flood south Wales with drugs. Seven men were jailed for 51 years in relation to the plot after a massive police investigation.

The gang was smashed after a wave of police raids across the north west which led to the recovery of cocaine, amphetamines, cash, cars and even a jet ski.

The Titan north west regional crime unit discovered the gang were distributing 200kg of amphetamines worth up to £200,000 in a series of drug runs between Merseyside and South Wales.

Operation Orlando resulted in the successful prosecution of the drug gang in 2016. Prosecutors told Liverpool crown court that they believed Cahoon led the drug gang alongside James Bush.

One of the gang was held after he tried to smuggle two Kinder Suprise eggs filled with cocaine through John Lennon Airport to a stag do in Spain. Police followed Joseph Poulson into the toilets at John Lennon Airport, and discovered he had two Kinder eggs in his shorts stuffed with cocaine.

Cahoon, 41, has been wanted by police since 2015. In the past senior detectives have said he might be in Dubai but officers now have an 'open mind' as to where he is hiding.

Police, renewing their appeal for information, have warned members of the public not approach the ex-fighter who they described as a 'potentially violent and dangerous individual.'

Cahoon started fighting professionally in the late 90s, and became hugely popular with Liverpool fans of the burgeoning sport.

Cahoon, who fought under the monker 'Boom Boom' due to his explosive style, competed mainly at light heavyweight and middleweight. He owned a gym in the St Helens area.

He fought 25 times between 1998 and 2010, with 13 wins and 12 losses.

A spokesman for Merseyside Police told the ECHO: "Officers from Titan, the North West’s regional organised crime unit, are continuing to appeal for the public’s help in tracing a Merseyside man they wish to speak to as part of an investigation into Class A and B drug supply across the UK. The investigation led to seven men being jailed to a total for 51 years in prison in April, 2016.

"Paul Cahoon from Rainhill, St Helens has been wanted since 2015 and extensive enquiries continue to be carried out to establish his whereabouts. Officers are keen to speak to Cahoon as they believe he may have information that could help their continued investigation.

"Members of the public are advised not to approach Cahoon as he is regarded as a potentially violent and dangerous individual.

"Information has previously indicated that Cahoon may have been in Dubai, but officers are keeping an open mind as to where he currently is."

A spokesperson from Titan said: “As time passes, we remain as determined as ever to locate Cahoon and welcome any information to assist us, which will be acted upon.

"There are no boundaries in policing, and we work closely with our national and international partners to bring people home.”

If you recognise Cahoon from his photo or have any information as to his whereabouts, please call 999, call the Titan regional organised crime unit on 0151 777 7694, or @CrimestoppersUK anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Another point regarding the Fryer article, she does Chris Bacon a disservice. In her article she describes Chris Bacon as a fight promoter and former cage fighter. That undersells his background. Bacon had a couple of MMA fights (Sherdog lists as 0-1-1, the draw being against Lee Murray) but his most significant combat experience was in other venues.

Bacon went to the 1992 Olympics as a judoka for Australia (https://www.sports-reference.com/oly...s-bacon-1.html) and (previous to that) won a bronze medal in Judo at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 (https://thecgf.com/results/games/3042/4/bronze). He also embarked on a pro boxing career in 1997 and went 13-2 (http://boxrec.com/en/boxer/9189).

Bacon was the subject of a short BBC documentary a few years ago. See below.


A pointless bit a of trivia, Bacon's one KO lost came to Garry Delaney in 2001. Five years later (in 2006) Delaney would be jailed for murder for killing someone in a street altercation.



Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK


Bouncer jailed for punch murder

A bouncer and former boxing champion who killed a man with a single punch has been jailed for life for murder.

Garry Delaney, 35, punched Paul Price "without warning" after throwing his friend out of a hotel bar in Woodford, east London, in October 2005.

Sentencing him to serve at least 11 years in jail, Judge Clement Goldstone QC told Delaney, from east London, he had acted like a bully towards the men.

"Your fist became a lethal weapon and you must now pay the price," he said.

The trial heard Delaney, an experienced boxer who had fought at light heavyweight and cruiser weight, would have known the punch "was likely to cause really serious harm".

That night Mr Price, 23, and his friend James Farrell had gone to a disco but had been turned away because they did not meet the dress code.

They went to the hotel's bar instead, but the barman asked Delaney to remove Mr Farrell, who he thought was being "troublesome".

The trial heard Delaney then appeared to spray Mr Farrell in the face with pepper spray, dragged him outside, dumped him in the shrubbery and punched him.

When Mr Price remonstrated, Delaney beckoned him over to where his friend was lying and then hit him "without warning or reason", the court heard.

Fractured skull

Mr Price's head hit the ground, fracturing his skull. Despite surgery, he died later.

The trial heard Delaney did not hang around to finish his shift, but left so fast in his BMW he forgot to put his headlights on.

Passing sentence, Judge Goldstone said: "It is often said that a bully is a coward.

"On that night you behaved like a bully towards James Farrell and Paul Price, and when you knew that both of them were injured, at least one of them seriously, you responded like a coward.

"Boxing is an honourable sport but you totally abused the skills that you had acquired as a boxer." Delaney was sentenced to life and will serve at least 11 years before being considered for parole - less the 292 days he has spent on remand.

He was also given a nine-month concurrent sentence for assaulting Mr Farrell.

The former boxer, from Newham, had denied murder


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A 1998 piece from the Phoenix New Times.

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1998-02- ... p-a-fight/


John McCain Breaks Up a Fight

The senator says extreme fighting should be banned. You got a problem with that? Eddie Goldman does.

By Amy Silverman Thursday, Feb 12 1998

Senator John McCain likes to play on the national stage; that's why many of his constituents were startled January 30 to find him taking off after a local entertainment event. An upcoming match in a blood sport called cage fighting, he declared in a letter to his pal Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, was "repugnant." Romley wasted no time making sure the owner of the Celebrity Theatre--where the event was to take place--comprehended the senator's sentiments. The next week cage fighting was front-page news here, three days out of four. Days before the event, the state attorney general granted the Arizona Boxing Commission authority to determine whether the event should go on, but the commission chose not to act. It didn't matter. Celebrity Theatre owner Bill Bachand canceled the sold-out show hours before the bell, explaining to the Arizona Republic, "I'm not going to take on the U.S. Senate."

That left 2,600 ticketholders (who will get their money back) and 24 would-be fighters in the grip of profound disappointment, McCain constituents all.

One of the fighters, Lyman Markunas, 29, a brown-eyed chef at Wild Oats grocery, looks more like your yoga instructor than a guy who could beat the shit out of you. His cage nickname is "Doomsday," and he was scheduled as an alternate in last month's cage fight, a copycat of the popular Ultimate Fighting Championships shown in millions of homes via pay-per-view. UFC is a trademarked name, but it's come to describe the entire fighting style, also known as "shoot-fighting," "submission fighting" and "extreme fighting." In Portuguese, it's called "vale tudo," which means "anything goes." For simplicity's sake here, let's call it "extreme fighting." All of the versions incorporate judo, jujitsu, tae kwon do, karate, kickboxing, boxing and wrestling into a style that's an approximation of street fighting by trained martial artists in a ring--or a cage, as the plastic-coated, chain-linked, barbed-wire-decorated, metal contraption Markunas was to fight in is called.

"I am kind of disgusted, because of all the training I do," says Markunas, who studies boxing and judo. He wants a chance to put it to the test. He and his trainer Walt Sweet, coach of the Scottsdale Judo and Jujitsu Club, were taken by surprise. Until last month, they, like most other Arizonans, didn't know that John McCain was opposed to extreme fighting.

Eddie Goldman wasn't surprised at all.

Go online to the address www.tapout.com, and you'll find out who Eddie Goldman is; you'll also find Goldman's informal history of Senator John McCain's crusade against extreme fighting.

Goldman, a sports journalist and extreme-fighting evangelist, has been tracking the senator's successful attempts to snuff out this sport for two years. Goldman sounds like Rocky Balboa and writes much better than he sounds. He recently became editor of a small extreme-fighting publication; now he has a pulpit.

The guy is hardly making ends meet. He has no financial interest in the bouts. Nor is he even proficient in the sport. But, as they say in more delicate forums, you've got to follow your bliss, and Goldman's bliss is extreme fighting. He views himself more as an activist than a journalist, which is reflected in his magazine and Web site.

A quick news database search confirms that for years now, John McCain has railed against extreme fighting, regularly calling for the sport's abolition with appreciable success. McCain labels the sport human cockfighting, and he's taken out after it in his trademark bullheaded fashion. At McCain's urging, many states have banned it.

Extreme fighting lacks some of the gentility of, say, professional wrestling. But why does McCain care so much about a sport that, arguably, isn't much bloodier than hockey or football or McCain's personal sport of choice, boxing?

What Eddie Goldman knows about John McCain fits onto about two typewritten sheets of paper. But that's enough to impel him to go after McCain the way McCain has gone after extreme fighting. Goldman is angry, for sure, that his favorite sport is under siege, but he's angrier still because he believes McCain isn't acting in good faith.

In Goldman's eyes, extreme fighting is being harassed. And he says the story behind the harassment is rooted in McCain's self-interest. It's about a conspiracy involving Senator McCain, professional boxing and Anheuser-Busch, the brewing company.

Here's how Goldman's theory works: McCain opposes extreme fighting because it threatens the boxing industry's hold on the pay-per-view TV audience; boxing's largest corporate sponsor is Anheuser-Busch, whose second largest wholesaler in the country is owned by Jim Hensley, the father-in-law of Senator John McCain. Theoretically, says Goldman, what's good for boxing is good for McCain.

Goldman's railings against McCain look convincing on his Web site, which gets about 6,000 hits a day. But scores of interviews with extreme-fighting promoters, fighters and fans, pay-per-view executives, analysts and observers reveal that Goldman, as most conspiracy theorists, stands alone in his contentions. While many interviewed admitted they thought McCain's interest was illogical, few had stopped to think about it much.

But Goldman's theory meshes with much that Arizonans already know about their senator, about his style and about his finances. And that invites closer inspection.

The style is familiar.

Digress, for a moment, and consider McCain's move for campaign-finance reform. The senator takes a reverent position on the side of the gods--skipping the details that his legislation has a rat's chance of passing, and that it would do very little to change the system. By ignoring the facts, he gets lots of media coverage, and actually hosts record-setting campaign fund raisers at which he preaches about campaign-finance reform. What's good for John McCain's coffers is good for John McCain.

Similarly, no one could take issue with a man who's against the notion of people beating each other to a pulp for fun and profit. Again, with this issue, McCain doesn't dally with the details. Never mind that in the years since McCain first struck his anti-extreme-fighting pose, the sport's organizers have scrambled to clean it up. McCain will continue to posture, and continue to make headlines.

Could John McCain be a hypocritical, grandstanding bully? His continuing battle against extreme fighting--which his constituents noticed for the first time only last month--seems to have been proving that theory for years.

Again and again, in interviews, McCain has played loose with the facts. He has vastly exaggerated the extent of the violence associated with extreme fighting, and has refused to acknowledge rule changes and safety precautions that make extreme fighting far less dangerous than it was when he first logged his complaints.

Peculiarly, McCain is no wimp when it comes to other violent sports. He was a boxer in the Navy; he's a follower of professional boxing and, in fact, no stranger to pugilistic violence. McCain was ringside at the 1995 boxing death of Jimmy Garcia; he has seen the ultimate brutality of boxing and, yet, remains a fan. He has sponsored minor legislation to promote boxing safety, requiring such measures as the presence of a physician and other conditions that are already common practice in extreme-fighting bouts.

McCain's position doesn't make sense, says Goldman, who had been trying to figure out the senator's motivations for years. Then he 'net-surfed upon a snippet from a November 1995 Mother Jones article that mentions John McCain's ties--via campaign contributions and his in-laws' business--to Anheuser-Busch, the single biggest corporate sponsor of professional boxing. What if McCain was trying to quash UFC, Goldman wondered, for fear it might one day threaten boxing's market share and thus hurt Anheuser-Busch's interests?

"We've been starting to put the pieces together in the last couple of years," Goldman says, "because the question is: If nobody's been killed in this sport, nobody's been seriously injured, why does McCain get so obsessive about this? Why is it so important to him, as a U.S. senator, to do this kind of stuff?"

Goldman has tried to get answers to his questions. McCain's office has refused Goldman's requests for an interview. Similarly, the senator's press office did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

Athletes have been mixing different martial arts in Brazil and Japan for decades, but it wasn't until Robert Meyrowitz created UFC in 1993 that extreme fighting became known in the U.S. UFC is a trademarked name, as is the Octagon, an eight-sided steel arena--designed (a la Conan the Barbarian) by UFC's "creative director" filmmaker John Milius--where the matches take place.

Meyrowitz, whose background is in radio syndication--he created the King Biscuit Flower Hour--owns a company called Semaphore Entertainment Group. It produces programs that are sold to pay-per-view providers; Meyrowitz has the distinction of having brought Ozzy Osbourne into America's living room. UFC was an instant pay-per-view success. That was no small feat. Meyrowitz and others had been trying for years to create a pay-per-view hit. Music concerts weren't clicking in a market dominated by boxing and wrestling; extreme fighting was a natural, albeit brutal, choice.

The only real rule, at first, was no eye gouging. In the first UFC matches--now available on tape at your local video store--it's not unusual to see a contender kick out his opponent's teeth, or beat continuously on his head, closed-fisted. The blood flowed, and so did the money. In 1994, according to Paul Kagan Associates, a media research firm, "combat sports"--of which UFC takes the lion's share--grossed $11 million. In 1995, the figure rose to $25 million; combat sports represented almost 10 percent of the entire pay-per-view event market.

On top of that, UFC promoters pushed the no-holds-barred imagery, and snagged themselves millions of dollars in free press. From Esquire to People to Mad, everyone was writing about UFC. The creators knew they'd made it into the public's consciousness when the popular sitcom Friends set up character Monica with a boyfriend who longed to be a UFC participant.

In the real world, people like Lyman Markunas were tuning in and joining up, too. A friend lent Markunas a UFC tape in 1994. "I watched it, I was like, I was made for this sport," Markunas says. Markunas began to train locally.

Around the same time, someone lent John McCain a tape, too. In 1996, McCain and his colleague Colorado Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse-Campbell wrote to the governors of all 50 states, calling UFC "a brutal and repugnant blood sport . . . that should not be allowed to take place anywhere in the U.S."

State and local politicians joined the senators' crusade. Eventually, by McCain's own estimate, the boxing regulators of 40 states banned extreme fighting. By 1996, profits had plummeted, says Paul Kagan Associates analyst Bill Metti. And UFC sustained a TKO in 1997, when two of the biggest cable distributors--TCI and Time Warner--dropped it.

Players in the cable industry are hesitant to characterize McCain's influence in their arena. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, he has tremendous power--theoretically, at least. ("I don't fart without calling McCain," one insider reportedly confided to another.)

Tom Ulmstead, who covers the pay-per-view industry for Multichannel News, was surprised to see events pulled because they were too gory. "It was strange. Everything goes on pay-per-view," he says. But without a policy reversal from the states that have banned UFC, cable operators won't carry the events, Ulmstead says. He estimates that UFC loses $1 million in possible revenue every time an event airs.

To some extent, UFC was a victim of its own hype. The original bouts were marketed with catch phrases like "No-Holds-Barred" and "There Are No Rules" and "The Most Controversial Event of the Decade!" Such excesses provided McCain with easy targets. In the wake of McCain's attacks, UFC's organizers acknowledged the criticism by dimming the hype and establishing a set of rules. Bouts are now timed, and weight classes have been established. Light gloves are now required. There are no groin strikes, no head butting, no blows to the back of the head, no biting, no joint manipulations (meaning, you can't try to break your opponent's fingers). From the start, UFC has required HIV testing and has always had referees and medical personnel standing by.

But the senator persists. And the prohibitions continue. Semaphore has resorted to scouting international sites for its UFC bouts.

Multichannel News reporter Ulmstead, who says he hasn't spoken to McCain's office since the early days of the senator's opposition, says he assumes McCain has changed his stance on UFC.

"Does he realize that there are rules now? Because I think if he takes a closer look at it, I think he'll realize that there are rules now and it may not be as violent as he initially perceived it to be."

David Isaacs, Semaphore's chief operating officer, is fully aware that McCain hasn't changed his mind. Isaacs doesn't get it.

"Look," he says, "we've got Olympic-quality athletes participating and have a show that is distributed via pay-per-view, so that people only receive the show when they specifically request it. Given those two facts, I really don't understand Senator McCain's interest in banning what has proven to be a relatively safe sport."

Like his student, Lyman Markunas, Scottsdale's Walt Sweet, by appearance, wouldn't seem to be an extreme fighter. He's pink-cheeked and puffy, has a Santa twinkle in his eye. His firm handshake, in fact, comes as a surprise--along with his black belts in judo and jujitsu. He earnestly refers to his sport of choice as "submission fighting."

Sweet is obviously trying to undo the sport's bloody image. He carries with him a dog-eared list of rules for submission fighting--the rules that had been adopted for the Celebrity Theatre's January 30 event, which Sweet would have refereed. The three sheets are crisscrossed with yellow highlighter, and in the upper corner of one, Sweet has neatly written his crisp mantra, which sounds like an explication of Nike's "Just Do It" slogan:

Everybody say:

Pain is good.

Injuries are bad.

The idea, in Sweet's brand of extreme fighting, is to force your opponent to submit without injuring him. To that end, Sweet's rules are far more comprehensive than those used in even the kinder, gentler version of UFC. For example, closed-hand strikes to the head, face, neck, groin, spine and kidneys are prohibited.

No head butts.

No strikes using elbows or knees.
No biting, scratching, spitting, hair pulling or eye gouging.

No kicks, punches, finger-thrust strikes, hand edge chops, backhand punches or forearm strikes to the head, chin, neck, groin, spine or kidneys.

No hyperflexion of the neck/spine in a "rapid, cranking" movement.

Any of the above results in an automatic forfeiture.

Cups and mouthpieces are mandatory, as are gloves--of the lightly padded, open-fingered "grappling" variety.

In other words, your great aunt Betty could like this sport. None of this is very sexy, which is why promoters come in and drape barbed wire around the ring and run around shouting, "Anything goes!"

"We made it all macho and hairy-chested," Sweet says, adding that now his job is to educate the public about the sport's safety.

Bill Bachand, owner of the Celebrity Theatre, and Tom Gaffney, one of the show's promoters, say they contacted officials at the Arizona Boxing Commission last November, in an attempt to address any safety concerns early. The commission wasn't concerned, they say they were told.

"We asked the boxing commission, come down and look at the cage," Gaffney says. "Tell us what you'd like padded. Tell us what rules you'd like us to enforce. Tell us what you'd like us to do to comply. We couldn't get answers from them. We couldn't get any of them to come down to even take a look at the cage."

Bachand says he spent $4,000 on the padded, rubber-coated, eight-foot-tall chain-link fence wrapped around a boxing ring. He was convinced of the event's safety.

"I'm not into legislating morality, like some other people may be," Bachand says, "and I saw a list of rules of regulations from the promoters that seemed to be pretty safety-conscious."

Then, just 10 days before the event, John McCain dropped a line to his friend Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, expressing his concern that the boxing commission may not have jurisdiction over this "repugnant" event because contestants were not paid.

"Unlike boxing or traditional martial arts contests," McCain wrote, "unrestricted or ultimate fighting competitions are not legitimate sporting contests. They pose a great risk of serious injury to the contestants, and present excessive brutality to the public as entertainment."

On the day he canceled the event, Bachand announced he did not want to take on the U.S. Senate. A week later, he had mellowed.

Bachand now tells New Times it was safety concerns that caused him to cancel the event. He was worried that the boxing commission or law enforcement authorities might try to shut down the fight in the middle of the show.

"My decision was made based on the fact that if they shut it down, I would have 2,600 beer-drinking, angry people in my venue, and it could have gotten very ugly and somebody could have gotten hurt. I wasn't as concerned for the participants as I was for the general public," Bachand says, adding that his decision cost him as much as $50,000.

Bachand and Gaffney say they never heard from McCain, or anyone in his office, regarding the safety precautions taken for the event. The men have no explanation as to why McCain intervened via a letter to Romley in their business venture.

"I'd like to know why," Gaffney says. "[McCain] has yet to give us answers."

Three days after the canceled Phoenix cage fight, Eddie Goldman muses via e-mail:

It is a classic case of abuse of power. It is about a brooding, obsessed Senator interfering in a local affair, somehow scaring off a local theater owner into canceling a sold-out show a few hours before the doors were to have opened, and issuing defamatory statements about a sport he knows next to nothing about.

It is about a Senator with a huge stake and fortune in Anheuser-Busch, the prime commercial sponsor of boxing, using his bully pulpit of the U.S. Senate to condemn--without one single fact, without even the pretense of an investigation--an entire genre of sports as posing "a great risk of serious injury to the contestants." Oh yes, these sports just HAPPEN to be the main competition to boxing on pay-per-view.

Eddie Goldman may have been shocked, but Arizonans remember John McCain's ties to Anheuser-Busch.

On his 1996 financial-disclosure form, McCain acknowledges owning between $1 million and $5 million in Anheuser-Busch Company stock, along with significant interests in Hensley and Company, his father-in-law's Anheuser-Busch distributorship.

His wife Cindy McCain is listed as an employee of Hensley and Company, at an annual salary listed mysteriously as "more than $1,000"; she also has a company car.

Anheuser-Busch and Hensley and Company have given generously to McCain's campaigns.

For example, Anheuser-Busch's political action committee donated $2,000 to McCain's initial Senate campaign in 1986, and another $2,000 in 1992.

During the 1995-96 reporting period--a nonelection year for McCain--Anheuser-Busch's PAC and individual employees contributed a total of $4,000 to McCain's campaign. Hensley and Company contributed $7,200.

So far, this election season, Anheuser-Busch's PAC has donated $1,000 to the McCain reelection effort.

It's no secret that Anheuser-Busch is a huge corporate sponsor of boxing. Just go to the Budweiser Web site and click on "boxing":

Budweiser, the King of Beers, is the long-time king of corporate boxing sponsorships, bringing fans the greatest bouts in history.

. . . Not limited to the high-profile championship bouts, Budweiser also sponsors pro boxing on the major sports networks and national televised cards on premium cable and pay-per-view television.

. . . Whether it's professional, amateur or Olympic boxing, Budweiser is almost always part of the action. Budweiser has gone from being involved in the sport of boxing to being a part of the bouts themselves. Budweiser's presence is now synonymous with boxing.

Okay, okay, we get it.

Goldman emphasizes how important that presence is to the brewer. "Beer is sold as an image," he says. "They spend a fortune to create the image of these things as being tough, being cool, being associated with their favorite athletes, and if I'm drinking a Budweiser, I'm like one of the tough guys."

Anheuser-Busch did not return calls seeking comment.

Has McCain ever let his personal business interests influence his official actions before? Could be. In 1992, the McCains owned more than $1 million worth of stock in Hensley and Company. At the same time, the Senate Commerce Committee, on which McCain sat, steadfastly refused to consider beverage-container-recycling legislation--legislation strongly opposed and lobbied against by the beverage industry, including Anheuser-Busch.

Lyman Markunas doesn't like boxing. He plants his feet on the floor and points to a spot a foot away. "You stand there. I stand here. We beat on each other."

In Markunas' eyes, there's no point. He calls himself a "reality fighter." That doesn't mean he's out on the street with knives and guns, but simply that he likes to get down on the ground and roll around with his opponent--grappling, they call it. He's competed in his sport, but never in front of a crowd of thousands. The adrenaline rush would have been incredible, he supposes, still down in the dumps almost a week later.

The show's organizers are miffed, too.

Promoter Tom Gaffney says he thinks McCain presumed to speak for the people. But, he says, "You don't sell out a show of 2,600 people as fast as we did . . . if people don't want the event."

As for McCain's point that extreme fighting is "repugnant," Gaffney jabs, "That's his opinion, what's repulsive. I may think pornography's repulsive, but other people still want to see it, and they see it. That's censorship. I don't care about what McCain thinks. I don't care about what anybody thinks. I care about what I think. If it's legal, I can do it."

Whether extreme fighting remains legal in Arizona remains to be seen. The state boxing commission has already canceled a professional extreme-fighting event scheduled for February 15 at Phoenix Civic Plaza, but no definitive statement regarding the sport's future in the state has been made.

In the meantime, Lyman Markunas will continue to practice. And Walt Sweet will continue to coach. "It's not a malicious thing," Sweet says during Markunas' Wednesday-evening training session, raising his voice to be heard over the sounds of 300 pounds of flesh smashing into a mat, as Markunas slams his partner, Jason Wright, to the ground. "It's just that they love it so much."

The bottom line, Sweet says, is that last month's cage fight got too much publicity. It was better before people in Phoenix knew that Mark Kerr and Kevin Jackson--two UFC champions--live in the Valley, before people knew Arizona has, in fact, become a haven for extreme fighting. Sweet drops his voice.

"By the way," he says, "we've been doing this in Arizona for the last three years."

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A 2000 piece from The Independent. It's about Johnny Nelson defending his WBO World Cruiserweight title against "ultimate fighting veteran" Adam Watt. I think Mr Watt may have played a bit fast and loose with the truth when talking to Steve Bunce. Watt was a former kickboxer and did fight in K-1, but I find his claim of having over 200 bouts, and seeing people die in fights, in Japan spurious to say the least.

Oh, Nelson stopped him in five.

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/gene ... 36998.html

Nelson primed for ultimate test

By Steve Bunce

Saturday, 7 October 2000

Muhammad Ali once fought a Kung Fu expert, Mike Tyson took on the carnival might of the WWF franchise and tonight Johnny Nelson defends his World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight title against Australian ultimate fighting veteran Adam Watt at the Dome, Doncaster.

Watt has entered the ring, climbed on a mat or descended into a sandpit for over 200 different types of fights during his time at one of Tokyo's leading combat houses. He never killed a man in any of the brutal brawls but he saw others die and still hears about people he knew suffering grotesque injuries.

"I would like to see ultimate fighting banned. It is just too dangerous," said Watt yesterday. "I was fighting men much bigger than me and they were all just juiced up machines. I did it for the money but it was not a good career move."

The years in Japan left their mark on Watt's fighting style and he has no secrets in the ring. He developed his hit or be hit tactic in fights against men with names like Deathstar, Bulldog and Tall Mountain. Four years ago he turned his back on the vicious freak show and returned to Australia to become a professional boxer.

In the boxing ring his progress has been steady but unspectacular. He has lost twice, both by stoppage, and has won 14 other fights, all by stoppage. In June he ruined the usually durable Bruce Scott in four rounds to win the vacant Commonwealth cruiserweight title. Twelve months earlier Nelson had beaten Scott on points over 12 often repetitive rounds.

Nelson, however, is an exceptional fighter, having turned pro in 1986 and fought his way from obscurity and back to anonymity and somehow clawed his way back to the top. He lost his first three fights and then was banished for a dreadful world title challenge in 1990.

Last year Nelson finally won the world title and tonight will be his sixth defence and his 58th fight of a career that has looked over so often that it has become impossible to predict its future course.

The pair have fought in a variety of exotic locations but even Nelson acknowledged that Watt's recent fight in Noumea, New Caledonia, against Samoan Lightning Lupe was as bizarre as boxing can possibly get. Watt agreed and added that the show was free to anybody who wanted to watch it. Nelson fought in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand during his exile between 1991 and 1996.

When Watt was on the ultimate fighting circuit he claims that he often played the role of the opponent and entered fights as a massive underdog. He said: "It was always just two guys in my corner and sometimes the guy in the other corner had 30,000 people willing him to win." Tonight Nelson will not have anything like 30,000 people but he is unlikely to need that much support to pull off what should be an easy win but is also likely to be extremely entertaining while it lasts.

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A postscript to the above, Adam Watt would run into some legal troubles years later and be the subject of a serious assault while in prison awaiting trial.



Kickboxer Adam Watt sues the state of NSW after being bashed with sandwich press in prison

By Harriet Alexander
Updated 25 October 2017 - 9:15 am, first published at 12:15 am

A champion kickboxer, who was bashed with a sandwich press concealed in a pillow case at Silverwater jail, is suing the state of NSW for breaching its duty of care after he developed ongoing mental problems from the attack.

Adam Watt was left clinically dead following the attack by inmate Django O'Hara. Part of his ear was torn off and he has developed ongoing cognitive difficulties.

The three-time world champion kickboxer was awaiting trial for conspiring to import pseudoephedrine when the attack occurred in October 2009. Those charges were later dropped due to Mr Watt's injuries.

The NSW Supreme Court heard on Tuesday that the attack followed another altercation earlier in the day, after which he said corrective services officers asked him to shake O'Hara's hand.

Mr Watt said after that he went and sat under the CCTV cameras where he thought he would be safe.

But according to his statement of claim, a sandwich press O'Hara had been carrying in the first attack was stashed under a ping pong table and some other inmates returned it to him later in the day, whereupon he used it to attack Mr Watt again.

Mr Watt claims the state breached its duty of care by failing to ensure that people in custody were adequately supervised and not segregating either people who were likely to be attacked or people who were violent and unmanageable.

Prison authorities were also negligent in failing to act on warnings by the Australian Federal Police that a threat had been made against Mr Watt, and should have segregated the two inmates after the earlier attack, he claims.

In its defence, the state does not admit to the loss and damage claimed by Mr Watt, nor liability for any loss sustained by the alleged incident, saying that its duty was to take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm.

Mr Watt started the altercation nine minutes before he was whacked with the sandwich press, by placing O'Hara in a "choke hold" that nearly left him unconscious and then threatened him in acts that amounted to "extreme provocation", the defence pleadings claim.

If any damages were found to have occurred, Mr Watt had contributed to them by failing to tell the staff that a threat had been made to him after the first incident, it claims.

The NSW Supreme Court heard on Tuesday that O'Hara was notoriously violent and had spent most of his life in isolation, though Corrective Services had decided to release him into the general remand population for reasons unknown.

But the prison's former intelligence manager Timothy Bridge said fights in the remand centre did not necessarily mean inmates needed to be segregated.

"The inmate population is very volatile," Mr Bridge said.

"Particularly the inmates on remand are very unsettled, they're very on edge. They may have had bail issues, they may have had bad news from the family, it's a very confrontational environment."

Mr Watt admitted under cross-examination that he had suffered head injuries many times in his kickboxing career and he had also blacked out from drinking too much in his youth.

Contrary to information he had earlier provided for a medical report, he said he could not have fallen off a motorbike as he had never ridden one, had never been hit on the head by a surfboard and it may have been an exaggeration to say he had hurt his head "thousands of times" in karate.

The hearing continues.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Adam Watt had been knocked out 32 times.


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A 1994 piece from the New York Times. To put the article in its relevant context this was published three days before UFC 2. Anyway, the New York Times really, really didn't like MMA.

http://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/08/sport ... tml?src=pm

TV SPORTS; Death Is Cheap: Maybe It's Just $14.95

By Richard Sandomir
Published: March 08, 1994

Here's a statement you won't hear made by Don King, Seth Abraham, Dan Duva or any other pay-per-view sports purveyor: "I don't want anyone to die. It may be good for the buy rate. But I don't want anyone to die."

Thus spoke Campbell McLaren, general manager of the Semaphore Entertainment Group, which on Friday will air "The Ultimate Fighting Championship II," a no-rules war among martial artists that could conclude in rigor mortis.

For just $14.95! Yes, friends, beyond Wrestlemania! Beyond boxing! Beyond Tough Man (the amateur boxing event)! Pay-per-view (possible) death!

The Ultimate Fighting Championship pits 16 martial arts experts in areas from jujitsu and kung fu to wing chun and pentcak silat in a one-night tournament without rules, gloves, rounds, breaks or timeouts, where punches, kicks, elbows, and chokes are encouraged, and winners are decided by surrender, a doctor's diagnosis or death.

"No, we don't want death," McClaren says again, noting that Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Terminator 2" was more violent than "U.F.C."

We're thankful for this: the event suggests competitors not bite or gouge eyes, which excludes Moe Howard from chasing the championship prize of $60,000.

Action occurs in an octagonal pit ringed by a five-foot fence, designed by the director John Milius like the one in his film, "Conan the Barbarian."

The pit is in Denver, situated in the only state lacking a boxing commission, making it the only place in the country able to stage such an event.

When the first version was staged last November, about 100,000 people purchased the event, generating a profit for Semaphore, a television production company which staged for pay-per-view the Jimmy Connors-Martina Navratilova match.

"I couldn't tell you if our main audience are martial artists or those who just like to watch people whack other people," McClaren said.

Clearly, there's a bloodthirsty sucker born every minute. In its public relations material, U.F.C. boasts: "The ethos of the Roman colosseums is back -- with a bloody vengeance!" Watch out, Christians!

ESPN isn't doing a preview show, which is a shame. Hearing Mel Kiper discourse on ninjitsu and taekwondo would be a hoot.

Death did not visit any competitor in "U.F.C. I": one suffered a broken hand, another needed oxygen and another had two teeth kicked out of his mouth. Those teeth, of an overmatched sumo wrestler, flew over the announcers' heads.

"These are all warriors and if you set yourself up as a warrior, here's a war for you," McLaren said. "These people are different than you and I."

McLaren may be different from you and I. Or maybe pay-per-view is different from you and I. I'm not sure. We can chuckle about how cheap life has become, and how brutal this sort of "entertainment" is. Throw boxing into the mix and you can ask if that's a proper amusement for civilized folks. We can also argue about whether we're a civlized society.

You get the sense that when you dip into promoting this sort of promise-of-blood sport, you're traveling along a different wavelength in a bizarro world, one that is merely a high-tech version of past brutalities. Ready for "The Inquisition I," for $49.95? Torquemada with color commentary.

McLaren said: "I was pitched a Saudi Arabian execution. Twice a year, they do heads. We'd do it with a hidden camera. I passed. So did Dan Duva."

Bless their tasteful little hearts.

Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame running back, will provide analysis for "U.F.C. II," but his presence has another meaning. Public service announcements for his "Amer-I-Can" program, to curb urban violence, will air between matches.

Are we seeing some irony? Certainly there is a paradox to pitching non-violence between segments of violence described by McLaren as "probably the most brutal event on television." In addition, two members of the Bloods and Crips gangs will handle production assignments.

McLaren observes no irony here, noting that the philosophy here is akin to steering gang members into a local Y.M.C.A. to learn boxing, to channel the energy into a disciplined activity. Like U.F.C.? With no rules?

"Ever hear of a drive-by kicking?" he asks. Ah, compassionate wit!

The decline of western civilization can be viewed through the pay-per-view prism, from the Julius Erving-Kareem Abdul Jabbar one-on-one bomb to the idiotic Tough Man competition. From Howard Stern's New Year's Eve special to the Riddick Bowe-Michael Dokes title bout. From the Ultimate Fighting Championship II to . . . We'll see. It won't be pretty.

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Another New York Times article this time from November 1995. When this came out there had been seven UFCs.

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/11/26/weeki ... tml?src=pm

THE NATION;Not Sweet, and Not a Science

Published: November 26, 1995

WHAT'S a kick in the head between friends? The question is prompted by the growing popularity of a new sport that caters to those who find boxing too polite. The competition, called extreme or ultimate fighting, pits two bare-knuckled fighters who punch, kick and brawl their way toward an often bloody denouement.

A particular charm of the discipline, its promoters say, is the unfettered and natural expression of human tendencies that takes place on the sweat-and-blood-stained mats. Indeed, participants are required to check their adrenaline surges only long enough to obey the cardinal rule against eye-gouging.

Such loosely controlled brutality has angered politicians, most prominently Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has persuaded several states to ban the sport. It has also generated introspection. Senator McCain, along with several academics, worries about what the sport's popularity says about Americans.

"It's the whole esthetic of violence that's really disturbing," said Elliott Gorn, a history professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and the author of "The Manly Art," a 1986 study of bare-knuckled prizefighting in early American history. "What's striking to me is the connection between television and pay-per-view and profit. This is mayhem for sale."

But Donald Zuckerman, the executive producer of Battlecade, one of the companies promoting these matches, said the sport is "safer than high school soccer," citing a lack of serious injuries. And he attributed its popularity to its unshackled excitement. "I think a very vocal minority is trying to get votes by acting like they are protecting the public from something that is brutal and animalistic," he said.

The sport resembles video games like "Mortal Kombat" and "Killer Instinct," where the violence is continual and bloody -- only it's real. The scenarios vary depending on the production company, but the goal is the same: to level your opponent by employing techniques culled from boxing, martial arts and street fighting. The rules, of which there are few, allow for Mutt-and-Jeff matchups. A kickboxer might fight a Greco-Roman wrestler; a judo expert might square off against a "no rules fighter" whose training has been decidedly less disciplined.

The formula clearly has appeal. Cable analysts say that since the first match, billed as the "Ultimate Fighting Championship," aired on pay-per-view television in November 1993, a steadily increasing number of people have been plunking down $19.95 to enjoy the sight of men expressing their inner brutality.

Now, the Referee Can Step In

Robert Meyrowitz, the creator of "Ultimate Fighting," the most famous of the promotions, said he continues to refine his sport. For example, in a 1994 tournament a fighter was bloodied and knocked unconscious by repeated blows of an opponent's elbow to his temple. "At the time, the referee was not allowed to stop the fight," he said. "Now the referees, the doctors, and in fact the corner, can stop the fight."

Mr. Meyrowitz said the sport is safer than boxing. "The facts don't bear up to the rhetoric," he said. "There has not been one serious injury."

That is a matter of time, said Senator McCain. "Some people may not like boxing, but at least it is supervised and regulated," he said.

Too Much for New York City

Even New York City, a community not unfamiliar with the concepts of free expression and violence, could find neither the heart nor stomach to serve as host for such an event. Denied the use of a state-owned arena in Brooklyn earlier this month, the promoters and fighters regrouped at a sound studio in Wilmington, N.C., where they staged a live tournament Nov. 18 for a pay-per-view audience. And those hoping for bloodletting were not disappointed.

Harold German, a 159-pound amateur boxer from the Bronx, found himself in the ring with Igor Zinoviev, a 190-pound champion kickboxer and former captain of the Russian judo team. The mismatch lasted less than a minute. "He just sat on me and delivered punches," Mr. German said.

Mr. German wisely "tapped out," or surrendered. He said he considers himself lucky. One fighter "got opened up from front to back," he recalled. Another surrendered under a torrent of head butts. "His face was like crushed," Mr. German said, his voice lowered in respect.

Anthony Guccione, the son of the Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, and the president of Battlecade, recently likened the sport to a celebration of "our more natural urges."

"That's frankly stupid," countered Professor Gorn. "I think the contrary is true. People have to be taught to be violent; it's learned behavior. And this sport might be the sort of thing that contributes to that behavior."

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Below is a 2002 feature from The Guardian. It was published just over two weeks prior to UFC 38: Brawl at the Hall, which was the first event that UFC held in the UK, took place.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2002/ju ... features11

Inside story

Fright club

Ultimate fighting is a new sport from America. Kicking, punching, throwing, elbowing and strangling are all allowed. So we sent Stephen Moss to try it out - with an expert

* Stephen Moss

* The Guardian, Thursday 27 June 2002
This article appeared on p6 of the G2 section of the Guardian on Thursday 27 June 2002. It was published on guardian.co.uk at 02.23 BST on Thursday 27 June 2002.

"Pain is temporary, pride is for ever," reads a sign on the wall at Mark Weir's gym, a converted shop on a run-down street in Gloucester. Since Mark is about to show me the intricacies of "ultimate fighting", I'm hoping it is accurate. Mark, who is a middleweight and a former world champion kick boxer, will be fighting against an American called Eugene "the Wolf" Jackson at the UK's inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event at the Royal Albert Hall next month. A bout against Stephen "the Elephant" Moss will be ideal preparation. Psychologically, anyway. Mark doesn't have a nom de guerre, though he did toy with "the Wizard" for a while; he says that really good fighters don't need them. Are you listening, Wolfie?

The first decision concerns what I should wear. Mark has a perfect, sculpted body, the result of running, cycling and working out for six hours a day; he makes the Venus de Milo look like Bernard Manning. I, having failed to carry on with my millennial fitness drive, just look like Bernard Manning. Mark is going to fight bare-chested; I decide to keep my vest on; this is one contest I can't possibly win.

Kitted out and breathing in, we take to the "dojo" (the room in which martial arts contests take place). "Come at me, Mark," I say foolishly. "If this was a real fight, what would you do?" He kicks me, that's what he does, lashing out with one of his long legs and snapping it against my raised left hand. His initial objective, he says, is to weaken his opponent. His initial objective has been achieved.

There are rules in ultimate fighting - 31 of them, far more (in fact 31 more) than there were in the early, bloody days of the early 90s when the sport (it really does now want that appellation) traded on its unlicensed notoriety. "Banned in 49 states!" the promoters used to shout. Now they have come over all respectable: hence the rules, weight divisions (a recent innovation) and cosying up to licensing authorities.

The UFC took exception to ultimate fighting (also called "extreme fighting" and "mixed martial arts") being described in the UK press as "the human equivalent of cockfighting" when the Albert Hall event was announced in April. This surprised me, since I had assumed that all publicity was good publicity, and that bad publicity was the best of all. But I had forgotten the power of television in the US.

The problem with notoriety was that, while bloodthirsty grannies and large men in baseball caps were attracted to the events, the press and politicians condemned the violence, and TV - the source of the big money - was turned off. Last year, the UFC franchise was sold to a Nevada-based organisation called Zuffa ("fight" in Italian), a rulebook was drawn up, state athletic commissions were brought on board, and a compromise reached between media friendliness and mayhem. If the Romans had had television, the face of gladiatorial combat would have been very different. (Then again, if Big Brother had lions in the garden, ratings would probably soar. It's a tricky balance.)

The UFC regulations specify no butting, gouging, biting (that rules out Mike Tyson), hair pulling, groin attacks, clawing, pinching, or grabbing the clavicle. (I thought that was a musical instrument, but apparently it's the collar bone.) No kicking the head of a grounded opponent, no spiking the opponent to the canvas on his head, no throat strikes (they can kill you instantly), no kicking to the kidney with the heel, no small-joint manipulation, and no putting a finger into any orifice, cut or laceration. Oh, and no unsportsmanlike conduct, abusive language or spitting.

So that just leaves kicking, punching, throwing, wrestling, elbowing, pummelling and strangling (it's the last one that worries me most). Ultimate fighting is designed to allow all the martial arts - judo, jujitsu, karate and tae kwon do, as well as boxing, kick boxing and wrestling - to be used. In theory, no one discipline should be able to overwhelm the others.

Fights take place in an octagonal space that is designed to give boxers and wrestlers - upright fighters and ground men - an equal chance. The octagon is fenced in (and as a result is sometimes called "the cage"), but the UFC insists that this is for fighters' safety - in the bad old days the worst injuries were caused by contestants being thrown out of the ring - rather than to keep the grannies happy.

I struggle with the abusive language rule after Mark kicks me, but it's rule 29 that really bothers me and might make my ultimate fighting career a short one: "No timidity, including avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury." Sorry, Mark, I think I just felt a twinge in the hamstring.

Non-title fights are scheduled to last for three five-minute rounds (title fights are two rounds longer). Seven-and-a-half seconds feels about right for me: you quit by "tapping out" (tapping your opponent or the floor) and I'm sorely tempted, though my wrist may not be up to it. Forget "the Elephant"; perhaps "the Mouse" is more appropriate.

Mark tells me not to be such a wimp - pride is for ever, remember. He picks me up and throws me to the floor (staggering the fall, I'm happy to say), jumps on top of my chest and starts choking me. There are two strangleholds: the arm choke, applied to the front of the neck, which well-conditioned fighters can resist, and the side choke, applied front and back, which kills you in about 20 seconds. Fighters faced with the latter are well advised to tap out before they pass out; if they don't, the referee will step in.

There have been no fatalities in ultimate fighting - unlike in boxing, which has seen many deaths in the ring and a good deal of damage out of it. Ultimate fighters, who realise they have a Darwinian sporting struggle on their hands, are not slow to point this out.

Mark shows me how to use my knees and elbows to protect myself when he is on top of me and punching me in the head (this is useful advice), and how to apply a few strangleholds of my own. Things are looking up - at least until he arches his back and sends me spinning off the mat. I respond with my secret weapon. Cannily, I have noticed that there is no prohibition on tickling in the list of rules, so as one last desperate throw, when nailed to the canvas, I try it. He is not amused.

I was sceptical about ultimate fighting when the Albert Hall event was unveiled. I assumed that, as with wrestling in the US, it was all choreographed: sport as soap, with goodies and baddies fighting mock wars. I couldn't see how a contest could last more than a few seconds: the fighters wear thin 4oz gloves, making it virtually bare-knuckle, and I imagined that one blow would knock you out cold.

Mark says that for the average guy it would, but the superb conditioning of pro fighters allows them to withstand a pounding. He demonstrates this by asking his sparring partner, a laconic former boxer called Matt, to lie down while he kicks him in the abdomen for a minute. Matt is even more laconic after that, but the point is made. Pain is temporary, etc. He also shows how Matt can survive an arm choke. Matt, speak to me . . .

Mark used to work for Barclays, but now lives for his art: competing, training others in martial arts and doing a bit of "door work" to help pay the bills. He says he developed a lot of his holds - he is largely self-taught - while working on the door at nightclubs. If you are in the Gloucester area and have had one caipirinha too many, don't say you haven't been warned. Just remember to tap.

Mark is 33 and has that messianic self-belief that characterises so many fighters: he believes he will chew up the Wolf at the Albert Hall, fight on the UFC circuit in the US, eventually win the middleweight championship and be one of the pioneers who establishes mixed martial arts as a respected sport that can compete with boxing. The boxing fraternity mocks such pretensions and believes ultimate fighting is a hybrid that will never be more than an occasional entertainment. But, Mark, I'm not going to argue with you. Now get your foot off my clavicle.

· The Ultimate Fighting Championship will be held at the Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 on July 13 (020-7589 8212) and broadcast live on Sky Box Office.

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Another piece 2002 from The Guardian. This one is from earlier in the year, April to be precise, when it was first announced at the UFC would be holding a card at the Royal Albert Hall.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/apr/1 ... kchaudhary

Ultimate fighting comes to Britain

Modern day gladiators to compete in Albert Hall, but opponents say caged battle should be banned as human equivalent of cock fighting

Vivek Chaudhary, sports correspondent

# The Guardian, Wednesday 17 April 2002 01.18 BST
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 01.18 BST on Wednesday 17 April 2002. It was last modified at 01.18 BST on Thursday 18 April 2002. It was first published at 01.18 BST on Thursday 18 April 2002.

They have been described as the modern day equivalent of Roman gladiators, whose brutal battle for victory is considered the ultimate test of mind and body.

Opponents have described it as barbaric and the human equivalent of cock fighting. But the craze of ultimate fighting, which has been sweeping across America drawing thousands at venues around the country, is to descend on Britain.

The combatants lock horns in an octagonal cage, surrounded by a 1.5 metre (5ft) high fence, and once battle is under way it is virtually a case of anything goes as they attempt to punch, kick, slap or wrestle their way to victory.

The first ultimate fighting contest to take place in Britain will be held in July in the Royal Albert Hall, with spectators seated around the cage watching bare footed and bare knuckled American and British fighters battling it out.

There will be a total of five fights, each lasting for five five-minute rounds. The event is to be screened on Sky Box Office, drawing widespread criticism from doctors' groups and politicians, who say caging fighters and allowing them to use karate, kung-fu, boxing and wrestling against each other is brutal, dangerous and should be banned.

Some critics have called ultimate fighting "street fighting in a ring". Events across America regularly draw crowds of up to 15,000. Many ultimate fighters in America have turned professional.

Ultimate fighting was created in 1993. Until two years ago there were only two rules: no striking to the groin or throat and no eye gouging.

Organisers say over the past two years they have introduced new rules, and their sport is as safe as any other.

Bernie Dillon, chief operating officer of Zuffa LLC, which promotes ultimate fighting, said: "It's a real man's sport and our athletes are the gladiators of today. It is the ultimate test of a man. Our athletes are experts in many different fighting disciplines, they train very hard and they care very much for their sport.

"We are well aware of some of the criticisms that have been made against ultimate fighting. It was once a brutal sport but it's not like that any longer. We are very aware of the need for safety and for ensuring that our fighters are medically fit. If you look at our track record on safety, it is as good as any other sports."

The British Medical Association has called for greater regulation, saying there is a danger of combatants sustaining brain damage and other serious injuries.

Bill O'Neill of the BMA said recently: "There is no independent regulation of this activity. There is clearly an intention to inflict injury on one's opponent and that includes serious and significant brain damage."

Some MPs have said they will raise the matter in parliament, and believe the Albert Hall event should not be allowed to take place.

The Labour MP Derek Wyatt, a member of the parliamentary select committee for sport, said: "This is a ghastly sport, if you can call it that. I am totally opposed to it and will raise the matter in the house.

"The fighters who are coming from America should not be allowed to come. We have been campaigning against fox hunting, bear baiting and cock fighting and this is the human equivalent."

Profile: 'You have to be aware of the risks'

As a youngster, Leigh Remedios used to get into a lot of fights, and he admits that he quite enjoyed "giving someone a good hiding". As an ultimate fighter, aged 26, he claims that it is the thrill of winning in style rather than the satisfaction of beating somebody up that drives him on.

When Europe's first ultimate fighting competition takes place at the Royal Albert Hall in July Remedios will be one of three British fighters to take part. He claims that the sport could eventually enjoy a large following in this country, as it does in the US, because it combines the best of many fighting techniques.

Remedios spent almost three years in America and Canada attempting to make it as a full time fighter but confesses that he had trouble making a living. He returned to Britain three years ago and has just completed a degree in electronics at Kent University and is now working as an engineer.

"A lot of people think that ultimate fighting is barbaric and that it is strictly for stupid people but that is not the case at all," he said. "I used to get into a lot of scraps as a kid and started learning all kinds of different disciplines, such as kick boxing, judo, karate and boxing.

"When I went to Canada I enjoyed putting all these different disciplines together. There is real technique and skill involved."

Remedios says that his speciality in ultimate fighting is what is known as "submission grappling," which is favoured by lighter, smaller fighters.

"Being a small guy I find it hard to knock opponents out. I try and catch them in a lock or choke until they submit. If you get someone in a good arm lock they can feel that their arm is about to break. Once they feel that they usually give up."

As he prepares for his most high profile ultimate

"If people think it's barbaric, I don't mind. You have to be aware of the risks but people tend to be very cautious when they criticise ultimate fighters, particularly if they are talking to us."

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Another piece from April 2002 when it was announced that the UFC would be holding a show at the Royal Albert Hall later in the year. This time from The Independent.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 57581.html

Promoters of 'ultimate fighting' deny it is a blood sport

By Cahal Milmo

Thursday, 18 April 2002

Those who once spent Saturday afternoons watching Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks grappling in leotards before crowds of adoring pensioners are in for a surprise.

Those who once spent Saturday afternoons watching Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks grappling in leotards before crowds of adoring pensioners are in for a surprise.

A form of hand-to-hand combat known as ultimate fighting, which combines all martial arts and is one of America's fastest-growing entertainments, made its European debut in London yesterday in a campaign to dispel its image as a legalised form of street brawling.

Critics of the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) argue that its aim of battering an opponent into submission by any means makes it little more than a blood sport. But combatants and organisers, including the broadcaster Sky Television, believe it is a test of sporting strength, skill and agility, and have hired the Royal Albert Hall to mount Britain's first UFC bout this summer in the belief that the public will agree.

Some 4,500 people paying at least £50 each will flock to the venue on 13 July. Sky hopes thousands of armchair fans will pay £14 for televised access to see British, American and Japanese fighters seeking purses of up to £100,000.

Those used to the well- rehearsed slams and neck holds of British television wrestling in the Seventies and Eighties or the hugely popular WWF of the current era will be in for a shock: ultimate fighting takes place in an octagonal cage surrounded by 5ft nylon fencing within which opponents can apply virtually any kick, punch, grip or slap they might need. Fighters known as Ice Man and the Monster win by holds such as the Cobra Choke, the Thai Kick and the Guillotine Choke.

When the cult sport started in the early 1990s, bloodied fighters would batter each other into unconsciousness, employing the techniques of boxing, wrestling and martial arts in front of baying crowds, mostly of young men.

But Zuffa, the new owners of UFC, which bought the franchise last year, insisted yesterday that it had cleaned up its act.

Bernie Dillon, Zuffa's chief operating officer, said: "We now have a highly regulated sport which is safer than boxing. This is a sport for real men but it is a safe sport for real men. It was once brutal but that has now changed.

"What we have is talented people who are experts in not just one form of combat but all forms and who have been checked and re-checked to ensure they are medically fit."

The British Medical Association has already expressed concern that there is not enough independent scrutiny of ultimate fighting and that its repeated blows to the head could inflict brain damage. But UFC, which is careful to describe its fighters as "athletes" and to draw parallels between its rules and those of the Olympic Games, has become big business.

It has held 44 events, the most recent in Japan, and is watched on television in more than 40 countries.

The leading fighters can earn £200,000 per bout.

Ian Freeman, 35, aka the Machine, a former boxer from Sunderland who has fought in UFC in America and will appear at the Albert Hall, said: "There is a lot of ignorance. We aren't just street fighters.

"We are pure sportsmen and we are going to open our critics' eyes."

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In 2001 Kevin Mitchell, a sports writer who still to this day writes for both The Guardian and it's Sunday sister paper The Observer, wrote a two part piece on MMA under the title Mortal Combat. It's a long two part feature on MMA.

Mitchell goes to write a feature about MMA and, well, he's got some very strange ideas. For anyone with any idea about the actual history of MMA and how the MMA industry was in 2001 this piece is surreal. I have no idea how in 2001 you could set out to write a feature on "Ultimate Fighting" and come away with one like this. It  seems like a feature on MMA as in was in 2001 if MMA existed only in the mind of Kevin Mitchell.

Anyway, part one...

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/stor ... 73,00.html

Mortal Combat

This is ultimate fighting, part of the lethal craze for no-holds-barred brawls that has seen losers die in the ring. Around the world it is becoming the thrill of choice for a generation that finds boxing too tame and wrestling too staged. What drives these men to fight? And what compels others to watch? An OSM special report by Kevin Mitchell.

Sunday 8 April 2001

Mrs Shirley Dedge was, on reflection, entitled to slam the phone down. It is three years since her son Douglas died and a call from a faceless journalist thousands of miles away can only have revived painful memories. I wanted to know if Mrs Dedge, a retired schoolteacher in Chipley, north Florida, or her daughter-in-law Patricia, had ever had a satisfactory explanation of - or compensation for - Douglas's death in the Ukraine three years ago last month. It would seem not.

Dedge was 31, a father of five, and, whatever he did for a living, his death came as an understandable shock to those who knew him in the quiet town of 4,111 citizens, about 45 miles from Panama City Beach. Dedge was skilled in contact karate. He'd competed in many mixed-fighting contests around the South, using his Reality Martial Arts Academy in Enterprise, Alabama, as a training base. On 16 March, 1998, Dedge turned up in Kiev looking for a fight. The following night he found one. When he entered the ring at the Palace of Sports in front of a large, juiced audience eager to smell some American blood, his only friend within 10,000 miles was Danny Ray, who had accompanied him and another US fighter on the eight-hour flight from Miami. It was a less-than-ideal preparation for what was to follow. But Dedge, a genuine hard man, still fancied his chances against an opponent he knew little about.

Yehven Zolotaryov was a wrestler of local renown. Their appointed contest was what the Ukrainians call 'Boi Bez Pravil' (Battle Without Rules), which is a fair description of a fight in which all that is banned is biting and gouging. Zolotaryov looked lively and strong. Dedge, understandably, was haggard, weak and, some said, overweight. There are conflicting accounts of what happened when they got down to fighting.

It is generally agreed the contest lasted about five minutes. Ray said when he returned to the US that Dedge was competitive - 'He was defending himself well.'

Others did not see it that way. His mother and wife would not want to read the following. 'Less than a minute after the start of the fight,' one witness told OSM, 'Zolotaryov had Dedge on the floor, face down. While he was lying there, half unconscious, Zolotaryov began trampling on him. Then he punched him repeatedly in the nape of the neck. He bashed him at the base of the neck about 14 times. The referee chose not to intervene. He seemed intimidated by the 4,000 crowd, who were screaming, "Kill the Yankee! Finish him off!" When Zolotaryov stood up, his chest was covered in blood and Dedge was unconscious. They carried him out on a stretcher and he was taken to hospital.'

What neither account disputed was that Dedge died in Kiev's Institute of Neurosurgery at 6am on 18 March. The chief emergency ward doctor, Petro Spasichenko, confirmed the obvious: Dedge died of severe brain damage.

'We consider his death a tragic accident that disturbs us greatly,' the event's organiser, Yuri Smetanin, said. Shirley Dedge told a local reporter at the time: 'Douglas was a loving husband and father, and he participated in a lot of sports. It is the worst thing that ever happened to this family.'

OSM has learnt that soon after the fight, the US Consulate in Kiev asked the Ukrainian government to launch an investigation. The authorities initially chose not to, arguing that the main organisers, the Minamoto club, would have disbanded rather than pay compensation. That would have left the government legally and financially vulnerable. However, they banned Absolute Fighting a year later. The Minamoto and similar clubs in Kharkov, East Ukraine, went underground - then took their competitions to Russia and Belarus, where they have flourished under the patronage of the mob.

What happened to Douglas Dedge was not an accident, whatever the protestations of the promoter. Yet nobody was charged, nobody was brought to account. In the loosely governed world of ultimate fighting - which encompasses a mish-mash of martial arts, street-fighting skills and general thuggery masquerading as sport under various names - Dedge's death was a watershed. If it served a purpose - and this will be no consolation to his family - it drove his 'sport' further underground. The US authorities had for some time been uncomfortable with ultimate fighting and extreme fighting, which revelled in the notion that they would take fights to the edge of acceptability. When they started in 1993, fighters, competing across the disciplines of kung-fu, karate, wrestling, ju-jitsu and kick-boxing, wore no gloves and the gore content was high; at the peak of their popularity, fighters such as Ken Shamrock attracted pay-per-view audiences of 300,000 (not many fewer than that for Mike Tyson's last fight against Andrew Golota). Then came Dedge's death; the gloves went on and the action softened. But the authorities remained unconvinced. Professional wrestling, sensing a sea-change, even admitted its fare was now not sport but 'sports entertainment', and it survived as pantomime.

Led by the boxing-loving Senator John McCain, the law-makers hit hard at all forms of extreme fighting. State after state banned it. Gradually, after all the macho intent, what taste decreed could be neither 'ultimate' nor 'extreme' turned into a watered-down pastiche of violence. But it was too late.

The bastard son of the fight game was free to go back to the basement. And there it would find a very willing audience....

The message boards are humming. From Milton Keynes to Chicago, young men are looking for a fight.

Do any of you out there have fight clubs up and running? I just saw a deal on TV about a bunch of kids out in the land of May wives beating the hell out of each other on the weekends, and the cops, school, church doesn't care... Anyway, that would kick ass. Maybe I have to move to Salt Lake.
Moe Dank.

We had a toughman competition in Oklahoma. It was great. One time they brought a bear to a bar and you could fight the bear. The bear kicked everybody's ass.

There are lots of gay bodybuilder fight clubs, and they're really very extreme, very violent. Some of them put videos for purchase on porn sites and in stores. But actually becoming a member is tough because they're like secret societies. Plus some (but definitely not all) of them are affiliated with S&M or skinhead or Nazi groups. So, based just on that, you may not want to sign up.
Ed O. Puss-Rexx.

Better ask Chuck about this. They say he started it. Well, he wrote the book, back in '96. Then they made the movie, the one with Brad Pitt. You remember. Those basement brawls, disillusioned modern males looking for themselves via a smack in the mouth. Fight Club... Except, that was fiction, right?

But then so was the WWF. So was Ultimate Fighting. And Extreme Fighting. And Kaged Kombat. And Superbrawls. Chuck would know.

'The Mallory is a good hotel,' Chuck Palahniuk says. 'See you there.'

The Mallory is an incongruously safe recommendation from someone who had one of his characters utter: 'I just don't want to die without a few scars.' I was hoping for something like the Chelsea. No, the Mallory is an immaculate hotel in a clean street in pleasant valley Portland, Oregon, where Palahniuk lives. It is peopled by staff just this side of obsequious. The Mallory is not very Fight Club. The hotel's 10 safety tips for travellers, in five languages, include at No 7: 'Don't invite strangers to your bedroom.'

Welcome to the Hotel Paranoia. Such a lovely place.

As I read the notice on the window - 'opens only five inches, for your security' - the phone rings. Palahniuk, America's literary prince of edge, is here. He declines to do the interview in my suicide-proof eyrie. Forgot. The seventh rule of the Mallory: 'Don't invite strangers to your bedroom.'

Fit and late-thirtyish with long black hair and a fresh, wide-eyed face that screams healthy living, he moves serenely across the lobby to shake hands. These are the hands he uses to grapple with in the gym, to pump iron and to sign contracts for lucrative screen rights to his books, of which there are now five. Palahniuk is a success. The irony is he has become prosperous as a prophet of anarchy in the most zombified society in the world.

He is also that rarity, an American who doesn't watch TV. 'I haven't had one in 10 years,' he explains. 'Jennifer Aniston is a friend of mine but I've never seen her on TV.' He says a study shows that TV addicts in their forties he is just about to embrace have 80 per cent more chance of getting Alzheimer's than those who don't watch television. Over coffee and mineral water in a TV-free dining room on a nondescript Monday which only an earthquake from nearby Seattle could disturb, we talk violence. Chuck is a nice guy - 'brought up a Catholic but I don't go to mass now' - who lives in a country house with a bunch of friends in what seems to be your typically wonderful, West Coast Shangri-la.

So, what news from the front, Chuck?

He says we've forgotten how to be real men. 'We have been failed by our fathers. I have to wonder if every generation doesn't feel like that, because this is exactly what my father said about his father.'

His family came from the Ukraine. He has not heard of Douglas Dedge. Chuck has not been there, and has no plans to go. But he reckons growing up in comfortable America has robbed his generation of hardness and adventure, qualities that surely were in the Palahniuk genetic box of tricks once.

'Among my peers, we were all complaining we didn't feel like we were being taught the things we needed to be taught to become men. We hadn't been taught how to fix our cars or hunt wild game. It seemed some crucial rite of passage, some secret, should have been told to us. Especially after talking to my father about this, I have to wonder if maybe there's no such thing. Maybe it's something we ultimately have to do for ourselves.'

What Chuck's Nietzschean narrator does in Fight Club is go hunting for the beast within. He finds him in his alter-ego, Tyler Durden. He is appalled and addicted. Like Moe and thiassi and Ed.

But, outside Palahniuk's imagination, this stuff has got out of hand. In clubs and bars in Chicago, Detroit, Kent, Essex, South America, Australia, guys are bleeding for free. Where once we went to war and Cold Blow Lane, now thousands of the beleaguered male species are begging for pain in what might loosely be regarded as Fight Clubs. Some of it is harmless, middle-class posturing. Some of it is not. That afternoon Palahniuk had heard about Brazil's funk balls. Now you will too...

Every Saturday night in more than 60 dance halls in the shanty towns on the edge of Rio, up to 200,000 young, mainly poor, Brazilians gather to dance in gangs to the rhythm of extreme violence - a spare mix of late-Eighties pop and techno, beefed up with heart-thumping bass, the action orchestrated by sadistic DJs. On a signal from the disc spinner, barrio waifs who have paid $6 for the privilege charge each other in a frenzy, some with knives, all with an astonishing disregard for their health. They call enemy gangs 'The Germans'. If they get caught, they get beaten. Badly. Police say at least 60 teenagers have died in funk balls. Others have been blinded and paralysed.

Some of them are as young as 12. While they might have seen the movie, they are not the bastard children of Fight Club, confused products of a material age; they do not have access to internet message boards - and they are a long way from the screen glamour of Brad Pitt. They are the disposable detritus of the favelas. Rio's middle class turn a blind eye to their deaths because funk balls keep them off the beaches and out of the way of the tourists. 'I remember once stamping on a German's head,' a funker recalls, 'because he'd made me bleed. His girl was screaming and screaming at me to stop. But that only made me stamp harder.'

It could be a line out of Fight Club.

Chuck looks perplexed when I tell him there are regular deaths and maimings at funk balls. 'They die? What makes them do it?'

Reasonable question. Palahniuk thinks it might be a universal trend. He thinks young people everywhere - rich and poor - are getting more violent. 'That's what I'm hearing, from teachers I know. They're much more reckless than any generation they've ever worked with.' A study by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 35.7 per cent of high school students had been in a physical fight more than once during the previous 12 months. Fighting was 10 per cent more prevalent among younger males than graduates.

In society at large, America is losing it. While I am in Portland, Charles Andrew Williams, 16, is charged with killing two schoolmates and injuring several others in Santee, California; the next day in Florida, Lionel Tate, 14, is given life for killing a six-year-old girl - while trying out moves he saw on TV wrestling; on the Friday, Greg Page, a former world heavyweight champion, is knocked unconscious for $1,500 in Kentucky, where there is no boxing commission, and taken to hospital to fight for his life.

Palahniuk wonders if we are naturally violent, but reluctant to express it in our tight-arsed, civilised world.

'There are peasant festivals in Peru and Chile where all the men come once a year and bash each other in these outdoor fights that last five days. They fight every day, all day, for five days. And this is also where most of the peasants get married. It's almost like a passage to manhood. And in a way, while writing Fight Club, I knew this character had to prove to himself he was an adult in order to commit to an adult relationship. He couldn't commit to a woman, unless he'd proved himself to himself.'

This is in line with the feminist view of stripped-down masculinity popularised by Susan Faludi in Stiffed. Palahniuk is a fan. He envies a woman who can write about emasculation, how men struggle in the 'testosterone-resistant' environment of the new age, because a man writing it would be considered a whining wimp.

What kind of upbringing fed these trepidations about his masculinity?

'I was told the whole time to walk away, run away, turn the other cheek. So I spent my adolescence avoiding it and thinking it was entirely valueless and stupid and self-destructive. I was following a very set-down pattern for success, established by my blue-collar parents, which was work hard, go to school, be productive and create things, not realising that a little bit of destruction would allow me to create so much more. At a flashpoint, I would end up in a fight. It was a little bit of an act of resignation because I felt I had nothing to lose. It's amazing how fast two pissed-up people that are arguing can fight each other. I really started to enjoy them. It was this huge suppressed frustration that I was doing everything I was supposed to do and my life still wasn't turning out.'

What some call self-indulgence, Chuck saw as personal development. The self-destruction/reconstruction process continued in bars around Portland, where he got into fight after fight. His friends grew tired of it. This was the germ of Fight Club. One more fight, and he'd be ready to write.

At the time, he was a 'service documentation specialist', a mechanic who wrote about diesel trucks for a Portland freight company. He'd been to university and he was going nowhere intellectually.

His friends drew back, partly in admiration. 'A lot of them actually said, "I wish I could do what you do. I wish when people were rude and abusive and hostile to me, I could lash out like you do." And I was telling them, "No you don't, because it doesn't really serve a purpose."'

But it did. In Fight Club, Palahniuk brilliantly describes passing acquaintances - such as passengers on a plane - as 'single-purpose friends'. I figured violence was Chuck's single-purpose friend. After a few fights, when the cops came, the Catholic kid with the degree and the regular pay cheque got confused. 'Then I'd feel terrible. Then it was always backpedalling.' He got in a fight at the freight depot. When the other guy wanted to be friends afterwards, Chuck got more confused.

Then he wrote Fight Club.

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