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Part two of Kevin Mitchell's two part 2001 feature on MMA. Part one is in the post directly above.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/stor ... 83,00.html

Mortal combat (part two)

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

So, I'm looking for a fight.

Pat 'Big Lew' Lewandowski, from Sunnyside, Chicago, says: 'I'm bald, weigh 330 pounds and I'm about as right-wing as you'll get.' Big Lew might just be the eggplant that ate Chicago. And he might be able to find me a fight.

Times have been tough for Lew and he wants government, big and small, to get off his back. They say baseball is America's favourite sport when there is a Democrat in the White House; football and 'baahxing' better reflect the freewheeling machismo when a Republican is President. Lew likes his new President, and his football, even Vince McMahon's extreme and ludicrous parody, XFL, which is disappearing off the ratings map after only a few rounds. He also likes a laugh and a good drink (hope you got home all right, Lew). Most of all, he likes fighting.

Big Lew runs Fite Klub Productions Inc, an unsubtle take on Chuck's book. Lew did not concern himself with the philosophical subtleties of postmodern man's search for his inner penis, or whatever; he's just a long-time fight fan who saw a chance to cash in on a hit movie. For years he'd been struggling to make money in the shrinking mainstream of professional boxing. That's for the big boys, Don King country. So Lew went sideways and down.

The first rule of Fite Klub is turn up and punch. When and where he can, Lew holds caged fights, 'Bouncers' Brawl', fights for pros, amateurs, girls. Tickets at all prices.

Lew was doing fine until his old pal Sean Curtin closed him down. Curtin is small government, Lewandowski's b*te noire. To be precise, Sean is Chief of General Enforcement for the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, which might suggest he had wandered off the set of A Clockwork Orange, although there is nothing sinister about the likeable Irishman who trawls clubs and back-room bars looking for the beer-swillers illegally belting each other into early dementia.

When Sean saw a video his inspectors brought back from one of Lew's fight nights, he turned it off halfway through then later told the press: 'There were no gloves, there was punching and kicking while on their feet and on the ground, which is what we consider ultimate fighting. It was not a form of martial arts whatsoever. It was very amateuristic, also.'

Sean closed Lew down. Lew's landlord later foreclosed on the gym in Chicago Heights. Lew was miffed. He says: 'This is not Christians and lions.' There's 'nearly always' an ambulance outside, and he doesn't let his fighters hit opponents when they're on the floor. Which is of some comfort if you ever find yourself underneath, let's say, a 330lb Pole from Chicago.

But Lew holds no grudge against Sean, whom he outweighs by at least a small town. 'Sean's a nice guy.' Everyone I meet says that. Sean says the same about Lew. It's business.

I was collecting American rarities: Chuck, someone who didn't watch TV, and now Lew, a nice right-winger. He's the sort of guy who would sit on you and feel bad about it. Dare say there have been times when he has done just that. 'I've had my share of bar fights,' he chuckles.

Sean loves regular boxing. A former 'not very good lightweight, but I never got knocked down', he must have swallowed Nat Fleischer's entire collection of Ring Records. Sean knows more about the fight game than Mickey Duff has forgotten. He's the sort of guy who throws punches when he's describing a fight, and he's seen plenty. He started watching the fights on television in the Fifties and, when he grew up, he boxed any where and any time he was asked. He refereed too, and he wanted to go to the Olympics as an official. It didn't happen.

Which is how he found himself adjudicating women's wrestling in Mexico once. 'I didn't like it but I had to earn some money. I was refereeing one fight and I forgot who was supposed to win. So I asked one of the girls. She said, "I am". She was wrong. The other girl went berserk when I gave it to the first girl.' Good to know some athletes still care about the result.

Sean fell out of like with the ballyhoo of pro wrestling, especially WWF, the version McMahon has inflicted on the world, and is trying to get it banned in Illinois. He likes underground fighting less. 'People have died,' he says. 'People end up maimed. You don't hear about it because it's so hard to track down. But it happens.'

Sean's seen most things boxing has to offer, including fixed fights, mismatches, fights where your dead grandmother could pick the winner. Sean could tell you stories about the likes of Bruce 'The Mouse' Strauss all night. The Mouse, like Sean when he needed money, boxed under several different names. Often in different towns on the same night.

Sean, in his mid-fifties, still works out most days and when we meet he is wearing the remnants of a shiner and a sore nose, courtesy of a girl boxer who cracked him with a right-hander during sparring. He laughs it off. From his ninth-floor office in the Illinois State Building, Sean has a job to get on with, monitoring the good, the bad and Big Lew.

Although he could spot a flying bar stool out of the corner of either eye, you will not find Pat Lewandowski's name in any boxing records book. He got into the gym - but not into boxing - because he was bullied when he was young. He was called 'Fatty Patty' at school and it hurt. 'It was like being a Polish kid in a school full of Irish.' So his dad showed him a few moves and took him down to the gym. Lew, who is 40, still spars. But only with guys half his size. 'I don't want to get knocked around.' He knows plenty of people who do, however. They punch, grapple and kick, throw and leap. But Lew's contestants don't gouge - or 'fish-hook', to use the vernacular. And he won't let anyone enter one of his enclosed cages if they're drunk.

'There's Joe's Bar, and another place in Chicago, they'll set a ring up and they've got house fighters, - and I've trained one or two of these guys - and they'll get guys out of the crowd to fight them. And these guys have been drinkin' all night. I had a guy bring 11 fighters - which is a good night's schtick, coz all of a sudden I got 22 fights or so for the night, you know? I can sell a lot of hot dogs and beer in that time! But I wouldn't let 'em fight. They got there five, five-thirty, I smell beer on one guy's breath. Now if one guy's been drinkin', I'm sure all of them have.'

Lewandowski, like many in his line of business, is protective of the unwanted offspring of acceptable, televised fighting. 'Here's one thing I want to say: in ultimate fighting, you quit, you're still considered a hero; in boxing, you quit, you're a coward. And some of these fight writers, they haven't whacked anything in their lives except their peckers. When it comes to mixed martial arts fighting, it truly is real. You're not going to see guys stand up, like in boxing, and take loads to the head. They'd rather take you to the mat. If they wanted to get hit to the head, they'd be boxing and making real money instead of making nothing.'

And Lew knows boxing is still the main number. What he's in is play-acting. 'I believe it takes a real man to be a boxer, a different kind of guy.'

This is Lew's essential dilemma: on the posters, he sells full-scale gore. When the punters turn up, he produces something less than that - clean, risk-free throttling, safe tear-ups. Big Lew promises Project Mayhem and delivers Tom and Jerry. This is cartoon violence. While he says they are all genuine bouts, they have no context outside the thrill on the night. Fighters drift in, and go. Also, to stay somewhere inside the law, they cannot descend into wholesale violence. Which, in my language, spells S-H-A-M. Or WWF. Or XFL. And still the suckers roll up.

Now they're closing in on the WWF. It's money. And morals. 'Three years ago they were selling sex. Every show, every match, they had a girl out there running around half-naked. But you know what? With all the negative publicity, they lost Coca-Cola as a sponsor. Then, three years later, there's a lot more sex coming into it again, they're raising the bar a little bit.' (well-chosen metaphor Lew.)

Sean says the WWF's days are numbered in Illinois. Lew says there are worse things than that going on. Chuck says he quite likes WWF.

Lew describes some of his fighters as terrific athletes. The best of them, he says, come from the martial arts. By far the toughest are the Muay Thai fighters. 'They start when they're 12 and 13 and a lot of them are finished by the time they're 18. They've got shins like cricket bats.'

Muay Thai, which demands exceptional thirst for pain, does not accommodate comebacks. But, with 50,000 fighters in Thailand (five times the number of professional boxers in the world), there is no shortage of fist-fodder for the basement.

'There was a show in Indiana recently,' Lew says, 'there was a guy got a neck injury, they had no medical staff whatsoever, so they wrapped a collar around the kid's neck and carried him off on a folding table.'

Dignified, or what.

Lew swears this is not his scene - the sort of fights where you can, for instance, get killed. Like in the Ukraine in 1998. Where Chuck's folks came from....

Big Lew reckons he might have heard of Douglas Dedge. Sean too. Sean says there have been similar deaths in Kentucky, Iowa. And lots of injuries. Lew says they are rare. But how would anyone know?

In Chicago, there's Joe's Sports Bar on West Weed, but not this week. You can find it in nearby Indiana. But not this week. Or Oklahoma, where you can wrestle a bear. But not this week. Or Memphis. Ditto.

Likewise, Portland. Detroit. Philadelphia. New York. On Indian reservations. In school halls. In bars. In the garages of otherwise genteel suburbia. Illegitimate violence - with guns, feet or fists - is a rash America seems unable to scratch away.

It is no longer easy tracking down these blood spectacles. As well as being illegal, they are, like raves, extremely mobile. Organisers protest that they are well-run and nobody gets badly hurt. Witnesses say different. Why else would they go - why else would they scream?

In the UK, you can find them, if you're in the know, at a warehouse in Deptford, a leisure centre in Milton Keynes, another in Bletchley, behind a pub in Seven Kings, Essex, on a gypsy camp site on the North Circular, a clearing in Epping Forest. There are maybe a hundred Total Fighting exponents, who earn ÂŁ100 a fight, then move on. A lot of them train in the martial arts; some of them don't - which is why you might see them advertised as Pro-ams. The authorities seem comfortable with these fixtures. There was one scheduled last night [7 April] in Milton Keynes.

James Zikic is a quiet, religious man who came to London from eastern Europe a couple of years ago looking for a fight. He has found his share.

I saw him win the London heavyweight final of the Amateur Boxing Association championships last month, and those who were there say he was unlucky to lose in the subsequent national quarter-finals. With a bit of luck, he might have become another Audley Harrison.

But Zikic has another constituency. In free-form tournaments such as the Ring of Truth in Milton Keynes, he has made best use of a hard 190lb, 6ft 2in frame to become a star of underworld fighting; in America he has competed in Superbrawl as a colleague of the demi-legend Frank Shamrock. Most of James's bouts last only as long as it takes for his opponent to bang the mat in agony and submission, and he sees his future in America, in the world of Big Lew.

Those who conduct the cleansed version of ultimate fighting maintain it is safer than boxing. In the light of Page's circumstances, this is not the greatest bill of health ever issued for a sport. Britain is still the safest country in the world to box - and even here it carries risks, in small halls where fighters take bouts at short notice and medical safeguards are not as stringent as in world title fights.

Sitting uneasily between the acknowledged farce of the WWF and getting mugged, ultimate Fighting satisfies neither the craving for a comic thrill nor the darker need for chaos and destruction.

If you were seriously looking for Fight Club, maybe the last place you would think of would be Provo, Utah, on the campus of Brigham Young University. But the Mormon students went crazy for it. Brawling as a religious experience: Palahniuk reckons it might be an allegorical passion play - black hat v white hat, good v evil.

'That's how I see XFL, and wrestling. And that's why people are taking it more into their own hands, with backyard fighting, barbed wire matches. Brigham Young was having huge fight clubs. They were getting 300 guys per fight club. And these were young Mormon kids!'

After a while, they shut down Provo too.

Two days before I hooked up with Sean and Lew, there was an underground fight at a school in Chicago. Madonna High. Missed again.

'They should know better,' Sean tells his informant over the phone. 'They're Catholics aren't they?' Back in Portland. Chuck asks about the Irish. 'Say, is it true they like to fight a lot? A friend of mine says they are really quick to fight.' I couldn't go down that road. 'They might accommodate you, Chuck, if you were looking for something like that, with a good reason. But they'd probably rather buy you a drink.'

I wondered how these stereotypes remain so firmly in place. Americans always had such a quaint idea about the Fighting Irish. John Wayne, The Quiet Man, all of that. Movie after movie. This is a culture - of which we are a part - that glorifies and exaggerates. It was no mystery that religious kids in Utah and bone-heads in Milton Keynes wanted to believe Fight Club. If the author believes the myths, why shouldn't his readers?

And they love him. Palahniuk has gone beyond cult. He is in demand as a speaker, attracting big audiences on campuses everywhere. It scares him a little.

'The other night I was talking at a university, and there were, like, a couple of thousand people there. It's funny, they were coming up afterwards and asking for guidance, what was everything about. They were looking for a leader, some sort of guru. It made me feel real uneasy.'

And, as he discovered, violence is not just 'a guy thing'. 'I've gotten an enormous amount of mail from women saying, "Is there a fight club for women?" They really want something like that. They say they have so much anger, so much frustration that they see this as a means of getting rid of it, being free of it.'

I think this is where we came in.

'I was just hearing about a study on testosterone levels,' Palahniuk says. ''The hour and a half after you lose a fight, your testosterone level drops by half. When you win, it doubles. They think it's a primitive physiological means of keeping injured, exhausted people from fighting again too quickly. Just in case they're too injured or too exhausted. It's nature's way of saying you've had enough. And the guy who wins, gets to mate. So that's why his levels go up to the roof. In terms of natural selection, it was maybe a way of furthering the most aggressive genes, the strongest or smartest genes.'

I ask Chuck if he still fights. He says no. Doesn't need it now.

'For a lot of people, they don't know if it's for them, fighting. This is something I hear from huge numbers of men. They've never been there, so they don't know, it's something they will always wonder about themselves. It's just a simple thing, that you think you should know - like how to fix a car. You should be able to say, "I've done this."'

He's not done badly. Five books, a film, another film in the can, another book - Lullaby, a horror story - on the way. His parents are proud of Chuck now. He's better off out of the freight company gig. They're laying off hundreds of workers. 'All my friends are out of a job. It would have been me. I was heading up in that company, but I would have gone too.'

Now he has the comfort of wealth.

Some fighters do, too. The one per cent who make it to the top. The rest, like Greg Page in his last fight, go round for $1,500 a shot and take the risks concomitant with a poorly run show. In the favelas of Rio, there is nothing else. Big Lew? He's just making a living. Douglas Dedge didn't even make it home. Others, like the characters in Chuck's book, put flesh on their fantasy. Like Chuck did.

'You saw the kid who works in the copy center, who can't remember to three-hole punch an order or put colored slip sheets between the copy packets, but this kid was a god for 10 minutes, when you saw him kick the air out of an account representative twice his size, then land on the man and pound him limp until the kid had to stop. That's the third rule in Fight Club, when someone says stop, or goes limp, even if he's just faking it, the fight is over.'
from Fight Club.

Kevin Mitchell's War, Baby: The Glamour of Violence, is published by Yellow Jersey Press in October. He did not find Fight Club. The last rule of Fight Club is, stop looking.

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It could be argued that without an article that appeared in Playboy in 1989 the whole history of MMA would be very, very different. You could argue that without that Playboy article that there would be no UFC.

Two brief extracts from Clyde Gentry's No Holds Barred: Ultimate Fighting and the Martial Arts Revolution (http://www.amazon.com/No-Holds-Barred-U ... 190385430X) explain how....

Extracted from pages 36-37 of paperback edition.


...Two more years passed before Rorion Gracie got the break that he was looking for. Well-respected freelance writer Pat Jordan was working on a story about an arm wrestler when his subject recommended Gracie, having worked out with him in his garage dojo. Jordan spent three days with the jiu-jitsu master. In September 1989, his lengthy article on an unknown sports hero appeared not in

Black Belt or some other karate rag, but in the mass-selling Playboy magazine. Headlined BAD, it called Rorion the toughest man in the United States and was a compelling account of his attempt to achieve the American dream through his father's legacy. It also declared that he would fight any man in the USA for $100,000, winner-takes-all.

The Gracie Challenge took on a life of its own. No longer was it a singular wager with Urquidez; it was now something the Gracie family staked its entire reputation on. A slew of letters about the article poured into the Playboy office, and the martial arts community soon recognized the Gracie Challenge with a follow-up in Karate Kung Fu Illustrated. Rorion and his brothers suddenly had their hands full with new students and new challeges.

On the other side of Los Angles, adman, Art Davie kept the Playboy article for another reason...


Extracted from page 38 of paperback edition.


...After leaving the advertising company in late 1991, Davie needed a new creative outlet, and agreed to help his newfound friend promote a video tape series called

Gracies in Action. Each tape showed several fights, from black-and-white footage of Helio to recent challenge matches held in the Gracie dojo. Hapkido experts, wrestlers and so-called masters of every conceivable martial arts style barely had time to strike a pose before being taken to the ground and tapped out. It was uncanny. Davie came up with a direct mail scheme that soon had the orders piling up. When I saw reaction to the tape from fans, I said, 'Let me see if I can come up with something to create a show around this,' said Davie. Rorion had been approached about such an event before but nothing had ever come of it. The though of recreating what the Gracie family had done back in Brazil was more than appealing to Rorion; it was something always in the back of his mind...


Anyway, now due to the wonder of the Interweb it can be like it's late 1989. You have a copy of Playboy and are about to read an article about an "unknown sports hero"...

The text of the article was lifted from the link below.



Playboy article, vol. 36, no. 9 - September 1989
By Pat Jordan

Rorion Gracie is willing to fight to the death to prove he's the toughest man in the west.

The toughest man in the United States holds no official titles and has had only one fight in years. He lives with his pregnant wife and four children, three small sons and a baby daughter, in a modest ranch house on a tidy little street of similar homes in Torrance, California. He is 37, tall and skinny at 6'2", 165 pounds, and he does not look very tough. He looks mor like Tom Selleck than like Mr. T. He is dark and handsome like Selleck, with wavy black hair, a trim mustache and a charming, self-deprecating smile. He spends more time in the kitchen than his wife does and wears a woman's apron. He has an idiosyncratic high-pitched laugh. He picks up a yellowed newspaper with an account of one of his father's fights, adjusts his bifocals and reads. "'The most savage, stupid bloody desires of the audience were satisfied,'" he says. Then he laughs. "Heh-heh!"

"I never spank my sons," Rorion says, "because my father never spanked me." He spends as much time as possible with his sons. He drives them to their soccer practice in his station wagon. He spends the day with them at the beach.

Rorion once fought a kick-boxing champion and made him beg for mercy in less then three minutes. Before the fight, the kick boxer had stood in his corner of the ring and flexed his muscular arms. He cut the air with savage kicks. The crowd oohed and aahed. Rorion, skinny and stoop-shouldered, stood in his corner and waited. Two minutes and 15 seconds after the bell sounded, he was straddling the kick boxer on the mat in such a way that, if the kick boxer had not surrendered, Rorion would have "choked him out."

Rorion has made a standing offer to fight anyone in the United States, winner take all, for $100,000. So far he has had no takers - for one simple reason. Rorion's fights are fights to the finish with no rules. His fights are merely street brawls in a ring bounded by ropes. Kicking, punching, head butting, elbow and knee hits are all fair play in a Gracie fight. Only the accouterments of a street brawl - broken bottles, ash cans, bricks - are missing. The only purpose of referee serves in a Gracie fight is to acknowledge his opponent's surrender when he taps the mat with his hand or passes out from a choke hold.

Rorion (pronounced Horion, in the Portuguese way) is a master of a kind of no-holds-barred jujitsu practiced by his family in Brazil for 60 years. Gracie jujitsu is a bouillabaisse of the other martial arts: judo (throws), karate (kicks, punches), aikido (twists), boxing (punches) and wrestling (grappling, holds). Its primary purpose is defensive; i.e., to render attackers immobile. Rorion believes that since most real fights end up on the ground 90 percent of the time, Gracie jujitsu is the most devastating of all martial arts, because it relies on a series of intricate wrestling-like moves that are most effective when the combatants are on the ground. All a jujitsu master must do is avoid his attacker's kicks, punches and stabs until he can throw him to the ground and then apply either a choke hold to render him unconscious or a hold in which he can break his attacker's arm, leg, back or neck. A jujitsu fight is like a chess match, in that the winner is usually the one who can think the most moves ahead of his opponent.

Jujitsu originated in India 2000 years ago, travelled to Japan (via China) three centuries ago and was introduced to Brazil through Rorion's family 60 years ago, when a touring Japanese master taught Rorion's uncle some basic moves. His uncle taught Rorion's father and the two men grew enamoured of it, as only two small men with monstrous egos could. They took Japanese jujitsu a step further than their teachers by introducing techniques that required less strength than Japanese style and would make their family the most feared and famous in all of Brazil. Rorion's father, Helio, once fought an opponent in the ring before 20,000 screaming spectators for three hours and 40 minutes, nonstop, before the police finally separated the bloodied combatants. In another ring fight, he so savaged his opponent with kicks to his kidney that many attributed his subsequent death to the fight. When a rival martial-arts teacher once accused the Gracie family of fixing its fights, Helio, surrounded by a taunting crowd, confronted him on the street. He had broken the man's arms and ribs before the police arrested him. He was sentenced to two and a half years in jail for that beating, but the president of Brazil, a fan of the Gracie family, pardoned him within a week.

Rorion laughs and says, "Heh-heh! My dad kicked his butt." He is sitting in the den of his tidy little house, sifting through the many newspaper and magazine articles written about his family, while his sons wrestle, jujitsu style, on the floor.

Rorion holds up a photograph of his father in a kimono taken when Helio was 34. He is small, slim man at 5'8", 135 pounds, with slicked-back hair, an aquiline nose and a pencil-thin mustache. He is hip-tossing his older brother, Carlos, in an open filed. "That was the year my dad read a Reader's Digest article that said a boxer beat a jujitsu guy," Rorion says. "Heh-heh! My father offered to fight five boxers in one night. At various times, he offered to fight Primo Carnera, Ezzard Charles and Joe Louis. He put up sixteen thousand dollars and told Louis he'd fight with Louis having no gloves, just taped hands. No one took up his challenge." Rorion shrugs. "Louis was on vacation and here was this little bee buzzing in his ear and giving him no peace. Heh-heh!"

Helio reigned as the self-proclaimed toughest man in the occidental world for 25 years. He fought 14 fights in the ring and lost only two of them, one to Japanese master Kimura and the other to a much younger man - in fact, his protege - when Helio, at 42, was out of shape. Helio is 75 now, the patriarch of a family of nine children, including seven sons, and 18 grandchildren. Rorion has a photograph of his father at 73, still fit, gaunt-faced, with his aquiline nose and menacing pale-blue eyes. He is posing in his kimono with three of his sons, Rorion, Relson and Rickson, in their kimonos. Father and sons are standing identically - legs spread, arms crossed at their chests, eyes glaring at the camera - underneath a seal of the Gracie Jujitsu Academy, which Carlos and Helio founded in Rio in the Twenties. Helio's sons have all taught at the academy at one time or another. They are black belts. They are bigger than their father, darker, but the look in their eyes is only a parody of their father's truly menacing look. Except for Rickson. He has his own look. Not menacing but devoid of emotion. The blankness of the supremely confident. Rickson is 29, as muscular as a bodybuilder, with a Marine's crewcut, the high cheekbones of an Inca Indian and a square jaw. If Rorion is amiably handsome, Rickson is devastatingly handsome. Noted photographer Bruce Weber devoted 36 pages of his book on Rio (O Rio De Janeiro) to the Gracies and Rickson. Rickson as a baby being tossed high into the air by his father. Rorion and Relson as small boys on the beach, Rorion hooking his leg behind his brother's before throwing him to the sand. Rickson, in bikini shorts, on his back on a mat in a ring, his legs wrapped around the hips of a muscular black man, also in bikini shorts, who is trying to strangle him.

"Zulu," says Rorion. "A street fighter. He was thirty pounds heavier than Rickson. He threw Rickson out of the ring four times in their fight." Rorion gets up to put on a video tape of Rickson's fight with Zulu for the title of the toughest man in the occidental world. A grainy image flickers on the screen. Zulu is sitting astride Rickson, on his back. He trying to gouge out Rickson's eyes. Rickson keeps twisting his head left and right to avoid Zulu's stabbing fingers while, at the same time, he is kicking his heels in the sides of Zulu's back where his kidneys are. Rorion laughs and says, "Heh-heh! After the fight, Zulu was pissing blood for weeks."

The two men, locked in combat, roll toward the edge of the ring. The crowd surges forward. Hands reach out and slap at the combatants. The referee kicks at the hands, trying to drive the crowd back, while he grabs the combatants' legs and pulls them back to the center of the ring. A rain of crushed paper cups descends on the ring. The referee kicks the cups out of the ring like a soccer player.

"Wild people, huh?" says Rorion. "Brazil is a violent country. Watch here." Rickson stops kicking Zulu's kidneys, locks his legs around his hips and rolls him over so that now he is on top. He unleashes a barrage of bare-fisted punches to Zulu's face. Zulu tries to block the blows with his hands.

Zulu manages to roll Rickson over now so that his is on top of him, close to the edge of the ring again. Before Zulu can set himself, Rickson twists Zulu's body so that Zulu is lying on top of him, both men facing the overhead lights. Rickson gets Zulu in a choke hold and squeezes. Zulu's eyes begin to roll back in his head.

Rorion, smiling, turns off the video and says, "I used to change Rickson's diapers. Now he's the best in the world. Heh-heh!" It amuses him that he is the toughest man in the United States and yet he is not even the toughest man in his own family. "Rickson has never been beaten," he says. "No on will challenge him after Zulu. It's been three years. The Gracie family is the only family in history that will fight anyone with no rules. The Gracies don't believe in Mike Tyson. Rickson issued a public challenge to Mike Tyson, but he has not responded."

All the while Rorion has been talking. His three sons have been grappling on the floor, like monkeys, in a silent parody of their father and uncle Rickson. Their names are Ryron, Rener and Ralek. Nearby is his daughter Segina. Rorion has two daughters by a previous marriage in Brazil, Riane, 12, and Rose. Rorion believes that the letter R has mystical powers. He also shuns common names, like Robert, because they carry their own associations. "An original name has only the aura you give to it," he says. It is a belief, one of many, that Rorion inherited from his father, whom he worships almost as a god. (Rorion's other siblings besides his brothers Relson, 36, and Rickson are brothers Rolker, 24, Royler, 23, Royce, 22, Robin, 15, and sisters Rherica, 20, and Ricci, 12.)

Rorion's beliefs were fashioned out of Helio and Carlo' devotion to jujitsu, not merely as a martial art but as the cornerstone for a way of living that encompasses every aspect of a man's life, from morality and sex to diet. Rorion, for instance, eats only raw fruits and, occasionally, vegetables, and only in certain combinations as prescribed by his uncle Carlos, a nutritionist. His back yard is a greengrocer's market of boxes of apples, watermelons, bananas, mangoes and papayas he has bought in bulk. A typical Gracie meal might include watermelon juice, sliced persimmons and a side of bananas, and the talk around the Gracie dinner table between Rorion and his wife invariably concerns such questions as whether apricots should be combined with mangoes at a meal. His sons have only a passing acquaintance with foods other than fruits. They have had chicken maybe three times in their lives, and once, at a friend's birthday party, they were given lollipops, which they began smacking against the side of their heads because they didn't know what they were.

If the Gracie family's belief in the efficacy of fruits and the letter R seems nutty, if harmless, then their devotion to warrior values such as courage, honour and chivalry borders on the fanatical. Gracie men do fight at the drop of an insult, with predictably savage results. When Carlos and Helio returned home one night and found a robber in their house, they offered him the choice of fighting or going to jail. He chose to fight. In minutes, his screams woke the neighbourhood: "Jail! Jail! Jail!" When Uncle Carlos fought, he was not content merely to beat an opponent, he also wanted to teach him a lesson, or, as Uncle Carlos likes to say, "He's gonna get to dreamland all right, but first he must walk through the garden of punishment."

Rorion laughs and shakes his head. "Uncle Carlos was a bratty little kid. WHen he saw a Japanese guy carrying heavy loads of laundry, he liked to trip him. Heh-heh! He was very aggressive." When Carlos found opponents scarce for his ring fights, he advertised for them in the newspaper under the headline that read, "IF YOU WANT A BROKEN ARM OR RIB, CONTACT CARLOS GRACIE AT THIS NUMBER."

Rorion Gracie first visited the United States in 1969, when he was 17. He bummed around New York, L.A. and Hawaii for a year. He worked in a restaurant and on a construction site, where he slept. "I was always the first one on the job in the morning," he says. When his finances got precarious, he panhandled on the street. After years of being protected in the Gracie bosom in Rio, he learned to live on his own. "I grew a lot," he says. "Trouble only comes to test our reactions."

When Rorion returned to Brazil at the end of 1970, he went to college, got a law degree, though he has never practiced law, got married, had two children and then got divorced. In 1979, he decided it was time to cut the Gracie umbilical cord and return to the States for good to establish Gracie Jujitsu in the States.

"I felt there were more opportunities in America to spread the work of the Gracie myth," he says. "I felt that in Brazil, the Gracie family had reached the top and I didn't want to stay there and live off of my father's fame."

The Gracie myth in Brazil began with George Gracie, a blue-eyed Scottish sailor who settled in Brazil in the early 1800's. His descendants were bankers, diplomats, rubber-plantation barons and confidants of Brazilian emperors. A different kind of fame commenced with Carlos and Helio, whose fights were the stuff of legends. Helio was the first jujitsu master in the occidental world to defeat a Japanese master, Namiki, in 1932. He challenged any and all comers to fight in the ring with him, without rules, to the death. He fought a man to the death, only to have him surrender after four minutes. A newspaper story the following day said that the man had chosen not to die and dubbed him "The Dead Chicken." Helio fought Fred Ebert for 14 rounds of ten minutes each, until the police climbed into the ring to separate the two combatants, who had broken noses, lost teeth, welts over their eyes and blood streaming down their faces. The fan rioted at the halting of the fight. When Helio challenged a famous Brazilian boxer known as The Drop of Fire to a fight to the death, more than 20,000 fans showed up at the stadium. Only The Drop of Fire never showed, and overnight, the press dubbed him The Drop of Fear. Once, Helio dived into the turbulent, shark-infested Atlantic Ocean to save a man from drowning and was given his nation's Medal of Honour for his heroism.

Finally, in early 1951, Helio choked to unconsciousness Japan's number-two master, Kato, in a fight in Brazil that earned him a shot at Japan's premiere jujitsu master, the toughest man in all the world, Kimura. The fight took place in October of 1951 before thousands of Brazilian fans. kimura, 80 pounds heavier than Helio, agreed to the fight only if Helio, who had a reputation for never surrendering, would promise to tap the mat in surrender if his position seemed hopeless. "kimura was a gentleman," say Rorion, "and he didn't like to go to sleep at night dreaming of the sound of broken arms." The fight lasted 13 minutes. Kimura got Helio in a choke hold and noticed blood coming out of Helio's ear. "You all right?" Kimura said. "Yes," Helio said. "Good," Kimura said, and grabbed Helio's head and began to crush it like an overripe melon. Carlos threw in the towel.

The next day, Kimura appeared at the Gracie academy to invite Helio to teach at the Imperial Academy of Japan. Even though Helio wasn't scheduled to fight, Kimura could not guarantee his safety in Japan, where the fans often threaten to kill non-Japanese masters to maintain their monopoly of that martial art. Helio refused the offer. None of the current Japanese masters have dared venture to Rickson's home turf of Rio.

"The Brazilian youth had no idols before my father," says Rorion. "They felt there was nothing important known about Brazil. My father gave them hope. Something to believe in."

Rorion was 27 when he decided to come to the States to spread the word of the Gracie myth. He felt that the seed of Gracie jujitsu would flourish in the fertile soil of America, where men are bigger and stronger than in Brazil. He felt that American men could become a kind of master race of jujitsu warriors. Furthermore, he felt that men, and their women, too, were tired of their world image as the wimps of feminism. As proof, he could point to the popularity of such American movie actors as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris, who personified in their movies the kind of macho warrior that bore the striking resemblance to the roles assumed by Gracie men in real life in Brazil. Only the Gracie men did not need bazookas and machine guns.

Rorion moved to Southern California in 1979 and began to spread the word of Gracie jujitsu while trying to support himself in a strange country. He took a job cleaning houses. He met a woman whose husband was a movie producer. "You should be in movies," she told Rorion. Her husband took him to Central Casting and soon he was appearing as an extra in such TV series as Hart to Hart, Starsky and Hutch and Hotel. Rorion left the housecleaning business and set up a jujitsu mat in his garage, where he began to teach students. The youngest was the four-year-old son of a movie producer and the oldest, a 75-year-old retired Marine general. When a movie producer saw his fight against Ralph Alegria, the kick boxer, he hired him as a consultant for Lethal Weapon. Rorion choreographed the final fight scene between Mel Gibson and Gary Busey in that movie. Then he met Chuck Norris and began to teach him jujitsu for his movie Hero and the Terror.

While he waited for Gracie jujitsu to catch on in the States, Rorion busied himself with his movies, his students, demonstrations for law-enforcement agencies and colleges and an occasional challenge from a beach bully. He issued a $100,000 challenge, winner take all, to a fight to the death. Finally, a few months ago, a producer called to tell him about a documentary movie he was filming on the martial arts. A kick boxer in that movie, who claimed he was "the baddest dude in the world," had put up $100,000, winner take all, to fight anyone. Rorion accepted the challenge immediately and then told the producer, "First you better tell him who he's going to fight."

Rorion laughs and says, "I sparred a few times with him before. I was very gentle with him. I took him to the mat a few times, showed him some nice choke holds and he tapped the mat. Heh-heh."

The next day, the producer called back and said that the kick boxer would fight Rorion only under the following rules: Rorion had to put up the entire $100,000, the fight would consist of ten rounds of five minutes each and the two combatants could not stay on the mat for more than a minute at a time. Rorion laughed. "But that is not a street fight," he said. The producer never called him back.

In the den, Rorion passes his time browsing through the many books, newspapers and magazines with stories about the Gracie family. He holds up pictures of his father fighting Kimura and studies them. "See here," he says, "the choke." He memorizes that choke hold and the many facts of Gracie history: the names of long-dead ancestors; the dates of famous fights; the nicknames of vanquished opponents; Dudu, The Elephant, The Drop of Fire, The Dead Chicken, Zulu. He glances at his young sons in kimonos, wrestling on the rug. They grapple, silently, trip one another, tap the mat, stand, begin again. He looks outside to the garage, where two men in kimonos stand in front of the closed door. One man opens it to reveal a spotless, empty room with a grey mat on the floor. There is a photograph of a gaunt, mean-eyed old man, his arms folded across his chest, underneath a seal that reads ACADEMIA GRACIE. The two men step inside onto the mat. They are barefooted. They face each other, plant their legs wide, like crabs, and begin to circle each other like ancient warriors. They circle and circle, looking for an opening on this peaceful day on this quiet street in Torrance.


Edited by nfc90210
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Someone has put up the video of the UFC 4 press conference which took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma on December 15, 1994. UFC 4 itself took place the next day at the Expo Center Pavilion in Tulsa.

Part 01




Part 02


Part 03


Part 04




Edited by nfc90210
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A profile piece on Igor Zinoviev that ran in the Village Voice in July 2003.

http://www.villagevoice.com/2003-07-08/ ... -knuckles/

From Russia, With Bare Knuckles

Call Him Igor, but Dont Call Him Outside

By Peter Duffy Tuesday, Jul 8 2003

Few deserve a more fearsome reputation than Igor Zinoviev, a 36-year-old Russian with a military-issue crew cut and a body that most closely resembles a cinder block.

He's a Soviet-trained expert in several martial arts, a former Red Army commando, and a veteran of illegal bare-knuckle fights held in discreet locations in the outer boroughs. For three years in the late 1990s, he was a middleweight champion in the more regulated form of this sort of scrapping, known variously as extreme fighting, ultimate fighting, no-holds-barred, or mixed martial arts. He's spent the past few years as a personal trainer, a bodyguard, and a stuntman for television shows, preparing intently for the day when he might regain his crown.

It's quite a life story, the kind that leads most to imagine Zinoviev as a snarling automaton who is forever asking people to step outside for an Eastern Bloc ass-kickinga combination of Chuck Zito and Drago from Rocky IV. But the truth ishow should I say this?he's the nicest guy you'll ever meet. "He's shy," says one acquaintance. "A great guy," says another. "A gentleman." Three days a week, he visits a small martial arts school on a forlorn stretch of Bath Avenue in Brooklyn, patiently instructing Russian teenagers in the self-defense techniques he's spent a lifetime honing. "I don't do it for the money," he says with a smile.

Zinoviev grew up dirt-poor in St. Petersburg, Russia. Stricken with meningitis as a child, he wasn't able to walk until he was four years old. In an attempt to strengthen his weakened leg muscles, he would paddle around a local pool for hours on end. By his early teens he was a talented enough swimmer to be enrolled in a Soviet sports academy. Over time, he grew more interested in studying judo and boxing, drawn by the camaraderie of gym life and the exhilaration of hand-to-hand combat. He also started winning a lot of competitions. When he reached military age, Zinoviev was taken into the Soviet army, where he was trained as a member of an elite special-forces squad. "It was like a SWAT team here," he says. For two years, he participated in actions throughout the Soviet Union, defending airports against terrorist attacks and busting illegal-immigration rings. Following his discharge, he spent four years on a municipal police force doing much the same kind of work.

After the fall of Communism, he ran into an American businessman in a Turkish bath. A fluent speaker of Russian, the businessman struck up a conversation with the six-foot-tall Adonis who had branched out to study sambo, jujitsu, and kickboxing. "You should come to America," the man said. "I could get you some fights."

Zinoviev bid do svidanya to his father and brother and arrived in New York carrying little more than a gym bag of clothing. He was eager to connect with the American businessman and engage in prize-brawls of the sort portrayed in the movie Fight Club. But the businessman was nowhere to be found. "So I found the fights through my own connections," says Zinoviev. They were held in warehouses in Brooklyn and Queens and attended by moneyed clientele eager for blood. "It was rich people with cigars," he recalls. He participated in about 10 fights, he says, winning all but one of them. Asked about the atmosphere, Zinoviev refers to the primeval ferocity displayed in the movie starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt: "That's the way it was."

In 1995, he opted to try his hand at the above-ground form of this fighting during the World Extreme Fighting championship in Madison Square Garden. But New York officials put a stop to the affairmixed martial arts continues to be illegal in New Yorkand at the last minute the venue was switched to Wilmington, North Carolina. He faced a Brazilian jujitsu master named Mario Sperry in a caged, circular ring, a match-up in which Zinoviev was thought to be a huge underdog. For much of the battle the tenacious Sperry wrapped Zinoviev in a succession of grappling holds, in hopes of forcing the Russian to cry uncle. But Zinoviev jarred himself free and cut Sperry above the eye with a blow that drew blood, ending the fight.

"It was a great upset, one of the defining moments of the sport," says Joel Gold, editor and publisher of Full Contact Fighter magazine. "Mario was the king from Brazil. He was this superstar. You know what made the victory greater? Here was a guy who didn't speak much English and was quiet and intensethere was a mystery about him."

Zinoviev successfully defended his title until 1998, when the extreme-fighting organization went under. "He always maintained his composure and was able to measure his opponents with deadly accuracy," says Brett S. Atchley, a writer and photographer for Ultimate Athlete magazine. In March of the same year, Zinoviev challenged Frank Shamrock, the holder of the middleweight title of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but lost the bout in 24 seconds to a fighter who's regarded as one of the best in the history of the sport. Nagging injuries and management problems have kept Zinoviev from mounting a full-scale return to the fight game. Besides, he has found other ways to seek his fortune in America. Wasn't it inevitable that he would wind up as a Manhattan personal trainer?

"I remember when I first met him," says Alex Reznik, founder of Complete Body Development, a Manhattan-based outfit that offers a battalion of trainersmany of them (including Igor) former athletes from the Soviet Union. "I watched him train at a gym and I was afraid to approach him. He was killing the bag. I thought, 'He's gonna kill my clients.' They are professionalsdentists, lawyers. Then I found out that he taught kids. Then I thought, 'He can't be too bad.' And the first clients he had fell in love with him."

Zinoviev also branched out into bodyguarding, protecting the likes of well, Zinoviev would prefer if the names of celebrity employers remain off the record. Then stunt work for television shows like Oz and Homicide came his way. For fun, he goes deep-sea scuba diving, shark fishing, and snowboarding with his nine-year-old son.

That's not to say that's he's given up on returning to the ring for another chance at glory. He trains as hard as ever and professes to fear no opponent. "I'm ready to fight," he says. "If I get a good deal, I'm definitely gonna fight." Would he like to fight Shamrock? "I would like to," he says. "I don't care. I'll fight anybody."

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Below is a 1994 Phoenix New Times on Christophe Leninger who was one of the top US judokas. About a month after this piece was published Leninger fought Ken Shamrock at UFC 3,

Anyway, the article...




By Michael Kiefer Thursday, Aug 4 1994

Christophe Leininger and his opponent waltz sideways across the mat, like white-jacketed dancing bears, each one pawing at the sleeves and lapels of the other's judo uniform, searching for a good grip and a moment's imbalance. It's late June, in a run-down, old Mesa gymnasium where the judo event of the Grand Canyon Games is being held.

Christophe is calm and rock-solid rooted as his adversary shuffles and kicks at his feet. With a sudden primal scream, the other turns his back into Christophe, lowering a hip to serve as a fulcrum for the throw. But Christophe merely steps backward and the man falls as if slipping on ice. Then he bounds back up, grabs Christophe again, and the waltz starts anew.

The overriding principle of judo is to use the opponent's force to your own advantage, and in a street fight, this is easy enough: The bad guy charges, but he's not expecting you to turn your hip and slide under his attack. His own momentum carries him up and over your back with little energy expended on your part.

But in judo competition, the "bad guy" knows most every move you'll make, and he's waiting for it. And so the bout becomes a seismic chess match, the judo players human motion sensors, feinting and twisting, pushing and pulling until something gives way. Then, in a heartbeat, they either pull off the throw or fall into a trap and get thrown themselves.

Christophe feints a sweeping kick at his opponent's leg. The opponent flinches in anticipation, and this is all the hesitation Christophe needs to pop the man off his feet, roll him in the air like a turtle, and bounce him off the ground.

Point scored, match over, an easy victory for Christophe Leininger.
Christophe has twice been U.S. national champion, once in his weight class--under 86 kilos--in which he is currently second, and once in the open class, which has no weight limits. He has dominated both divisions in the United States for more than ten years and has been a player of international import. His younger brother Bryan, who is also his training partner and constant companion, has seldom been outside the top five players in his heavier weight class. In 1992, the national championship bout in the open division came down to a battle of brothers. Christophe won, Bryan took second.

But judo is an obscure sport, practically a forgotten martial art, less flashy than karate and a whole lot more physical, gruntingly brutal at times.

By sheer coincidence, within the very small but loosely knit judo community in Phoenix are a number of national and international champions with whom the Leiningers train and teach: Piotr Renik, a former Polish national champion and Olympian, who teaches judo at ASU; Wellington "Megaton" Diaz, former Brazilian national champ, who teaches jujitsu at a west-side boys' club; and Oscar Fuchslocher, a former Chilean national champion, who trains with Megaton. They all have day jobs.

The Leiningers, on the other hand, have never done anything but judo. They were practically born in judo uniforms. Their father, Maurice, was a French judo champ who immigrated to Phoenix in the 1950s and opened a school. Like all world-class athletes, they train obsessively, focused on being the best. But theirs is a sport that offers no remuneration whatsoever. If they were the 100th best players in professional baseball, the 50th best in the NFL, they'd be millionaires. In tennis or skating or basketball or even running, if they were in the top ten, they'd be courted by agents bearing lucrative endorsement contracts. Most of the elite judo athletes drop out by age 30, not because their physical abilities are slipping, but because they start worrying about the future, about the difficulty of being a 30-year-old college freshman, a 40-year-old in an entry-level job. They start thinking about wives and children, and life outside a jock dormitory. "If you don't have to work, you can be a judo player into your 40s," Christophe says. He's 34; Bryan is 31.

"I'm a dinosaur in this sport, but I'm lethal," he says. He also knows he's facing extinction.

As judo tournaments go, the Grand Canyon Games is so modest that it doesn't even make the daily sports pages--which is pitiful considering that even the Games' badminton results get coverage. Judo is complex, however, the scoring unfathomable, the struggle seemingly so brutal to the unaccustomed eye. Since Christophe has devoted his entire life to judo, it's logical that he would see it as a life metaphor. Each bout he likens to a symbolic fight to the death. Indeed, the techniques were originally designed for life-and-death situations, then refined and stylized to turn them into a spectator sport.

"Judo is like kabuki theatre," he says. "It's not just banging heads. In a tournament, you experience every emotion: fear, courage, defeat, victory, pain, discipline. There's a conflict of personalities, villains and good guys, one man stalking another."

As if to illustrate the point, out on the mat, two lightweight fighters take after each other. One, a tall and scraggly redheaded kid, taunts his more restrained opponent, yelling, "Come on, come on," and motioning with his hands as in a remake of West Side Story. They tear into each other, arms and legs flying in adolescent rage.

The word "judo" in Japanese means "the gentle way," and it refers to the grace and effortlessness of the art, not to its effect on its victims.

"Where the other guy lands is none of your concern," Christophe likes to say.
Now, one middleweight drives another to the mat, riding him down and mounting him from behind like a dog. The man on the bottom stops moving, and Christophe, watching from the sidelines, is the first to notice.

"He's choked out!" Christophe screams, and indeed, the fighter is unconscious and turning blue. In judo, choking and certain joint-breaking techniques are perfectly legal, and it's the fighter's good-sense duty to say "uncle" before the bone cracks or the blood stops flowing to the brain. In this case, the referee jumps in, tosses the victor off the inert fighter, rolls the body over and starts thumping on his chest.

To everyone's relief, the man on the mat starts to breathe with a cough, then sits up and shakes his head a few times as if wondering where he is.

A visitor asks if the match will be played over, or if the choker will be penalized for nearly killing his opponent. A knockout in a karate tournament, after all, is seen as loss of control and certain disqualification to the person who inflicted the blow.

Christophe seems startled by the question.
"No," he says with amazement. "He wins."
Fifteen minutes later, the hapless choke victim is back out on the floor fighting another match.

On the mat in his own "dojo," as martial arts workout rooms are called, Christophe sweats his way through class. He wears a blue "gi," or uniform, obviously a keepsake from an international tournament; stitched over the breast are the letters CCCP, the Russian-language initials of the former Soviet Union. Bryan is in traditional white.

The Leininger brothers look like a burly, athletic version of the Smothers Brothers. Christophe has sandy-colored, curly hair, Bryan short, black hair, and both are balding. They top 200 pounds apiece, with arms and necks like tree limbs, oak-hardened from grappling and struggle, not from the kind of cosmetic weightlifting usually practiced in front of health-club mirrors.

They opened the dojo at the beginning of July in a strip-mall storefront at 32nd Street and Shea that once housed a toy-train shop. The decor is minimalist: a mat, a mirror, a dozen folding chairs. They could put a sign out front: "Six Black Belts, No Waiting." The evening's workout seems equally split between white-belt beginners (even if they are advanced students of other martial arts) and black-belt friends and former instructors of the Leiningers.

Like dance-class students, everyone pairs off, and as dance master Christophe calls out the cadence, they practice throws and grabs, then switch partners with a bow.

Etiquette is the rule--as in all martial arts--a yin-and-yang counterpoint to the violence of the techniques. Strong friendships usually form between dojo partners, partly because of the nonthreatening familiarity that comes with constant body contact, partly because you have to trust the person throwing you overhead.

However frightening and painful the throws may look, to be launched by an expert of the Leiningers' ability is surprisingly devoid of sensation. You feel the initial grab, but the throw itself is so smooth and subtle that the next realization is that you've been laid gently on the ground with little idea of how you got there.

If Christophe's classes are friendly, they are also aerobically relentless. He is remembered at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for going above and beyond the regular workout.

"After the normal training, when everyone else had gone to the dorms, Christophe and Bryan would do extra weight training," says former U.S. team coach John Saylor, "or they would go up to nearby Cheyenne Canyon and the Mount Cutler trail, and they would run to the top of the mountain."
Here in Phoenix, they run up and down Squaw Peak every other day to keep up their aerobic conditioning. "Christophe is what we call 'a lung,'" says Brian Olson, who beat Leininger in the 86-kilo finals at last November's U.S. National Judo Championships. "He's always coming at you. He never gets tired."

Christophe is known as well for his tenacity. "He has tremendous courage," says Phil Porter, president of the National Judo Association, one of the governing bodies of the sport. "Christophe is not that big a man in the open division," he says, referring to the division in which there are no weight limits and in which Christophe finished third last November. "I can run videos in my brain of Chris with a 300-pounder at the World Games, and just going after him like a tiger."

Competition has so overwhelmed their existence that the brothers neglected the usual promotion track of the martial art. Christophe, even as an international champion, only holds a second-degree black belt, Bryan a first-degree. Both have enough competition points and experience to jump two full ranks--if they bother to put through the paperwork with the governing bodies of the art.

They opened their school at their father's urging, because he thinks they should retire from competition to teach and "make champions through them," just as he made the transition from champ to teacher more than 30 years earlier. The sons are two years into a judo supply business--selling mats and uniforms--which they run out of their house. They do everything together, and seem flip sides of one personality. Christophe is charming and outgoing; Bryan is shy. Christophe is absent-minded; Bryan keeps track of the details. Christophe tells the jokes; Bryan laughs at them.

Everything they do has some connection to judo. Every conversation they have leads back to judo. They seem not to exist outside of the sport.

But when they step onto the mat, they suddenly come alive.
The syllable "do" at the end of "judo" can be translated as meaning "art" or "way." It encompasses both concepts, but likely falls closer to the latter: "way" as in "pathway," as in "way of life."

According to legend, martial arts traveled east from India to East Asia with Buddhist missionaries in the sixth century and for hundreds of years was passed down privately from master to student, among monks and feudal warriors, which would explain its themes of chivalry and spirituality.

If the techniques are ancient, the various names for the different martial arts are mostly inventions of the 20th century. Karate did not reach Japan until the 1920s, when it was imported from Okinawa; tae kwon do was created by a unification of Korean schools of martial art after World War II; the man who coined the name and the style of aikido only died in 1969.

To ask an elder Oriental martial artist what his art was called in the past, one is met with a blank stare and a firm reply: "Art." The need to affix a precise name on everything is a decidedly Western notion. And martial art history seldom goes back any further than "my master's master."

Judo was so named and conceived in the 1880s by a Japanese educator named Professor Jigoro Kano, who was a practitioner of jujitsu. Kano wanted to create a sport version of the art; he took out the joint breaks, the kicks and punches and eye gouges, left in the throws and the chokes and the grappling, and invented a system of scoring the matches.

The self-defense elements were still to be taught, but could not be used in competition. Debate still rages today among the various martial disciplines as to whether there should even be any such sparring. One side argues that controlled fighting gives a feel for the moves and emotions of real battle; the other counters that it only teaches to pull punches and shifts attention away from the most effective self-defense techniques, the life-or-death strikes to pressure points, the crippling bone breaks, the knockout kicks and punches. Professor Kano felt that both art and sport could coexist. And if he wanted to impose Western sport and science on the arts, he maintained the philosophic component. Just as the art was to be performed with grace, one, too, should face life itself with equally graceful attitudes.

Kano also represented Japan in the International Olympic Committee. His creation finally became adopted as an Olympic sport in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Through Kano's proselytizing, judo was the first of the Asian martial arts to be widely studied outside the Orient, and it saw its biggest growth spurt after World War II when the world became acutely aware of all things Japanese. Judo clubs sprouted up all over Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the United States.

Judo worked its way into military self-defense programs. And especially into TV and movies, which were fixated on Cold War espionage and intrigue. James Bond used judo to disarm and disable evil spies; so did Bill Cosby and Robert Culp on the popular I Spy TV series.

Then two things happened to shift American martial arts away from judo and toward the kicking and punching martial arts styles. The first was Bruce Lee's movie Enter the Dragon, which showcased Lee's spectacular acrobatics and his Chinese martial arts style, and earned him an immediate cult following. It spawned the genre of chop-socky action movies, which in turn had every 12-year-old boy in America fantasizing about kicking down buildings with a mighty grunt. Karate was so topical that it even led to a cheap after-shave lotion called "Hai Karate."

The second big influence was a 1965 change in immigration law that eased restrictions on emigration from Asia. Kung fu and karate schools sprang up on every other street corner, often as not run by low-ranking black belts or out-and-out charlatans. And, of course, just as many skilled Asian martial artists immigrated to America to teach their arts.

Americans were, and still are, awed by the concept of a black belt--which in the Orient merely means that a student has mastered the basics of the art and is ready to begin advanced study. One is usually not considered a master instructor until reaching fourth-degree black belt, which could take 15 to 20 years of intense study. Many Americans, on the other hand, think of the black belt as an end point, a graduation, a college degree of sorts; you get it and quit. Of course, most martial arts students don't last more than six months because of the hard work and sore muscles the arts require.

Whereas karate can be practiced while standing up and with a minimum of strength and physical contact, judo always goes to the mat--faces ground into the mat, shoulders rubbed into the mat, sweaty, grunting bodies constantly straining against one another and the mat. Most people are not eager to fall, especially when someone else is launching them; more than anything, fear of flying steers prospective martial artists away from judo.

Phil Porter, president of the U.S. Judo Association, also points to a difference in business attitude between judo and karate schools. Judo players tend to congregate in clubs, while karate students attend schools. And, as Porter says, "Their schools are better organized because they're businesses. Ninety-nine percent of judo clubs are not businesses, whereas 99 percent of the tae kwon do and karate clubs are businesses."

Porter goes on to point out that there are an estimated 200,000 judo players in the United States--and probably ten times as many karate and tae kwon do students.

But Christophe and Bryan Leininger were born into a judo family. Their father, Maurice, began to study judo in France in the late 1940s when he was 14. When it came time to do his military service, he was assigned to teach self-defense to French shock troops shipping out to Indochina and North Africa, where France was trying to hang onto its imperial possessions.

He also fought his way to the French military judo championship. "There were no weight divisions then," he says, "so you had to fight not only the little guys, but the huge guys."

When Maurice Leininger moved to Arizona in 1958, he knew judo better than anything else. He started teaching at a local gym, then added clubs at local schools and gyms as far as Prescott, shuttling from one club to the other, even after he opened his own dojo in Scottsdale.

"I was in a judo gi all day," he says. "That's all I did for five years." There were already judo clubs at the downtown YMCA, at a local boys' club and at Luke Air Force Base when Maurice arrived in Phoenix, and their approach was decidedly more Wild West than he was familiar with.

"Black belts who were curious about this Frenchman trying to take over the judo in the state" would appear uninvited at the door of his dojo and challenge him to a fight--something unheard of in martial arts etiquette. When Christophe and Bryan were toddlers, they would accompany Maurice on his rounds from club to club. When they were big enough to wear gis, they would roll around and play on the mats. When they were 7 years old, they started to train in earnest. Both boys earned their first-degree black belts in their father's dojo.

After Christophe graduated from high school, his father sent him to Los Angeles City College to study under one of his friends, Hayward Nishioka, a former U.S. champ. A year and a half later, Maurice arranged for Christophe and Bryan to train and compete with the French national judo team. Then, in 1984, they were both invited to live and train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where they spent much of their adult lives.

They won event after event: Bryan won the Colorado state championships, the National Collegiate championships, the French College championships; he won a gold medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival, traveled to Mexico and France to compete, medaled six times in the U.S. championships.

Christophe medaled 13 times in the national championships, including two gold medals. He traveled with the U.S. Judo Team to Belgrade, Barcelona, Canada, Argentina. He won a silver medal at the Pan Am Games in Cuba. The only event that has consistently eluded him is the Olympics--he has been an alternate Olympic team member for the last three Games.

World-level athletics is a cloistered life: training with the team, traveling with the team, eating and breathing with the team with little more distraction than an occasional freelance scuffle in a roadhouse where the team had gone to pass the hours between training and competing.

Tired of the routine, looking to make a life on their own, the brothers moved back to Phoenix in 1992. Like their father 30 years earlier, all they knew was judo.

Bryan and Christophe live together in a guest house they rent from their father. The living room is decorated in basic bachelor style, a jumble of books and papers and videotapes on a long dining-room table, hundreds of brand-new judo gis folded into plastic bags and piled high on chairs--no two of which match. They're starting to break even on the judo supply business they've run for a couple of years, representing a French line of uniforms and mats to the U.S. market.

Clearly, this is more warehouse than home, and it feels as if Christophe and Bryan store themselves there when they're not training. They seem to have little time for anything else.

Christophe worries about getting into relationships with women, because of the training time he needs--the Olympic trials in 1996, and an upcoming fall appearance on The Ultimate Challenge, a televised, no-holds-barred battle that crosses martial arts disciplines. Christophe is to fight a kung fu expert until one of them gives up. It will put cash in his pocket and provide publicity for his school, his career and his art.

He thinks judo is about to make a renaissance, and he may be right. Jujitsu, the parent art to judo, is indeed making a strong comeback, bolstered in large part by a pair of Brazilian brothers named Royce and Rorian Gracie (the initial R's in their first names are pronounced as H's, incidentally), who teach jujitsu in the Los Angeles area. Regardless of what art you study, the Gracies argue, a street fight usually ends up on the ground, where chokes and grappling techniques rule and kicks and punches are virtually useless. It is the Gracies, in fact, who organize and sponsor The Ultimate Challenge, just to prove their contentions.

Christophe wants to ride that impetus, help it along and turn it in his direction. That, after all, is the main principle in judo: Follow the lines of force and use them to your advantage.

And that philosophy seems reflected in the personalities of both brothers. They are always easygoing. Judo has little offense to speak of and is mostly defense. Life is like judo; judo is like life. Stay calm and relaxed, take a grip, and see what comes at you.

The conversation turns to those occasional times when the martial arts leak into practical application. Christophe's face lights up. He is not a violent man by any means--quite the contrary--but street fights are always humorous to martial artists, because they seldom occur, and because they are what most of them train for.

Once, he remembers, a visitor threatened him and refused to leave his house after a disagreement.

"In my own house!" he says with mock astonishment. "I grabbed him by the pectoral muscles." To demonstrate, he grabs onto Bryan's bare chest, as if there were handles there. "And I threw him headfirst into the barbecue." Of course, Christophe uses the Japanese judo terms for each move he made.

The man came back for more, and so Christophe ground him into the floor for a bit, and then tossed him out the front door as if emptying a bucket.

A moment later, the man came back to the door, brandishing a golf club he'd taken from his car, inviting Christophe out to be whacked about the head. Christophe picked up a stool to engage in some impromptu fencing.

Just then a police car happened by, and Christophe called out, "Help, he's crazy, he's trying to hit me with a golf club!" The police slammed the other man onto a car, handcuffed him and arrested him. Christophe is smiling broadly when he reaches the end of the story. The judo champ calls a cop to save him from a man he's already beaten the crap out of. Bryan is laughing so hard, he's slapping the table.

Competition, on the other hand, is not funny.
On the mat at the Grand Canyon Games, Bryan is locked in battle with a man built like one of those pineapple-shaped palm trees one sees around the Valley. His opponent weighs in at 454 pounds, more than twice what Bryan weighs, but Bryan attacks relentlessly, nonetheless.

It's a frustrating fight. Every time Bryan wraps a knee around the behemoth's leg, the big man simply leans forward and drives Bryan into the mat. Bryan grimaces in pain, but wriggles free, and attacks over and over until the referees have had enough and throw in the bean bag that signals the end of the match. As luck would have it, at that exact instant, Bryan manages to throw the big man, cartwheeling him off the mat as referees and spectators scatter to avoid being crushed. Bryan is judged the winner.

A friend on the sidelines shouts advice: "Next time, Bryan, throw down a ham sandwich."

Christophe is more circumspect. "He fought you good, Bryan, and he's happy with that," he says, before launching into a critique of Bryan's strategy.

Then it's time for Christophe's rematch against his earlier opponent; in judo competition, you have to beat your man twice in the finals. Christophe seems tired. He gets to the point. In the very first seconds of the match, he reaches around his opponent's back, grabs his belt, and pops him off the ground. As the other man goes into orbit, Christophe jumps. The two men spin as one, hanging forever in the air, then dropping as if an afterthought, landing with a sodden crunch as the opponent's back hits the mat. Christophe rides him down like he's falling into an easy chair, his mind already moving on to the next match.

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A 1999 piece from Slate Magazine...

http://www.slate.com/articles/briefing/ ... ingle.html


Fight Clubbed

Ultimate fighting ought to be a great American sport. Instead, cable companies, Sen. John McCain, and a squeamish public are killing it.

By David Plotz|Posted Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1999, at 3:30 AM ET

Fight Club, a movie about a fictional organization of men who strip down and beat each other to pulp, has provoked more than its share of media hand-wringing, particularly diatribes about Hollywood's infatuation with violence and Faludi-esque ruminations about the emasculated American male. Fight Club, however, has not sparked an iota of interest in a real organization of men who strip down and beat each other to pulp: the Ultimate Fighting Championship. UFC's flameout from national sensation to total irrelevance is a tragedy of American sports, a cautionary tale of prudishness, heavy-handed politics, and cultural myopia.

UFC began in 1993 as a locker-room fantasy. What would happen if a kickboxer fought a wrestler? A karate champion fought a sumo champion? Promoters built an octagonal chain-link cage, invited eight top martial artists, and set them loose in no-holds-barred, bare-knuckles fights. "There are no rules!" bragged an early press release. Contestants would fight till "knockout, submission, doctor's intervention, or death." UFC allowed, even promoted, all notions of bad sportsmanship: kicking a man when he's down, hitting him in the groin, choking. Four-hundred-pound men were sent into the Octagon to maul guys half their size. Only biting and eye-gouging were forbidden.

The gimmick entranced thousands of people (well, men). What happens when a 620-pound sumo champion fights a 200-pound kickboxer? Answer: The kickboxer knocks him silly in 35 seconds. They tuned in for bloodshed--"the damage," as fans like to call it. UFC fights could be horrifying. Tank Abbott, an ill-tempered, 270-pound street fighter, knocks out hapless opponent John Matua in 15 seconds. Then, before the ref can intervene, Abbott belts the unconscious Matua in the head, sending him into a fit, limbs quivering uncontrollably, blood spurting from his mouth. Abbott, naturally, became a cult hero and won a guest spot on Friends. (Matua walked out of the ring.) Soon, UFC was selling out huge arenas and drawing 300,000 pay-per-view subscribers for its quarterly competitions.

But a subtle sport was emerging from the gimmicks and carnage. My passion for ultimate fighting (which is also called "extreme" or "no-holds-barred" fighting) began when I saw the finals of UFC IV.

Royce Gracie, a 180-pound Brazilian jujitsu specialist, was matched against a 275-pound beast named Dan Severn, one of the top heavyweight wrestlers in the world and a national champion many times over. In 30 seconds, Severn had grabbed Gracie, flung him to the canvas, and mounted him. For the next 15 minutes, Severn pummeled and elbowed and head-butted the smaller man. Gracie's face grew drawn, and he squirmed wildly to avoid Severn's bombardment. Then, all of sudden, Gracie, still lying on his back, saw an opening, wrapped his arms and legs around Severn like a python and choked the giant into submission.

UFC's caged matches revolutionized the idea of fighting. Nursed on boxing and Hollywood, Americans imagine fights as choreography, a dance of elegant combinations, roundhouse kicks, clean knockouts. The UFC punctured this. Boxers floundered. Experts in striking martial arts such as karate and tae kwon do, who fancied themselves the world's greatest fighters, found themselves pretzeled by jujitsu masters, who pulled them to the ground and slowly choked or leg-locked them. "UFC immediately debunked a lot of myths of fighting, of boxing, karate, kung fu. It showed the reality of what works in an actual fight," says Dave Meltzer, editor of Wrestling Observer.

Instead of being carnivals of gore, UFC fights looked strangely like ... sex. Almost all fights ended on the ground, one man mounting the other in missionary position, the pair of them wiggling mysteriously along the canvas for five, 10, even 30 minutes. There were few spectacular knockouts. The referee--yes, there was always a referee--stopped many bouts, and in most others, fighters "tapped out," surrendering to mild-looking but agonizing chokes and joint locks. It was not barbarism. It was science.

The UFC spawned a new breed of "mixed martial artists." World-class wrestlers learned to kickbox. Champion kickboxers learned to grapple. (The karate experts learned to stay home.) They became, without doubt, the best fighters in the world. (Click here (note: link now dead) for more about the fighters.) Mike Tyson wouldn't last 30 seconds in an ultimate fighting match. When Olympic gold medal wrestler Kevin Jackson came to the UFC, a fighter named Frank Shamrock KO'd him with a submission hold in 16 seconds. Ultimate fighting schools began sprouting up all over the country, replacing the stylized gestures of the Eastern martial arts with techniques that actually work.

UFC's promoters predicted that it would supplant boxing as America's martial art. Instead, it fell apart. The collapse began in 1996, when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saw a UFC tape. McCain, a lifelong boxing fan, was horrified at the ground fighting, kicks, and head butts. It was "barbaric," he said. It was "not a sport." He sent letters to all 50 governors asking them to ban ultimate fighting. The outcry against "human cockfighting" became a crusade, and like many crusades, it was founded on misunderstanding.

UFC fell victim to cultural determinism about what a fight is. In countries such as Brazil and Japan, where no-holds-barred fighting has a long history, it is popular and uncontroversial. But Americans adhere to the Marquis of Queensbury rules. A fight consists of an exchange of upper-body blows that halts when one fighter falls.

Any blood sport can be barbaric, whether it's boxing or wrestling or ultimate fighting. It is impossible to draw a bright line between ultimate fighting and boxing. If anything, ultimate fighting is safer and less cruel than America's blood sport. For example, critics pilloried ultimate fighting because competitors fought with bare knuckles: To a nation accustomed to boxing gloves, this seemed revolting, an invitation to brain damage. But it's just the reverse: The purpose of boxing gloves is not to cushion the head but to shield the knuckles. Without gloves, a boxer would break his hands after a couple of punches to the skull. That's why ultimate fighters won't throw multiple skull punches. As a result, they avoid the concussive head wounds that kill boxers--and the long-term neurological damage that cripples them.

Similarly, the chain-link fence surrounding the octagon looks grotesque. Critics have demanded that UFC install ropes instead. But ropes are a major cause of death and injury in boxing: Fighters hyperextend their necks when they are punched against the ropes, because nothing stops their heads from snapping back. The chain-link fence prevents hyperextension.

When I tell people I'm an ultimate fighting fan, they invariably respond: "Don't people get killed all the time doing that?" But no one has ever been killed at the UFC--though boxers are killed every year. No one has even been seriously injured at the UFC. On the rare occasions when a bout has ended with a bloody knockout, the loser has always walked out of the ring.

But this does not impress boxing fans, who are the most vigorous opponents of extreme fighting. McCain sat ringside at a boxing match where a fighter was killed. When I asked him to explain the moral distinction between boxing and ultimate fighting, he exploded at me, "If you can't see the moral distinction, then we have nothing to talk about!" Then he cut our interview short and stormed out of his office.

But logic has not served the UFC well. Where McCain led, a prudish nation followed. George Will opined against UFC. The American Medical Association recommended a ban. New York state outlawed ultimate fighting, as did other states. The Nevada Athletic Commission refused to sanction UFC bouts, barring the UFC from the lucrative casino market. (One public TV station refused a UFC sponsorship ad. The only other organization the station ever rejected was the Ku Klux Klan.) Lawsuits blocked or delayed UFC events all over the country, forcing the promoters to spend millions in legal fees. The UFC was exiled from mega-arenas to ever-smaller venues in ever more out-of-the-way states: Louisiana, Iowa, and Alabama. The match I attended in October 1997 was held in the parking lot of a small Mississippi casino.

The cable TV industry struck the fatal blow. In early 1997, McCain became chairman of the commerce committee, which oversees the cable industry. In April 1997, the president of the National Cable Television Association warned that UFC broadcasts could jeopardize the cable industry's influence in Washington. Time Warner, TCI, Request, Cablevision Systems, Viewer's Choice, and other major operators stopped airing UFC events, saying they were too violent for children. Never mind that 1) UFC only aired on pay-per-view, so children could not see it unless their parents paid for it; and 2) the same cable outfits carried boxing matches, R and NC-17 movies, and professional wrestling shows far more violent than UFC. The UFC's "addressable audience"--the potential number of PPV subscribers--shrank from 35 million at its peak to 7.5 million today.

"It was a very cheap way for the cable companies to portray themselves as anti-violence. It did not cost them much and it made them look good in Washington," says Carol Klenfner, spokeswoman for UFC's parent company, SEG.

The ultimate fighting industry did little to help its own cause. The UFC promoted itself less as a serious sport than as a circus of carnage. Its early ads emphasized extreme fighting's potential for death. UFC folks accused McCain, without any evidence, of opposing the sport as a favor to campaign contributors. Extreme fighting was tarnished when fighters from the other ultimate fighting operation, the now-defunct Battlecade, were arrested for violating Canadian prizefighting laws when they fought on an Indian reservation outside Montreal.

In the past two years, an increasingly desperate UFC has been trying to assuage its critics. The competition, which had been gradually adding safety rules since the first fight, imposed even more. It institued rounds and a "10-point must" scoring system. It banned head butts and groin strikes. You can no longer kick a downed man or elbow someone in the back of the head. Fighters are required to wear thin martial arts gloves (a purely cosmetic change). The UFC imposed weight classes, ending the David-and-Goliath mismatches that made early fights so compelling.

None of this soothed the cable operators, who have kept UFC off the air. The pay-per-view audience has plunged from 300,000 per show to 15,000. UFC can no longer afford its best fighters: Some are fighting overseas. Others, notably Ken Shamrock (Frank's brother), have become pro wrestlers. Fights have deteriorated. UFC is limping along, but it has been reduced to scheduling events in Japan and Brazil.

"Sports fans want to grow with the sport," says former UFC fighter David Beneteau. "They want to recognize the athletes. They want to see the same fighters come back. When you compare UFC now to what it was, the fighters are not the same, the rules are not the same. The fans have no story to follow."

Even as it disappears from public view, ultimate fighting is returning to its roots. Away from the scrutiny of the major media, state legislators, and McCain, kids are still learning mixed martial-arts techniques, and small-time promoters are quietly staging events. You can see Kage Kombat competitions at Dancing Waters nightclub in San Pedro, Calif. You can watch the Warrior's Challenge at a small Indian casino outside Sacramento. Texans compete in Houston's Dungal All Styles Fighting Championship. Tribal casinos in Northern Idaho are hosting small Pankration tournaments. The Extreme Fighting Challenge is popular in Iowa. The money is low; the crowds are small; and there's not a TV camera in sight. Ultimate fighting should have become boxing. Instead it has gone underground. It has become Fight Club.

Edited by nfc90210
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A 1993 article from from the Seattle Times on, then kickboxer, Maurice Smith. Well, if you want to be technical about a month prior to this article Maurice had won a match at the third Pancrase show. So, by modern convention whereby Pancrase bouts are counted on MMA records his MMA career had already begun. This article makes no reference to it though and is just about Maurice Smith the kickboxer.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource. ... ug=1735157


Saturday, December 4, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Loss Puts Kick Back In Career -- Kick-Boxer Had Few Foes - Until One Ko'd Him

By Bob Sherwin

Maurice Smith's heavyweight kick-boxing career had been languishing the past few years. He had trouble lining up bouts.

It was not because his opponents thought he wasn't good enough. In fact, he was too good. Challengers were afraid of getting their brains bashed by a guy who has been world heavyweight champion since 1983.

`He's human now'

Ironically, it took a loss 20 months ago - his first defeat in 11 years - to revive his career. Now the 31-year-old Seattle product is busy fending off would-be kings to his throne.

"They figure he's human now because, before, Maurice was like a machine," said Kirk Jensen, his manager for the past decade.

Tonight in Las Vegas, Smith will be one of the headliners in a rare kick-boxing card at the Mirage. He'll be fighting a young Los Angeles fighter originally from Venezuela, Alex Desir, who is 13-0 with 12 knockouts.

Smith, however, is much the superior and more experienced fighter. He's 51-4-2 with 44 knockouts. His other losses were in the early '80s, before he won the title.

He fights between six and 10 times per year, mostly in Japan, where the sport ranks behind only sumo wrestling and baseball in popularity.

Smith, who graduated from West Seattle High School and is now based out of his AMC Kick-Boxing Center in Kirkland, had heard of Desir and had wanted to fight him.

"But he always said, `No, I'm not ready,' " Jensen said. "Now all of a sudden he wants to fight Maurice."

What moved him to accept was Smith's loss in April 1992 to little-known Peter Aerts of Holland. Aerts knocked out Smith in the fourth round of their nontitle fight with a roundhouse kick to the neck.

The kick immediately but momentarily shut off the blood supply to Smith's neck, and he crumpled to the canvas like a fallen cedar.

Loss opens doors

"I've worked 57 fights in his corner, but I'd never seen him knocked out," Jensen said. "It was weird."

Smith said he sustained no lasting damage. "You don't feel anything. You just sleep.

"But what it did was open some doors," Smith added. "Now there are guys who want to fight me. Before it was like, `whoa.' "

At one point three years ago, it was so difficult to get a fight that Smith turned to fighting Muay Thai style, a more violent extension of kick-boxing.

Muay Thai allows a limited form of wrestling and the use of the knees and elbows into the face and body of the opponent. It is allowed in only four U.S. states, Nevada being one.

His fight against Aerts was Muay Thai style but his fight tonight will be under regular kick-boxing rules.

"This sport, you know something is going to happen," Smith said. "You know you're going to get a beating. My feeling is, `Let's get it over with.' You have to be mentally and physically prepared for it."

Smith has carved an outstanding career and a fine living out of the violent discipline. He is treated like a rock star in Japan and the Far East. He needs to be slipped out back doors after fights to avoid his adoring fans and is constantly stopped on the street to sign autographs, have pictures taken of him or even kiss his feet.

His main regret is that the sport has not taken hold in America. He goes unrecognized in Seattle and around the country. "I've come to terms with it," he joked, "I'm going to therapy now."

He wants to keep fighting for at least another four years and retire as champion.

Then, he said, he'd like to open a club in the Central District to help kids harness and channel their fighting passions.

"But eventually, we're going to face Aerts again," Jensen added. "It's just a matter of when and where."


In case your wondering, Maurice won the upcoming bout mentioned in the article.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource. ... ug=1735260

Sunday, December 5, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Heavyweight Maurice Smith (52-4-2) of Seattle knocked out Alex Desir of Los Angeles 1:20 into the 10th round in Las Vegas....


Edited by nfc90210
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17 minutes ago, Silky Kisser said:

Keith's gonna go up the fucking wall. 

:laugh: Exactly my thoughts Silky! @Keith Houchen to the thread please! 

But seriously, cheers for posting these. Only skim-read bits so far but I love this kind of thing. I’ll have a proper read later. 

On Terry Etim though, there was a worrying story not too long ago of an incident in Liverpool where he ran into oncoming traffic. I never heard anything more about the story but he was obviously going through some bad shit and in a dark place to do something like that. Next time I saw or heard of him was when he popped up on some of the buildup stuff for Till vs Wonderboy. He looked and sounded good on that so hopefully whatever issues he was having are under control now. Always seemed a nice guy. It’s telling when even in a shitty hatchet job like that piece, the writer still can’t find anything really negative to say about Etim. I was in attendance for 2 or 3 of his UFC fights. The highlight being his quick guillotine finish on the Birmingham show in 2011. It was only the main card opener but it was the loudest crowd reaction of the night from what I remember. Quality fighter who just struggled getting over the hump at the top levels when he came up against a Dos Anjos or Barboza. 

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Another Seattle Times article on Maurice Smith. This one is from 1995 and is about him, one of his protégés and a new school that he is involved with. When this was published Maurice had had five fights under Pancrase rules. Once again they aren't mentioned.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource. ... ug=2137546

Monday, August 21, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Man Gets A Real Kick Out Of His Profession -- World Champ To Open A School In Bellevue

By Steve Johnston

BELLEVUE - Curtis Schuster presents an intimidating figure. He stands 6 feet, is 218 pounds of solid muscle and has a shaved head and a sinister-looking goatee.

His shoulders are tattooed with huge wildcats because he fights as "The Cat." He got the name from the speed of his hands."People say I'm as fast as a cat," says Schuster, who lives in Bellevue.

Schuster, 26, also must be pretty fast with his feet and elbows because he is the world superheavyweight kick-boxing champion for the International Sport Karate Association, a title he recently defended in Paris and will defend again Saturday in Reno.

When it comes to kick-boxing champions, the Eastside has more than its share of bragging rights. Besides Schuster, there are Kim Messer, world-champion female kick-boxer, and Maurice Smith, holder of the World Karate Association heavyweight kick-boxing championship and, at age 33, considered the grandfather of kick-boxing.

Smith is the reason the three champions in this little-known sport decided to start a kick-boxing school here, to open next month at 1807 132nd Ave. N.E.

Schuster met Smith three years ago while making the rounds around Puget Sound as a heavyweight boxer. He'd won a bronze medal for boxing in the 1984 Junior Olympics.

"When I first met Maurice he told me I could be a world champion," Schuster says. "I was tough and could hit hard, but I didn't have much knowledge in kick-boxing."

Whatever Schuster lacked, Smith was able to supply. Smith had been undefeated in championship fights for 11 years. He'd been knocked out only once, in 1991 by a boxer from the Netherlands in a nontitle fight, and that was only the second time he'd been defeated.

When the two met in Kirkland, Schuster had a black belt in Thai-Kenpo, and he knew how to use his hands.

"Maurice taught me how to use my legs and knees," Schuster says. "You learn how to use every point of your body."

There are three types of kick-boxing. The form allowed in most states permits only kicks and punches. Modified Thai boxing also allows use of the knees, and Muay Thai, practiced overseas, includes leg sweeps and elbowing.

Schuster, who has had 17 professional bouts, fights under any form. None of his challengers has gone past the third round, and all of his victories have been by knockout.

Although Bellevue may seem an odd place to open a kickboxing gym, Smith says, "there is more money in Bellevue than Seattle." Kick-boxing lessons, or working out at a kick-boxing gym, costs from $50 to $75 a month. It's "a good way to work out," Smith says. "We believe we have the best experienced kick-boxers in the country."

Another reason Bellevue attracts international kick-boxing attention is Kirk Jensen of Kirk Jensen Promotions, the Don King of kick-boxing.

"I've been involved in kick-boxing for 18 years, and I'm able to give the fighters an opportunity to fight," Jensen says. "I called Paris and said I had a good fighter (Schuster) to send. They know me and trust me."

Although Schuster has made some money as a professional kick-boxer, he makes his living in real estate. He acknowledges that people are usually frightened when they first meet him because he looks like he could beat the stuffing out of them.

"But once I start talking and show that I know what I am talking about," he says, you can see relief spread across their faces."

Schuster says he's never had a chance to find out how he would do in a bar fight because he doesn't go to bars. Besides, he adds, if someone started a fight with him, he'd try to talk his way out of it.

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A Seattle Times from early 1998. It's about Randy Couture helping Ryan Couture's high school wrestling team.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource. ... ug=2734183

Friday, February 13, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Wrestlers Get Ultimate Inspiration -- Ultimate Fighting Champion Motivates Woodinville Team

By Tom Fuller

Seattle Times Eastside Bureau

Woodinville High School wrestlers believe they have the perfect remedy for a disappointing fifth-place finish at last weekend's KingCo 4A Conference championships.

They'll get a visit from the ultimate wrestling coach today at practice.

Randy Couture is the Ultimate Fighting champion of the world. He won his title in Japan Dec. 21 in an octagonal ring surrounded by a six-foot chain-link fence. In ultimate fighting, the only rules are no biting and no eye-gouging.

Couture is a former state wrestling champion from Lynnwood High School and is a Greco-Roman national champion at 198 pounds.

He knows a lot. And because his son, Ryan Couture, a 135-pound sophomore, qualified for regionals, Randy is flying in from Turkey, where he competed in a Greco-Roman tournament. The elder Couture will help the Falcons train today, then watch his son tomorrow.

It won't be the first time Couture has helped Woodinville Coach Shaker Culpepper this season. And if this workout is like the others, expect the Falcons to be well motivated for tomorrow's Region I tournament at Snohomish High School.

"The whole team is all silence and they listen to everything he says," said senior Isaac Amondson, who won the league title at 215 pounds. "We were pretty much in awe. And if we didn't like someone, we'd put one of the sophomores out there with him."

Ryan, one of those sophomores, is experienced in grappling with his father. He visits him in Corvallis, Ore., where Randy lives, for a month every summer. He knows a different, gentler side of his father most of his teammates don't. But he understands the intimidation factor his father has every time he steps on the mat.

"I've known him forever, but if I'd only seen him on TV, he would be (intimidating)," Ryan said. "The first time I saw him was like a culture shock."

The Falcons watched a film of one of Randy's matches earlier this season for motivation. This time, he will be around to motivate them personally.

Bad break

Eastlake junior Andre Pedeferri, who was sixth at last year's Class AAA state meet and won last year's KingCo title at 101 pounds, did not qualify for tomorrow's regional.

Pedeferri re-injured his shoulder, which had kept him out most of the season, in a KingCo quarterfinal victory and forfeited his next two matches to place sixth.



Class 4A Region I

When - Saturday.

Where - Snohomish High School.

Session times - 10 a.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (championship finals).

Tickets - $6 for adults, $4 for students with ASB cards, $2 for 12-and-under children.

What's at stake - Top three in each weight class qualify for Class 4A state championships Feb. 20-21 at Tacoma Dome.

Team favorites - Sehome, Kamiak.

Top seeds - 101, Robbie Songstad, Snohomish, and Eric Bruggeman, Juanita; 108, Floyd Bangerter, Mountlake Terrace, and Michael Salo, Juanita; 115, Tanner Melhloff, Kamiak, and Matt Wyman, Inglemoor; 122, James Warren, Oak Harbor, and Chue Cha, Lake Washington; 129, Joe Brannon, Oak Harbor, and Brad Boyle, Inglemoor; 135, Ravil Muhamediev, Sehome, and Tyler Smith, Redmond; 141, Joe Kubec, Marysville-Pilchuck, and Justin O'Brien, Inglemoor; 148, David Farmer, Oak Harbor, and Kyle Smith, Eastlake; 158, J.C. Christiansen, Kamiak, and Andy Sandbo, Lake Washington; 168, Brian Shaw, Marysville-Pilchuck, and John Murray, Lake Washington; 178, Kelly Olson, Cascade, and Matt Miner, Eastlake; 190, Dan Runkel, Cascade, and Andy Willard, Inglemoor; 215, Tad Russell, Sehome, and Isaac Amondson, Woodinville; 275, Brian Cullup, Sehome, and Josh Oncken, Inglemoor.

Class 3A Region IV

When - Today, Saturday.

Where - Ellensburg High School.

Session times - Pigtail qualifying matches, 5 p.m. today; session 1, 7 p.m. today; session 2, 10 a.m. Saturday; consolation finals, 4 p.m. Saturday; championship finals, 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets - $6 per day for adults, $4 for students with ASB cards. All-tournament passes are $10 for adults, $6 for students with ASB cards.

What's at stake - Top four in each weight class advance to state championships Feb. 20-21 at Tacoma Dome.

Team favorites - Moses Lake, East Valley (Spokane), Sunnyside, Ellensburg.

Top seeds - 101, Chad Mills, Mount Si, and John Sommer, East Valley. 108, Adam Putter, Newport, and Jorge Ruiz, Sunnyside. 115, Mirweis Hazrat, Newport, and Daniel Banister, Ellensburg. 122, Zach Hyatt, Issaquah, and Kevin Woolf, East Valley. 129, David Szczepanik, Mount Si, and Justin Walker, East Valley. 135, Josh Miller, Issaquah, and Marcus Mays, Ellensburg. 141, Terry Lievens, Issaquah, and Brack Crockett, East Valley. 148, Jeremy Torres, Issaquah, and Golden Baker, Moses Lake. 158, Keegan Kutschia, Sammamish, and Brent Burnett, West Valley. 168, Matt DeFranco, Issaquah, and Matt Mills, Prosser. 178, Duncan Hansing, Mercer Island, and Tyson Thivierge, Clarkston. 190, Kyle Siverts, Newport, and Carlos Garcia, Sunnyside. 215, Scott Kang, Issaquah, and Travis Wiser, Moses Lake. 275, Ben Mahdavi, Mercer Island, and Blake Falor, Cheney.

Notable - Competition will be intense. Four teams ranked in state's top 10 will make it very difficult for KingCo wrestlers to qualify for state. Those who do will know they've earned it.

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A brief 1996 Seattle Times article on Kimo and his upcoming fight with Ken Shamrock. Given the time period, that the Seattle Times would give the bout any coverage unless they wanted to run an article decrying MMA as barbarism seems strange, and this is just a straight story. It seems though that Kimo graduated from an area high school. So, I'm guessing that's why they ran the piece.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource. ... ug=2314468

Friday, February 16, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Kimo Discovers Ultimate Outlet

By Hugo Kugiya

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

This was not the first time a bodybuilder showed up on campus flexing his muscles, wanting to play football. So Coach Mike Taylor did not get excited when Kimo Leopoldo showed up with his calves and his biceps and his tank top two sizes too small.

"He introduced himself, said he was interested in playing football," remembered Taylor, the defensive coordinator at Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa, Calif. "He was a big kid, put together well."

The moment Taylor did get excited was the day Leopoldo knocked a tackling stand end over end.

So Taylor was not surprised to discover that the former football player had become an untimate fighter.

Leopoldo, known in his sport by the single name Kimo, will fight Ken Shamrock tonight in Puerto Rico, in the Ultimate Fighting Championship VIII, which will be carried live in Seattle on pay-per-view at 6 p.m.

Though Kimo, who graduated from Bellevue's Interlake High in 1986, may not yet be famous in America, Ultimate Fighting promoter Patrick Phipps said Kimo "is big in Japan."

Win or lose, Kimo, 28, stands to make money from tonight's fight against the man considered to be the Mike Tyson of Ultimate Fighting.

Kimo, unreachable in Puerto Rico this week, is considered the No. 1 contender. The sport is somewhat obscure but is a popular draw on pay-per-view.

Kimo, Phipps said, will make "no less than six figures on this fight alone."

Endorsements and film offers can significantly increase his income potential.

Though the wrappings are similar to those of professional wrestling, Phipps said this sport is not staged, that the combat is quite real.

Ultimate fighters are bound to few rules. They can't gouge eyes, bite, pinch, or strike an opponent in the groin. But all other methods of inflicting pain and injury are legal. A winner is determined when someone gives up or is rendered unconscious.

So far in the mostly secular world of Ultimate Fighting, Kimo is the Notre Dame of the sport. He has been known to carry on his back into the ring a giant wooden cross, which surprised his old football coach a second time.

"I saw something on TV," Taylor said. "I could see this guy carrying a cross. I saw him for only a few seconds, but I thought I recognized him. I said to myself, `Is that Kimo?' "

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An AP piece on Douglas Dedge's death.

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Wednesday, March 18, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

American Dies Of `Ultimate Fighting' Injuries

By Steve Gutterman

The AP

KIEV, Ukraine - An American died today of injuries suffered in a bout of no-holds-barred "ultimate fighting," a mix of martial arts, wrestling and boxing.

Douglas Dedge, 31, of Chipley, Fla., was hospitalized Monday night after collapsing in the ring in Kiev. He died of severe brain injuries, said Petro Spasichenko, chief emergency-ward doctor at Kiev's Institute of Neurosurgery.

Dedge, who is survived by a wife and five children, had founded a school to teach the sport in Enterprise, Ala., said Danny Ray, a close friend who traveled with him to Ukraine.

Ray said the fight lasted less than five minutes.

Dedge, on the mat, had taken a series of punches to the head but was still "defending himself well" when the referee called the fight, Ray said. Dedge stood up, but collapsed a few seconds later and was not breathing.

He was one of three U.S. fighters who took part in the competition, which brought a large crowd to a Kiev arena. The sport is popular in the former Soviet Union, where it is called "Battle Without Rules."

Ultimate fighting has drawn fire in the United States from critics who say it is too dangerous, and some states have banned it.

"We consider his death a tragic accident that disturbs us greatly," said Yuri Smetanin, a fight organizer.

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A 1997 AP piece on UFC 12. This was the event that was meant to be held in New York State but at the last minute ended up exiled to Dotham, Alabama.

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Sunday, February 9, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

It's Bloody, Beastly - The Ultimate


DOTHAN, Ala. - Asked why he brought his 13-year-old son to see the bloody Ultimate Fighting Championship, Ken Brimlow pulled no punches.

"I thought he needed to see this, so he would know what a real fight looked like," Brimlow said of the seven fights filled with head butts, choke holds and knees to the forehead.

An overflow crowd of 2,600 packed the Dothan Civic Center on Friday night, and promoters expected the pay-per-view event to draw millions of viewers around the world.

The fights, a combination of martial arts, boxing, wrestling and street brawling, were supposed to be held in Niagara Falls, N.Y., but organizers moved the event under pressure from New York lawmakers.

New York's Athletic Commission passed emergency rules two weeks ago requiring combatants to wear head gear, boxing gloves and groin protectors. The rules, which organizers unsuccessfully challenged in court, also bar fighters from striking opponents when they are down.

In Dothan, however, fighters had to wear only mouthpieces and groin protection, and they were barred from biting, eye-gouging and kicking above the shoulders or below the knees.

In the main event, Mark "The Hammer" Coleman won $100,000, twice that of the man he beat, Dan "The Beast" Severn.

"It's not a fight to the death; it's a fight until somebody wins," said Coleman. "If anybody got to meet some of us outside the ring, they'd see I treat people with respect. I consider myself a nice guy."

Fans had to be turned away from the free event, and many cheered through the bouts.

"I love it," said Randy Carr. "I know we live in the Bible Belt, and a lot of those people might not be happy about it, but to each his own."

During the third bout, one fighter lifted his opponent over his head, slammed him to the floor, trapped him against the ring enclosure and delivered repeated knee blows to his head and face.

The referee stopped the fight to clean blood from downed fighter's face, and the crowd booed during the lull. The winner eventually knocked his opponent unconscious by slamming his head between the floor and his knee.

Shelby Williams, 19, drove 30 miles from Graceville, Fla., with friends to see their favorite fighters.

"We didn't know about it until the last minute, but we are dedicated fans and we drove here as soon as we heard about it," Williams said.

"It's something we haven't seen in this area, unless you go to the bars," said Brimlow, who sneaked his two adolescent sons into the arena to watch the fights, which were supposed to be restricted to those 18 and older.

Information from The New York Times is included in this report.

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A January 2002 piece on Randy Couture. It's from The Seattle Times. Couture's old high school, Lynwood High School, is located in Bothell, Washington. Bothell is part of the Seattle metropolitan area. So, I would assume that the The Seattle Times ran the piece as it's a local guy makes good type of deal.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource. ... ultimate14

Monday, January 14, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

New arena brings fighter ultimate reward

By Dan Mooney

Special to The Seattle Times

His wife was sick to her stomach as she sat at ringside. His mother was crying as she watched from home.

Randy Couture wondered, "What have I gotten myself into?"

The 1981 Lynnwood High School graduate had made a name for himself as one of the country's finest Greco-Roman wrestlers, but on May 20, 1997, he entered a totally different ring. Couture was competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

There was no easing into the sport. His opponent, 300-pound Tony Halme, vowed to "rip his arms off." At the time, UFC billed itself as "the world's most violent sport" and had few rules to prevent him from trying to carry out his promise.

"I was scared to death that night," recalled Couture's mother, Sharan Courounes, of Mill Creek. "I was hyperventilating. I was listening to what his opponent was saying and it really shook me up."

But Halme's bluster was mostly just that. Couture won by submission and, in the process, discovered he had a gift.

Fast forward. It's Nov. 2 and Couture has just defended his heavyweight title in Las Vegas by beating Pedro Rizzo by TKO. The money's good he earned $125,000 for the championship and he gets noticed. During an Ultimate Fighting bout in September that he attended as a fan, he attracted as much attention as any celebrity including Mike Tyson and Carmen Electra in the audience of the sold-out event at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

"I didn't make much money in wrestling," said Couture, a 38-year-old father of two. "I'm making a decent living now as a fighter. This is what I do with my life now."

When UFC began in 1993, it was little more than a back-alley brawl. The rules? Only eye gouging and biting were out. The sport, which has become popular on pay-per-view television, has evolved and now has less gore and requires more skill.

"Ultimate Fighting is very technical, becoming more about skill all the time," said Couture, 7-0 in UFC. "It's about being able to defend yourself."

Ultimate fighters can win by knockout, submission, having a referee or doctor stop a fight or by judges' decision. There are five, five-minute rounds in championship fights.

Couture's heart is still in wrestling. He's an assistant coach at Centennial High School in Gresham, Ore., where he lives with his wife and daughter. He also teaches wrestling and martial arts at night.

"Is he the greatest assistant coach in the world in high-school wrestling?" said Vern Olsen, Centennial's former coach. "If he's not, he's awfully close.

"Back in the old days, when the coach told you something, you did it," Olsen said. "Kids now want to know why they are doing it, and Randy has a ready answer. He brings new cutting-edge stuff to young wrestlers."

"You go to clinics to watch what Randy brings to our program every day," said Trent Kroll, Centennial's first-year head coach.

Couture also trains and teaches at the Team Quest Combat Club in Gresham. The club, a converted garage with a few mats thrown down, is dark, damp and light on frills. Some Centennial wrestlers get in extra training there.

"He'll spend forever working with you," said Brody Porterfield, a Centennial wrestler and one of Oregon's top 189-pounders. "He gives you all the time he has to work on your wrestling."

He's a wrestler right to his cauliflower ears, which he wears proudly.

"In some countries, they (cauliflower ears) get you to the front of the line," said Couture. "I could get them fixed, but there's a status thing to show you are a warrior."

After graduating from Lynnwood, Couture spent six years in the Army, where a coach got him hooked on Greco-Roman, a style of wrestling that focuses on the upper body.

He moved on to collegiate power Oklahoma State, where he was a three-time All-American, finished as a NCAA runner-up twice and was part of two national championship teams. He went on to win four national Greco titles. The Olympics appeared to be a good bet.

In 1988, '92 and '96, Couture went to the U.S. Olympic Trials. Three trips, zero spots. The 1996 shortfall proved devastating because he was favored to make the U.S. team.

"I expected to win in 1996," said Couture. "I was ready to go to the Olympics, get my medal and move on with my life. It was a real disappointment."

Couture often questioned himself about falling short in 1996. He decided to push on for one last try, aiming for the 2000 Sydney Games. But Greco-Roman had to share time with Couture's new meal ticket, Ultimate Fighting. Couture won four fights in 1997, capturing the heavyweight title when he defeated Maurice Smith by majority decision in December 1997 in Japan. He was named Full Contact Fighter of the Year.

He wouldn't return to the UFC for nearly three years, concentrating instead on wrestling. But the Olympic dream died for good when Couture lost in a wrestle-off to Jason Klohs in August 1999.

Couture returned to the UFC on Nov. 17, 2000, defeating Kevin Randleman when the referee stopped the fight.

"It was great to be back," said Couture. "I knew it was time to move on and make the transition into full-time fighting."

Couture's No. 1 weapon is to take opponents to the mat, where he introduces them to his wrestling skills. But one-dimensional fighters are quick road kill in the UFC.

He's earned the nickname "The Natural" because he quickly learned the skills of mixed martial arts. He has thunder in both hands when he punches. As a kid, he would sneak over to the Lynnwood Elks Club to box. His introduction to the "Sweet Science" was short.

"My mom made me quit," said Couture. In the Army, he said he laced on the gloves for all of three weeks.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Couture has made several opponents submit through his punching prowess. But Couture largely credits his mental approach to his UFC success.

"It's about being relaxed, focused before a fight," said Couture. "You are already jacked up by the nature of the sport."

Couture's new life has grown on his family.

"I still get scared when he fights, but being a former athlete helps me," said Tricia, a nurse practitioner who met her husband while playing volleyball at Oregon State, where Couture was an assistant wrestling coach from 1993 to 1998.

"The competitive side in me comes out and I want him to win."

Couture's children have inherited some of his physical prowess. His son, Ryan, a 135-pounder from Woodinville, placed third two years ago in the Class 4A state championships and is now a sophomore at Western Washington. Aimee, 17, teaches martial arts at the Team Quest Combat Club.

Couture says he will likely not compete professionally again before June but is content to spend time with his first love.

"Coaching at this level is a refreshing change," he said. "The kids get so excited to wrestle every day."

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