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A July 2002 San Francisco Chronicle article on aspiring fighter Val Ignatov...

Sherdog lists him as having had 2 MMA fights, both in the UFC. He lost to Evan Tanner by TKO at UFC 19 and then dropped a decision to Matt Hughes at UFC 22. So, the poor fucker didn't have it easy during his UFC stint when it came to opponents. Both those fights took place in 1999. The article mentions an upcoming fight. Who knows if it took place. The Sherdog Fight Finder is far from perfect, and it's possible that Mr Ignatov's MMA adventure encompassed more than just his two fights inside The Octagon.

I forget when, but years after this piece Ignatov did pop up on a UFC hype special where he was described as being the sambo coach of one of the Diaz brothers.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 182096.DTL


From Bulgaria, with pain

Brentwood's Val Ignatov hopes to be 'ultimate fighter'

Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, July 12, 2002

If he absolutely has to, Val Ignatov can snap someone's leg like a fistful of uncooked fettuccine.

Three times he has broken a man's leg or arm -- twice in competition and once, unfortunately, in practice.

"When you hear that crack," he said, "it's not a good feeling."

Ignatov, a 28-year-old Brentwood construction worker from Bulgaria, has a placid visage and a polite mien. Perhaps only the fact that he appears to be storing anvils in his thighs hints at his dream: to be the world's toughest fighter.

"I'm not into fame and stuff. I just want to prove something to myself, that's all," said Ignatov, a former national champion in Bulgaria in the grappling sport of sambo. He trains at the Gracie Academy, a Pleasant Hill jujitsu studio owned by Brazilian-born Cesar Gracie, who is part of one of the world's best-known fighting families.

"I had a dream to be champion in my country, and it happened. I had a dream to come to this country, and it happened," said Ignatov, who arrived in 1996. "This is another dream."

Although his story is unusual, his dream isn't -- at least not at studios like this one, where boxers, kickboxers and wrestlers spar and trade secrets. Ignatov is one of several Bay Area residents, many from Contra Costa County, who are banking on the comeback of a controversial sport known as mixed martial arts or ultimate fighting.

Most of the athletes at the Pleasant Hill club have no desire to fight professionally. A few are law officers staying sharp. But the proliferation of mixed martial arts feeds on competitions in the United States that draw legions of young male fans. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, started in 1993, was the archetype.

In UFC fights, contenders meet in an octagonal cage and use whatever means necessary -- usually a bloody melange of kickboxing, wrestling, choking and, particularly, jujitsu -- to win bouts that often end with one combatant submitting by "tapping out."

Critics have described extreme fighting as "human cockfighting." Those who follow it, however, say it's an exciting sport with organic purity. Boxing might be the "sweet science," but mixed martial arts plainly indicates who is baddest -- who would emerge from a scrap in a back alley.

Ultimate fighters frequently challenge boxers and other tough-guy athletes in bids for legitimacy.

Gil Castillo, who grew up in Antioch, is one of the Bay Area's best ultimate fighters and the UFC's fourth-ranked welterweight. In March, he squared off informally against John McLaughlin, an NFL lineman. McLaughlin, who went to UC Berkeley, had suggested on a radio talk show that an NFL stud could squash a UFC fraud. Despite being outweighed by almost 100 pounds, Castillo forced McLaughlin to tap out four times.

Castillo, 36, a personal investment manager who trains at Gracie Academy and splits his time between South Lake Tahoe and San Ramon, said he wouldn't mind facing a boxer next. "It'll be a beating from start to finish," he said.


Mixed martial arts have existed since ancient times. Thanks in large part to the Gracie clan, it's been a popular sport in Brazil and Japan. The Pride Fighting Championships of Tokyo stands as one of Japan's most popular sports.

The current American incarnation originated with the UFC. Martial artists, kickboxers, bare-knuckle bar brawlers and sumos (an ill-advised choice) were brought together to see who was superior in matches where biting and eye- gouging were among the few outlawed tactics.

Hundreds of thousands of people who tuned in to each of the first few events on pay-per-view were mesmerized not only by the brutality of the spectacle, but by the domination of a relatively small jujitsu artist, Royce Gracie -- Cesar's cousin.

The success led to the formation of countless smaller organizations with names like the International Fighting Championships and King of the Cage -- all with different (albeit minimal) rules. The Gracies' brand of jujitsu became famous.

But the UFC absorbed a barrage of blows in the mid-1990s from disgusted critics, including, most notably, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), then the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. It was shunned by cable suppliers and athletic commissions, and faded.

But UFC changed hands in January 2001. The new owner, Zuffa LLC of Las Vegas placated critics with new rules and toned down its marketing (in early days, ads would suggest that a viewer could very well witness a fatality). The sport is making a comeback in New Jersey, Nevada and with pay-per-view suppliers -- 52 million U.S. households can now order UFC events, up from a low of 10 million.

Gone are the days of UFC tournaments with gladiators fighting up to three times a day, often in lopsided matches, without weight classes or timed rounds.

Some matches now fall to judges' scorecards. Combatants wear leather gloves and are drug-tested. Fouls now include head-butting, groin attacks and stomping on a fallen foe.

"Our message was: It isn't as bad as you think it is," said Dana White, UFC's president. Of ultimate fighting's tumultuous birth, he said, "It was good marketing at the time. They marketed this thing as the bloodiest, most brutal violent sport in the world."

White, who said the sport is "not less bloody than it was before," likes to say that ultimate fighting has all of the entertainment value of professional wrestling -- except it's real.

"I know I'm not going to get everyone on the planet to love ultimate fighting, to sit around watching with the family on the weekend," he said. "This is for fight fans, and if you're into fighting, this is real fighting."

Signaling the sport's resurgence, several ultimate fighting video games are on store shelves and the Internet is swamped with fan sites and chatter. Champions can earn up to $500,000 a year.

A move in the last two years to secure funding for the regulation of mixed martial arts in California has stalled twice due to budget constraints, said Rob Lynch, executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission.

Lynch said that while the commission is concerned about choke holds, ultimate fighting may be less dangerous than boxing, in which competitors absorb more blows to the head. Two boxers have been killed in California since 1983.

By comparison, no one has been killed in the UFC, and while beatings are often vicious and bloody, the most serious injuries are usually the same sort of ligament tears seen in football and soccer.

UFC officials point out that ultimate fighters who are being dominated can tap out "with honor," while outmatched boxers are usually knocked out.

Many people, though, are simply repulsed by a sport based on two people beating each other. Perhaps ultimate fighting elicits a stronger reaction from critics than boxing precisely because it's brutality is more authentic.

The American Medical Association, which called for a ban on boxing in the 1980s, did the same with ultimate fighting in 1996.

"Because these sports are intended to cause bodily harm or render someone into submission by threat of bodily harm, they're barbaric -- I can't think of a better word," said AMA trustee Dr. Ron Davis, a physician in Detroit. "That distinguishes them from sports where the risk is a byproduct of the sport."

In addition, the sport has been damaged by underground events and the perception that competitors and fans alike are ruffians drawn to blood instead of the "chess match" of a good fight. Bay Area fighters admit many fans are in it for the brutality, but say boxing is no different.


The fighters have been energized by the sport's comeback.

At a "submission grappling" tournament -- no punches or kicks -- put on by Cesar Gracie last month at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill, several competitors said MMA would be "bigger than boxing."

A handful of MMA studios have popped up in the past decade in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Napa and San Jose. Most students want nothing more than a competitive outlet, a good workout and unparalleled self-defense.

A visit to one of the top clubs, Gracie Academy, which specializes in Brazilian jujitsu, found a diverse collection of athletes gathered in a quiet strip mall studio, where they can practice everything from jabs to grappling moves that to the uninitiated resemble certain Kama Sutra positions.

Among them: Casey Strand of Martinez, the winningest high school wrestler in U.S. history when he graduated from College Park in 1994 and an All- American at Arizona State; and Oakland resident Jason Manly, who put his love of jujitsu on hold when he sprinted for UC Berkeley.

The athletes range from amateurs like Ben Cochrane of Antioch, a Contra Costa County firefighter, to Castillo, who is an undefeated welterweight champion in the IFC. (Castillo is preparing for a July 13 fight with Tony DeSouza of Lima, Peru, in an undercard bout at the UFC's "Brawl at Royal Albert Hall" in London.)

But few have come as far as Ignatov.

The fighter was born an only child in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, in 1973. His father left the family when he was 2, and his mother worked in an iron factory. Growing up on his own, he had two preoccupations: fighting and moving to the United States.

When he was 11, Ignatov started training in sambo, a Russian creation that resembles wrestling, but focuses on throws and submission holds that force an opponent to tap out or risk injury. After watching a movie about sambo, Ignatov visited a judo club near his house.

"The coach looked at me and let me wrestle a little bit, then he pulled me to the side and said, 'Hey, you don't have the talent to do this,' " he recalled. "In communist countries, because sports were free, they were going to keep the kids who had talent."

It was a fortuitous turn, because a month later the boy with the quiet intensity impressed a sambo coach and joined his team. A year-and-a-half later, the team faced the judo club in a tournament, and Ignatov beat the club's best fighters. "I never told the coach I was the kid he kicked out," he said, "but I loved it."

Ignatov won his first junior national championship at age 16 and was invited to join the Bulgarian national team, then captured four more titles in the next four years -- including two in the open division. Required to join the army at 18, he was sent to a special training program in combat sambo and was certified as an instructor. He was a champion in a country where sambo was a respected national sport.

But the United States beckoned, and in September 1996, Ignatov arrived in Los Angeles with $300. After two months, he moved to the Bay Area, where he learned to speak English at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg. He currently works on pipelines for ARB Inc.

Ignatov has fought twice in UFC events and lost both times, once to current welterweight champion Matt Hughes. Ignatov's is scheduled to fight next on Aug. 18, in an IFC match at Ceasar's Tahoe. His opponent has not yet been determined.

Ignatov's mild manner might seem to put him at a disadvantage in a sport that rewards such maneuvers as the ground-and-pound (a takedown followed by a barrage of fists). But he is ferocious on the mat.

In a tight grappling match against a fighter from Brazil last month at College Park, Ignatov was an inch away from breaking his opponent's leg at the shin. After winning the match, he said, "I hope you can feel the excitement of this!

"I see pain every time I go in the ring. To me that's just how it is. If you want to kiss, you go and dance. If you fight, you will get hit. The kiss goes with the dancing, and the hits come with the fighting. If you want to see who is the best, who is the strongest, who is the best fighter in the world, you can't determine that with a dancing tournament."

E-mail Demian Bulwa at dbulwa@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page CC - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


In case anyone is interested below is the deal between Gil Castillo and John McLaughlin, the fotball player dude, that was mentioned in the article.



Edited by nfc90210
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A 2004 Houston Chronicle piece on Yves Edwards...

http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archi ... 04_3817012

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS / In his push to the top of the fight word, Yves Edwards relies upon is friends as well as his fists / Fight club family

SUN 11/07/2004 Houston Chronicle, Section Star, Page 1, 2 STAR Edition

THE throbbing bass line is deafening as Naoyuki Kotani steps into the ring, barefoot, wearing only a pair of tight, zebra-striped trunks.

Then Yves Edwards dances forward, arms raised to acknowledge his fans, before he boogies to his corner, kicks off his boxing shoes and shrugs out of his baggy black-and-red satin trunks.

Edwards, who lives and trains in The Woodlands, is one of the world's top lightweights in the underground sport of mixed martial arts fighting, and the stakes are high in this fight at an Atlantic City casino. Kotani is a star in Japan, but he's relatively unknown here, and Edwards isn't sure what he will face. He's acting cool, but he knows he must win to advance to the next round.

Wearing little more than Spandex shorts and mouth guards, he and Kotani will kick, grapple and slug their way through three five-minute rounds, or until the referee decides one is too badly beaten to continue.

Still dancing, Edwards leans forward for some final words from his trainer, Lewis Wood, who lightly rubs Edwards' shoulders and shaved head.

"Good luck," Wood says softly.

. . .

Less than 36 hours earlier, Edwards was lying on the carpeted floor of a hotel meeting room, listlessly waiting for the official weigh-in.

He could weigh no more than 155 pounds to qualify, and he topped 160 that morning, so he had spent the past five hours wrapped in plastic, alternating intense workouts with the sauna.

His skin was ashy, his mouth so dry that it was hard to talk.

"He's a little dehydrated right now," said Miguel Iturrate, the matchmaker who put together the Oct. 15 fight for Euphoria Mixed Fighting Championship, a company born earlier this year to promote mixed martial arts.

Edwards lay propped on a backpack filled with vitamin-enriched water, which he planned to chug as soon as he was weighed. In the meantime, he amused himself by playing with his cell phone, listening to the babbling of his 16-month-old son, Yvan, on his voice mail.

"I'm so hungry," he moaned. "This is the worst part."

All around him, fighters, trainers and hangers-on waited, a virtual United Nations of men with shaved heads and tattoos representing Russia, Brazil, Spain, Norway and Japan, as well as the United States.

Iturrate paced, fretting about translators for the foreign fighters and the logistics of the next night's fight, set for a 2,500-seat showroom on the opposite side of the Tropicana Casino and Resort. Euphoria is not as well known as the sport's flagship Ultimate Fighting Championship, but Iturrate was pleased with the bill.

"I wanted to get the top people available," he said. "With Yves, that gives me an easy one. He's in everybody's Top 5 in the world."

Mixed martial arts has changed over the years, Iturrate said. "It's much more mainstream than in the past," he said. "There are people interested for the fitness, the competition, the sport, more than the bloodbaths that you saw five or six years ago."

One sign of the sport's emergence into popular culture: mixed martial arts stars Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture appeared in Cradle 2 the Grave, a 2003 kickfest featuring action star Jet Li and rapper DMX.

Ten years ago, mixed martial arts was "open to anybody who would get into the octagon, the toughest man in the world," said Pedro Fonteboa, the UFC's director of public relations. That started to change in 2001, when Dana White took over the UFC and began morphing it closer to boxing: three judges, a referee empowered to stop a fight, a physician at ringside.

UFC fights are held six times a year, drawing as many as 15,000 fans, and tens of thousands more watch on pay-per-view. Its rules have slowly filtered down to many smaller organizations, but fights still can be brutal, and few escape without a few cuts and bruises.

Conversation stopped when the weigh-in began.

One by one, the perfectly muscled fighters stripped to their underwear and stepped onto the scales.

When Edwards' weight was called at 155 pounds, he raised his arms in mock victory. Across the room, fellow lightweight Hermes Franca of Brazil slid a plastic-wrapped plate of pasta from his pack and began to eat.

Far from home

With its pizza stands and tarot card readers, slot machines and green baccarat tables, Atlantic City is a long way from The Woodlands.

For Edwards, 28, the trip was even farther.

He began learning karate as a 9-year-old in the Bahamas, where he was born. He moved to Texas at age 15 when his mother married a Houston resident.

As a teenager, Edwards loved kung-fu movies and the early televised fights, which combined the speed of the martial arts, the power of boxing and the physicality of wrestling. But he was only a spectator.

It took his stepfather, Robert Boyd, to make him a competitor.

One day Boyd coaxed him into playing a video game together, and Edwards eked out a last-minute victory.

"Nothing was ever that much fun," he said of the rush that eventually propelled him from the video screen to the fight ring.

He opened his own gym in The Woodlands four years ago, and the Ultimate Training Center is now home to his Third Column fight team.

Edwards is the team's star, thanks to his winning record - 28 wins, 6 losses, 1 draw - but he also trains up-and-coming fighters including Rocky Long, Tim Credeur and Carlo Prater.

The men are a snapshot of the mixed martial arts audience: predominantly male, between the ages of 18 and 35.

Like Edwards, the 26-year-old Long is a single father, and he sandwiches his training between work and time with his four children. Prater, 23, sought out Edwards after moving to Texas from Brazil, where mixed martial arts fighting is huge. (Russia and Japan are other strongholds.)

"He took me under his wing," said Prater, an HCC student who will return to Brazil for a fight later this month.

Wood, a Houston firefighter, took up boxing to improve his martial-arts skills, turning pro in 1990. Edwards enlisted him about four years ago to hone his punching skills; Wood also works out with his own trainer, local boxing legend Kenny Weldon.

Edwards' gym is a throwback to boxing gyms of old: no air conditioning, bare concrete floors, a high ceiling of exposed insulation, a door open to the alley out back for ventilation.

Here, he and other members of the Third Column reign.

A week before the fight, he had just a few tough training sessions to go before leaving for Atlantic City.

His girlfriend, Tonya Thompson, a junior high school history teacher, had finished her workout, and his 10-year-old daughter, Destiny Garcia-Edwards, who lives with her mother in West Houston, was doing cartwheels on the mats.

Wood led Edwards, Long and a half-dozen wannabes through warm-up exercises before in a choreographed version of a schoolyard fight, Edwards lunged onto Long's back, straining to punch as Long twisted away.

They slid through the moves, oblivious to the sweat glistening on their skin and drenching their T-shirts, until Edwards spun outside the ropes, his head coming within an inch of smashing into the concrete floor.

Long hesitated.

"I'm good," Edwards gasped. "I'm good. That was close."

`No worries'

Edwards' loose-limbed swagger exudes the "no worries" charm of his native Caribbean, his soft lilt unchanged whether he is talking about a chops-busting fight or the latest antics of his toddler son. Yvan lives with his mother, a former girlfriend, and Edwards has visitation rights.

A 1994 graduate of Houston's Lee High School, Edwards can trace his ascendance in the fight world to his first UFC fight three years ago.

UFC fights are shown on pay-per-view, and DVDs are sold at Best Buy and Blockbuster, among other places.

But if the UFC is the apex for a mixed martial arts fighter in the United States, Edwards' success there is tempered by the fact that the UFC doesn't have a lightweight champion.

"It's really disappointing," he said. "I want to be respected, and I don't feel that respected."

Fonteboa said a lightweight championship fight is "in the works," but no date has been set. (Euphoria will stage a lightweight title fight in 2005.)

Even without a title, UFC fights are the sport's most lucrative. Edwards said he earned $16,000 for his August UFC win over Josh Thomson; that's twice what the fight with Kotani promised.

The UFC affiliation is also good advertising. Robby Kinsey saw Edwards on television, and soon he, too, was training at his gym, just east of Interstate 45 in The Woodlands.

"He's awesome as a coach," said Kinsey, 26, who lives in Conroe. "He's one of the most soft-spoken guys I've ever met, but ... "

Edwards understands the dichotomy between his gentle persona and the sport's brutality. "When I started out, I didn't have the heart to punch someone in the face," he said. "It's hard."

But not impossible. "Everyone I train with, they're my best friend. I would bleed for them," he said. "And we all hit each other in the face."

The men travel to one another's fights, offering advice from the corner and expertly patching up the occasional wound.

"It's real important," Edwards said. "I really need someone that knows me and knows my style to be there with me."

It is a guy form of friendship, demonstrated by dropping everything to travel across the country for a fight rather than any overt emotion. "It would feel like I'm alone if they weren't there (at a fight)," Long said.

At 40, Wood is the most seasoned of the group, a calming influence whose importance to Edwards goes beyond his role of wrapping and taping Edwards' hands before a fight and dispensing advice during the action.

"Knowing Lewis is with him, it just gives me such peace, because Lewis is so strong and so confident," said Thompson, who started dating Edwards about a year ago, several years after first going to his gym to learn Thai boxing.

When Wood fought Oct. 23 at the Pasadena Convention Center, Edwards was there for the victory over Julian "Baby" Gonzales.

The men's circle of support was complete.

Fight day

Fight day dawns gray and rainy in Atlantic City.

Edwards spends the day shaving his head and playing Madden NFL and Tiger Wood 2004 on the PlayStation he has brought from home. Thompson arrived late the night before, but they haven't ventured even so far as the beach, just yards from the hotel entrance.

Two hours before show time, Wood taps on the door. Time to go.

Long and Prater materialize as they descend to the warren of dressing rooms underneath the stage. The younger men are in high spirits, and later, watching Kotani warm up, they predict an easy victory.

But Edwards says nothing, and Wood is openly skeptical, noting that Kotani is demonstrating only the moves that he wants them to see. "Rocky and Carlo, they're sort of overconfident," he worries. "I don't want that."

Back in the dressing room that Edwards is sharing with five other fighters, the smell of nervous sweat accompanies the start of the night's first bout.

Wood grabs some gauze and, standing over Edwards, starts wrapping his right hand, pausing periodically to make sure the binding isn't too tight.

Billy Clements, one of a half-dozen New Jersey State Athletic Control Board officials on hand, looks on, unsmiling.

"That good?" Wood asks.

"Good," Edwards agrees.

Rich Clementi, a lightweight from Slidell, La., walks into the dressing room, breathing hard after his victory over Henry Matamoros, and plunges his fist into a tub of ice.

Edwards doesn't look up, but a few minutes later, he and Wood wordlessly began warming up.

Kerry Schall of Cincinnati, a jovial heavyweight known as Meat Truck, drags in next. He was declared the winner when his opponent was disqualified for delivering two groin kicks, but Schall isn't celebrating.

He lies on the floor, an ice pack stuffed into his purple fighting trunks, trying to decide whether to go to the hospital.

"I'm numb," he groans.

On the offensive

Kotani attacks quickly, kicking, punching, grabbing Edwards by the neck. Another kick takes Edwards down, and Kotani vainly attempts to capitalize on it.

But Edwards suddenly takes the offensive, punching hard before delivering a high right kick that knocks Kotani off his feet. Edwards follows, straddling Kotani and throwing punches until the referee calls the fight.

Three minutes and 10 seconds after the opening bell, Edwards has won with a TKO.

Kotani sits, dazed, while Edwards is pulled into a videotaped post-fight interview for a recording that will be televised in Russia and Japan.

"I'm definitely happy," he says, waving Wood, Prater and Long into the spotlight and pausing briefly to consider the question of whether he can be beaten.

"Nobody can beat me, period," he declares. "One hundred fifty-five (pounds), 170, 220. I have the right team. ... I am the best fighter in the world."

. . .


The Euphoria MFC fights in Atlantic City followed the same rules as those of Ultimate Fighting Championship, with one exception - no striking with the elbows. Other rules:

No head butting, hair pulling or head slams.

No kicks to the kidneys, and no strikes to the throat.

No kicking the head of a downed opponent. (You may punch him in the head, however.)

No eye gouging.

No grabbing an opponent's clothes or gloves, and no grabbing an individual finger or toe.

. . .


The Web is full of sites on mixed martial arts fighting. Here are a few:

Ultimate Fighting Championship: www.ufc.tv

Full Contact Fighter magazine, www.fcfighter.com

Texas Mixed Martial Arts: www.txmma.com

Edwards and his gym, www.thugjitsu.com.

A roundup on the sport, MMAFighting.com.

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A March 1995 Miami New Times piece on Marcus "Conan" Silveira.

Conan was the big guy that Amanda Nunes was hugging in the cage after she koed Cyborg.

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/1995-03-02 ... ing-names/


Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Black-belt jujitsu megaman Marcus Silveira wants to meet you in the ring

By Todd Anthony Thursday, Mar 2 1995

The massive tattooed wrists tighten around the New Times correspondent's neck, constricting both his windpipe and the flow of blood to his brain as effectively as giant human pliers. The reporter begins to second-guess his decision to make journalism his career, and, more specifically, the folly of sitting in on a class with Marcus Silveira, the Brazilian jujitsu master whose vice-grip pincers are currently strangling him. "I try to help people," Silveira had assured the writer when they first met. "When you reach some level in the martial arts, it's not about being the tough guy or the strong guy. It's about being the intelligent guy. It's stupid to use what you know to hurt people."

As temporary loss of consciousness or permanent loss of voice seem like real possibilities, the writer can hope only that Silveira is true to his word, and that he has no ax to grind with the fourth estate. The New Times staffer had stepped onto the mat in downtown Miami's Bayfront Health Club (where Silveira imparts his brutal brand of brawling wisdom) with no suicidal notions of seriously tussling with the six-foot-one, 250-pound, 30-year-old Silveira. He merely had hoped to make a respectable showing and not appear overly wimplike. But pride goes out the window when the scribe senses the cartilage in his Adam's apple popping. It is extremely difficult to capitulate verbally when one feels as though his larynx is being squeezed out through his ears. Fortunately Silveira has explained to his newest student the safety valve known as "tapping out" A patting your adversary with your free hand to indicate surrender, the jujitsu competitor's equivalent of saying "uncle."

The writer lucks out. Silveira holds no grudge against newsfolk, and releases the hold quickly when he feels the desperate tap on his shoulder. The martial artist's green eyes twinkle as he says, "You see, it's not necessary to throw a punch or make a pretty kick. You just have to know the techniques. It doesn't matter how big [an attacker] is or how strong. If you have the knowledge, you can defend yourself."

Silveira is willing to back up this conviction with hard currency. "I don't want to go on TV or radio and make a big challenge to call attention to myself, like I have no respect," explains the Rio de Janeiro native in a no-nonsense voice flavored with a heavy Brazilian accent. "That is a stupid position. But I believe Brazilian jujitsu is the best fighting style. I am willing to go into a ring with anybody to prove it. If you really believe you can put Brazilian jujitsu down, it's time to show yourself. Put some money together A a minimum of $30,000 because it's not fair for you to be spending so much of your time training for nothing A and I'll put up the same amount and we'll call my lawyers and put a fight together. No holds barred. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyone."

To date no one has taken up Silveira on his two-year-old challenge. "People call me all the time and leave messages on my telephone putting Brazilian jujitsu down, saying how they can beat it. But they never leave a number. They just talk and talk," he shrugs. "I was reading in a magazine about this shoot fighter who weighs 280 pounds. It called him the toughest man in Florida. He was talking about putting up $100,000. I called my lawyers and said, 'Let's put it together.' And right away he run from me like a chicken. But he's still out there talking about how his style can beat anyone. I believe if you don't know what you're talking about, the best position you can have is stay quiet."

Sgt. Carlos Hernandez, public information officer for the Hialeah police department and a black belt and instructor of Jeet Kune Do (the fighting style popularized by actor Bruce Lee), doubts that a rush of contenders will reach for the gauntlet Silveira has thrown down.

"I've seen footage of him fighting in tournaments in Brazil," Hernandez reveals. "Let me tell you, he is bad. Not only does he have size and strength, but he has amazing quickness and mental attributes. Very few of the martial artists I have met would I be worried about being in a real street fight with. But Marcus's style of Brazilian jujitsu is predicated on winning a fight, not who can break boards with their bare hands, or who can kick prettier. It's about beating the other guy, and they have plenty of tools to do it. That's Marcus's life. He eats it, he sleeps it, he lives it. He's a world-class fighter, probably the best in Florida, bar none."

Hernandez is so convinced of Silveira's prowess that he offered the Brazilian a bit part in Mortal Contact, a low-budget action movie shot in and around South Florida in August and September of last year. Hernandez produced the film. "You get to see Marcus in action in two fights," Hernandez enthuses. "But he plays a bad guy."

According to the cop/budding movie producer, in the past three years, Brazilian jujitsu has enjoyed an enormous worldwide surge in popularity thanks in no small measure to the dominance of its practitioners in a burgeoning no-holds-barred competition known as the Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC). "The Brazilians have been doing these all-out fights for nearly 70 years," notes Hernandez. "But prior to the Ultimate Fighting Challenges, only a few martial artists in this country had ever heard of Brazilian jujitsu."

Daniel Severn uses his muscular 260-pound frame to take down his spindly legged 180-pound opponent, Royce (pronounced "Hoyce") Gracie, and pin the smaller man's head against the base of the chainlink fence that encloses the 750-square-foot octagon in which they are battling. Severn and Gracie have reached the finals of the fourth Ultimate Fighting Challenge, a savage descendant of tough-man competitions; however, the UFC features a few distinctive, bizarro touches A such as the no-exit, chainlink "ring" A that seem as if they were inspired by the deadly cage battles depicted in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The rules are simple in ultimate fighting: There aren't any. (Well, okay, biting and eye-gouging are no-noes; other than that, anything goes.) Combatants kick, punch, head-butt, wrestle, choke, and knee each other into submission. No rounds.

No breaks (except bones). No standing eight counts.

Entertainment Weekly compares UFC to cockfighting, calling the competition a "brutal martial arts exhibition" in which "matches end with broken bones, profuse bleeding, and stone-cold unconsciousness." The New York Times labels it a "promise-of-blood sport." Don Hazelton, executive director of Florida's boxing commission, characterizes such free-for-alls as "barbaric and [per chapter 548.008 of Florida's state statutes] illegal. If you and I did what's in those, we'd be arrested. We [the boxing commission] fail to see where they are of any particular sports benefit."

But martial arts aficionados such as Carlos Hernandez take a different view. "It's a shame that kind of fighting is illegal in Florida," Hernandez opines. "It's made a huge impact in the martial arts world in the last two years because now you can see how one fighting style stacks up against another. It's been such a big explosion that maybe the boxing commissions are scared."

Ultimate-fighting competitions pit combatants from a variety of martial arts (as well as old-fashioned, plain-vanilla sports such as boxing and wrestling) against each other. A large part of the new-breed donnybrook's appeal can be traced back to the desire to settle once and for all those childhood arguments over who would win a fight between a boxer and a karate expert (Mike Tyson versus Bruce Lee, for example). Of course, the prospect of brutal hand-to-hand combat and possibly even death A the latter expectation fueled by countless violent chopsocky B-movie videos starring the likes of a young Jean-Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport), Don "the Dragon" Wilson (Bloodfist), or big Lou Ferrigno (Cage) A cannot be discounted when analyzing ultimate fighting's appeal. Call it a case of life imitating (martial) art. (In a March 1994 article in the New York Times, UFC organizer Campbell McLaren actually is quoted as saying, "It may be good for the buy rate. But I don't want anyone to die." The article noted that "death did not visit any competitor in UFC I," and that as of that writing, the worst injury sustained by a UFC fighter was a broken hand.)

Two basic ultimate-fighting styles have emerged A punching and grappling. Punchers include boxers, kickboxers, Thai boxers, as well as practitioners of a variety of schools of karate, kung fu, and tae kwon do. Bruce Lee was a puncher. Jean-Claude Van Damme is a puncher. Steven Seagal is, more or less, a puncher. Grapplers are ground fighters, specializing in takedowns and choke and submission holds. Their ranks include students of judo, shoot fighting, Greco-Roman wrestling, and jujitsu. Grapplers do not become movie stars.

Daniel Severn and Royce Gracie are grapplers. Severn is a former Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling heavyweight champion, with more than 300 amateur and pro matches under his belt. He has the body of a National Football League lineman. Gracie, on the other hand, looks like a cross between Mario Cuomo and Adam Sandler, with the body of a CPA. When Severn grabs the trapped Gracie by the collar of his gi (martial arts robe) and throws punches at the smaller man's face, the natural impulse is to avert one's eyes. It seems almost criminal to have allowed the outweighed and apparently outmatched Gracie into the octagon with the behemoth.

Everyone packed into Tulsa, Oklahoma's Expo Square Pavilion to witness the fourth Ultimate Fighting Challenge seems to realize Gracie is done for. Except Gracie. A fourth degree black belt in "Gracie jujitsu," the fighting art developed by his uncle and his father (and practiced by Marcus Silveira), Royce Gracie appears about as calm as a human being could be with a beast like Severn squashing him.

To understand Royce Gracie's composure, it helps to understand his lineage. The Gracie name is revered in martial arts circles. Seventy years ago, according to legend, a Japanese count named Maeda Coma arrived in a Brazilian town whose mayor was Gaston Gracie, patriarch of the Gracie clan. The elder Gracie and Coma became friends, with the immigrant teaching Gaston's sons, Carlos and Helio, the art of jujitsu, which had been developed centuries earlier by samurai warriors. The two brothers became obsessed with the martial art, practicing constantly, refining it to reflect the realities of street fighting. Helio became so proficient he once challenged Joe Louis to a no-holds-barred fight, but the heavyweight boxing champ declined.

Helio and Carlos imparted the lessons they learned to their rapidly proliferating clan (Carlos fathered 21 children before his death last year; 92-year-old Helio still teaches the Gracie jujitsu method when he isn't serving as cornerman for one of his seven sons, such as 28-year-old Royce). "Carlos Gracie and Helio Gracie never lost a fight," contends police sergeant Hernandez. "Their kids and students have kept the tradition alive of challenging anyone to test their knowledge in a no-holds-barred competition. All these guys who say they can touch you in a pressure point and kill you, the Gracies have unmasked them. They dominate ground fighting, and 95 percent of real fights go to the ground. They're unstoppable. In the martial arts right now, they're it."

Despite his superior position and his grip on Royce Gracie's collar, few of Daniel Severn's blows find their mark. Gracie, although pinned beneath the giant's weight with his legs wrapped around Severn's midsection, makes himself an evasive target. The fight wears on. Three minutes pass, then five, then seven. Twelve minutes go by, and still Severn cannot put the tenacious, clinging Gracie away. Royce hugs his attacker like a desperate lover, countering Severn's every move, waiting for an opening. Suddenly, nearly fifteen minutes into the fight, he finds it. Still on his back, as he has been for the entire match, Gracie works his legs up from around his opponent's back to Severn's neck and shoulders. And just like that it is over. Severn, his head trapped in a leg-lock from which there is no exit save unconsciousness or surrender, taps out.

Chalk up a third Ultimate Fighting Challenge crown (and $64,000 purse) for Royce Gracie. Proud poppa Helio looks on impassively at ringside (cageside?). Just another day at the office for the Gracie dynasty.

Through the magic of pay-per-view and home video, in the past two years, millions of Americans have had the pleasure of enjoying the quiet giant-killer from Rio de Janeiro in action. Royce Gracie's cousin Rickson (pronounced "Hickson") Gracie has won similar fights in Brazil and Japan, and is considered a hero in his native land.

"I trained with Rickson Gracie a few years ago in California," Hernandez discloses. "Back in those days, only a handful of people knew about these crazy Brazilians and their version of jujitsu. Today Rickson is widely recognized as the best all-around fighter in the world. Been in over 400 fights and doesn't have a cut on his face. He's such a big star that you can hardly get in touch with him. He's always traveling to competitions or exhibitions. He's become like the Michael Jordan of martial arts.

"You'll never see two practitioners of Gracie jujitsu in the ring with each other in one of these ultimate fights," Hernandez continues. "They do it mainly to show the world that their martial art is the best. And Rickson Gracie knows Marcus. He says what we all know. Marcus is nasty."

Marcus Silveira came to Miami from Brazil in 1990 shortly after receiving a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu under the tutelage of Carlson Gracie (son of Carlos), whose Rio-based school is one of the best known in the world. Carlson Gracie was regarded by many as the fiercest fighter of the clan; his legend includes a no-holds-barred fight that lasted three hours and fifteen minutes A more than four times as long as a fifteen-round professional boxing match that goes the distance. Currently the Gracie name is the hottest moniker in martial arts, and Silveira possesses the only black belt in Brazilian jujitsu in the southeastern U.S. He is also the only certified instructor of the art in Florida.

"I'm the only one," Silveira asserts. "If you have something you call jujitsu, or you have something you call any kind of name that you think is better, then let's rock and roll. I feel honored when I see somebody, doesn't matter the style, when he's willing to step inside the ring and face the real situation. I get upset when I see some people, they don't know shit about it, and they start claiming they know. I can fight in any situation with anyone, any style. I want to see if they can do the same."

Many of Silveira's students (like Hernandez) hold black belts in other martial arts disciplines. Often they have devoted several years to honing their skills. Some have been humbled in street fights, others have witnessed or heard about the Gracies' amazing success and want to see the technique firsthand; but for whatever reason, they attend his class.

"I got over here karate people, judo people, shoot fighters, wrestlers," Silveira boasts. "I got every kind of wee-wee-wah-wah-woo-woo style. Everybody's here. Black belt karate guys come to my school because they're still looking for something. They already know, even if they got 200 students, if they fight somebody in the street, they gonna get their ass kicked for sure." Silveira himself has approximately 80 students. He offers classes Monday through Friday in the aerobics room of the Bayfront Health Club downtown, and on Saturday at the Miami Beach Police Athletic League gym. The ability to defend oneself does not come cheap; Silveira charges $100 per month and expects a minimum ten-month, 120-lesson commitment. While it is impossible to make blanket guarantees, the jujitsu expert reckons that most students should feel confident enough in their ability to defend themselves within three months, and skilled enough to qualify for a blue belt after ten. Although Silveira has only a handful of female students, his technique's ability to neutralize size and weight differentials would seem to make it a natural for women.

To the untrained eye, Silveira's classes do not look much like street-fighting lessons in progress. His students pair off and spend most of their time rolling around on the ground, trying to get into or break specific holds or locks. The takedown marks the only truly exciting part of the jujitsu fighter's repertoire, and it is usually accomplished in the wink of an eye. The rest of the time, they engage in a lot of clinching and clenching, grabbing, gripping, and grappling. You'll see the occasional flip or somersault, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Often Silveira's students look as if they're tenderly embracing. Only the sweat soaking their gis and the labored huffing and puffing give them away.

Glamorous it ain't. In fact, to the uninitiated, Brazilian jujitsu is downright boring to watch. Small wonder it was largely unknown outside of Brazil until the Gracie clan started proving their mettle on worldwide pay-per-view and videotape.

But don't let the absence of flying kicks or multiple-brick-bashing exhibitions fool you. Even lowly blue belts (white belts are for beginners, followed, in ascending order, by blue, purple, brown, and black) can defend themselves handily. Forget to tuck an elbow or extend a leg properly, and even a relative newcomer will make you pay. Silveira, clearly proud of his charges, revels in the tale of a 280-pound cop who dropped in on his class recently, intent on throwing his weight around. The instructor matched him up with a 160-pound blue belt and let them have at it.

"Everybody says, 'Hell, man, 280 pounds against 160? Is too much,'" Silveira fondly recalls. "I told the guy to punch, slap, squeeze, whatever. Thirty seconds later, the 160-pound guy was squeezing his neck, getting his arm, toying with him." Silveira's younger brother Marcello, who is smaller than Marcus but mongoose-quick and a black belt in Gracie jujitsu as well, has been known to humble an outsized opponent or two.

For all his cocksure confidence in Gracie jujitsu's dominance, however, Silveira is surprisingly low-key and soft-spoken when he talks about anything else. He may have served a three-year stretch as a paratrooper in the Brazilian special forces, during which time he had his brawny arms and legs embroidered with a patchwork of ferocious-looking tattoos, but Silveira is all soft coos and proud papa smiles when he cradles his infant son, Jeiko, in his beefy hands. The contradiction is striking; the conflicting images hard to reconcile. The doting family man (in addition to three-month-old Jeiko, Silveira and his wife, Grace, live with their two-year-old son, Joshua, and nine-year-old daughter, Jessica, in North Miami Beach) gently rocks his baby while he dispassionately discusses his prospects for participating in a no-holds-barred cage match to be staged by national cable network ESPN.

"When people try to be nasty with me, I try to avoid problems," he notes. "I don't mess with nobody. I'm so quiet. I don't look for any problems. Thank God I never had any problem with anyone with my family, because that kind of point I don't even talk to you. I'm gonna send you straight to Jackson." Silveira never has had to put his knowledge to use to defend himself in a street fight or barroom brawl, although it did come in handy during his stint as a bouncer at the Kitchen Club on Miami Beach from 1990 to 1992.

"It was my first job in the United States," Silveira recalls. "I didn't hit people over there, but sometimes I had to put people to sleep. Is much better than punching. When you wake up, you gonna feel much better than if I punched you. Of course, I gotta know how to do it, because I can kill you. I can just cut your air, and you gonna die in about 30 seconds. But most of the time you just say, 'Hey, it's time to leave. No talk. Let's go.' And it works."

The toughest man in Florida turns reflective for a moment. "You gotta make some kind of agreement with God, you know? Like he let you have something in your life that if you gonna use it against people, you gonna have to pay back. I know the things I can do, so I try to avoid all the ways that I can. To take me to the other step like I'm gonna fight, you gotta really piss me off. You gotta give me a good reason. Otherwise I don't cut your face. I don't break your nose. I just put you to sleep. I got tools in my hands that I can be so bad to you or I can treat you nice. With the knowledge I have acquired I can do whatever I want."

Mortal Contact premieres tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 at the Astor Art Cinema, 4120 Laguna St, Coral Gables; 443-6777.

Edited by nfc90210
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Another 1995 Miami New Times piece on Conan. This one is a shorter piece from December and details him winning the Extreme Fighting heavyweight championship.

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/1995-12-14 ... of-gracie/

State of Gracie

Sissy men beware: New Extreme Fighting heavyweight champ Marcus Silveira will kick your butt

By Todd Anthony Thursday, Dec 14 1995

When last we checked in with Marcus Silveira ("Kicking Ass and Taking Names," March 2), the Miami-based black-belt holder in Brazilian jujitsu had received no takers on his two-year-old offer to fight anyone, anywhere, anytime in a mano a mano, winner-take-all, no-holds-barred match. Of course, there probably aren't many guys out there qualified to challenge Silveira; the 250-pound former resident of Rio de Janeiro is a disciple of Gracie jujitsu, a martial arts discipline popularized by the Gracie family in Brazil. He combines the advanced techniques of Gracie jujitsu with the sculpted upper torso of an NFL lineman.

The mountain refused to come to Marcus, so Marcus went to the mountain. On November 18 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Silveira entered and handily won the heavyweight division of a pay-per-view cage battle called Extreme Fighting. Silveira's financial compensation has yet to be determined -- he gets a percentage of revenues from the show, which is still airing a few times per week on the pay-per-view cable channel -- but for now he's thrilled with the recognition alone.

"Gracie jujitsu is the best fighting style," crows Silveira. "I'm happy to have the chance to show this against the best fighters from around the world."

As a result of his victory, Silveira has become one of the martial arts world's biggest (literally and figuratively) new stars. Prior to the Extreme Fighting win, there was talk of a showcase match pitting Silveira against 260-pound Greco-Roman wrestler and Ultimate Fighting Challenge (a rival no-holds-barred competition) champ Daniel Severn. According to Silveira, Severn's people weren't willing to guarantee the unknown (outside of Brazil, at least) Marcus the kind of money (mid-five figures) he felt he deserved, so no date was set. However, the Extreme Fighting win puts the Brazilian behemoth in the catbird seat. "Now they have to come to me," Silveira contends.

The 30-year-old Silveira's face never betrayed any emotion during the Extreme Fighting contest. Not while Penthouse Pets in string bikinis jiggled their way about the perimeter of the ring between matches. Not while opponents punched, kicked, clawed, and head-butted him. Not while conducting contemplative postfight interviews with celebrity sportscaster Mr. T, who Silveira dwarfed.

In fact, to those who'd never seen him fight, Silveira at times appeared bored, as if he were toying with his foolish challengers. That was just his game face, however. Silveira respects far too much those fighters brave enough to step into a ring with him to mock them. Adopting the nickname "Conan," Silveira dispatched his first challenger, Russian judo master Victor Tatarkin, in less than two and a half minutes. Silveira took control from the start, pummeling his outclassed opponent with fist punches and elbow smashes to the head while working him into a devastating chokehold. Tatarkin's corner had to throw in the towel because their fighter was immobilized and he couldn't even tap out (no-holds-barred fighting's version of surrendering by slapping the floor with a free hand).

Silveira withstood a scare in his final bout. His five-foot, eight-inch, 220-pound bowling ball of an opponent, Gary "Iron Bear" Myers, opened a two-inch gash over Silveira's right eye when he pinned Marcus's head against the primitive chainlink cage enclosing the circular ring. The fight was temporarily halted while a ringside doctor ministered to the cut and finally cleared Silveira to resume. Apparently riled by the injury, "Conan" wasted no time utilizing his height advantage to maneuver Myers into a standing chokehold quaintly referred to as "the guillotine." The gracious winner's first action after hearing the ring announcer (who mispronounced his surname as "Silviera" all night long) proclaim him the victor was to congratulate the declawed Iron Bear. Then, pumped full of adrenaline, facing his wife Grace and the representatives of the Gracie clan who were in his corner for the bout, Marcus stood in the middle of the ring, threw his bleeding head back, raised his massive, tattooed arms into the air, and roared a roar that any barbarian would be proud of.

Later, when asked of his wife's reaction to the cut that nearly cost him his crown, Marcus would deadpan, "She knows how much this meant to me. It wasn't the first time she's seen me bleed, and it won't be the last.

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A short piece from the Miami New Times. This is dated April 24, 2003 which is the day before UFC 42: Sudden Impact took place in Miami.

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2003-04-24 ... ood-fight/

The Good Fight

Forget those fake WWF wimps, these wrestlers really go mano a mano

By Juan Carlos Rodriguez Thursday, Apr 24 2003

Musclebound fighters all slick with sweat and Vaseline. Bruised and battered warriors raging on despite puffy welts and cramping legs. Bloody brows, cut lips -- the gasp of a knocked-out brawler struggling to get to his or her feet. There is something primal about watching a really good fistfight. Our rubbernecking hearts race with excitement and revulsion as we cheer a fighter on. Professional wrestling makes gazillions by feeding our lust for violence with choreographed brawls and larger-than-life antics. Wrestlemania's gaseous drama, à la Hulk Hogan and the Rock, has kept worshippers buying tickets and tuning in to the operatic shenanigans.

But if you want to experience the drama of a real mano a mano battle, without the screaming beer-bellied meatheads, check out Sudden Impact Ultimate Fighting Championships Friday night at the American Airlines Arena (601 Biscayne Blvd.). Broadcast live on pay-per-view, the event features top martial artists and kickboxers in such great conditioning they can probably finish triathlons in their sleep. These guys combine the skills of Greco-Roman (Olympic-style) wrestling with Thai kickboxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and more precision-strike kicks, holds, and punches than a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

The eight-bout card features some of the best fighters in the world -- including three undefeated champions -- battling in an octagonal-shaped ring. UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes of Hillsboro, Illinois, defends his belt for the fourth time in the main event against undefeated top contender Sean Sherk of Oak Grove, Minnesota. Also featured is the light-heavyweight battle of Floridian Rich Crunkilton and Hermes Franca, of Brazil and now living in Fort Lauderdale. Local Haitians have a fighter to cheer for as well. Middleweight David Loiseau, a take-down specialist born in Port-au-Prince and now living in Montreal, fights Mark Weir of the United Kingdom.

Ultimate fighters are free to use whichever combination combat styles he wants as long as no kicks or knees are pegged to groins. With such a variety of styles and uninhibited athleticism, it's no wonder ultimate fight fans call their sport the real deal.

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A January 1996 piece from the Dallas Observer...

http://www.dallasobserver.com/1996-01-2 ... on-t-bite/

Just don't bite

In the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the biggest rule is survival of the fiercest

By Kaylois Henry Thursday, Jan 25 1996

It began with the battle of the big men--a bloody scrap they'd still be talking about months later.

In one corner was David "Tank" Abbott. A 280-pound 6-footer, Abbott looked the part of the classic barroom brawler--big, with an enormous beer belly, buzz-cut hair, and no discernible neck. His martial "art"--pitfighting--was a motley blend of whatever worked.

Across the 32-foot Octagon stood John Matua, 6 feet 2 and 400 pounds. His close-cropped, black curly hair and glowering almond eyes gave him the look of an avenging Polynesian god. Indeed, his skill was kuialua--described by commentators as "the Hawaiian art of bone breaking."

In the normal world, the scales of fighting justice would tip to the heavier side. But this was the sixth Ultimate Fighting Championship, one of America's hottest new sports attractions--where rules, like bones, are meant to be broken.

After the referee growled, "Let's get it on!" to signal the start the fight, Abbott made short, destructive work of Matua. The Tank came out steaming, flailing his naked fists and landing a punch to Matua's head. Two more jabs followed.

Matua fell, but quickly got back up. Abbott was ready and unrelenting. He pummeled Matua's head. An uppercut. A jab. A roundhouse punch. Abbott finally landed a solid whack square on Matua's jaw, and the 400-pound man toppled backward. His head slammed against the ground, and Matua stopped moving, save for a tremor in his outstretched legs.

But Abbott wasn't finished yet. He fell on top of the helpless Matua, giving him one more head-shaking punch straight to the jaw, just to be sure.

By this time, the referee had run over and pried off the victor. While the ref checked Matua's condition, Abbott stood over the bloodied, fallen body. He stretched out his arms, made a teasing face, and mugged for the crowd.

The crowd, mostly young white men, roared. The Tank had won by a knockout in less than 30 seconds.

"Cakewalk, baby," he'd crow to the ringside commentator soon afterward.
Just 20 minutes later, Abbott faced another challenger in a semifinal bout of the round robin tournament. This time it was Paul "Polar Bear" Varelans, a "trapfighter" from Alaska, another big man--6 feet 8 and 300 pounds. This was a longer, more grueling fight. Both men drew blood.

But Abbott eventually pinned the Polar Bear against one of the gates that fences in the Octagon. He pounded Varelans' protruding head. He grabbed the downed man's nostrils and yanked his head back. Varelans' nose bled, covering his face and Abbott's fists with red.

At one point, Varelans tried to kick the Tank in the back. Abbott was merely jazzed by the resistance. He shoved his knee in Varelans' bloody face and pressed down, then looked up and smiled to the crowd. Even the commentators were taken aback by Abbott's ruthlessness.

"You usually see more respect here," one said, "but this guy is a street fighter."

The crowd in Casper, Wyoming loved it. They cheered.
Abbott punched.
They cheered more.
Abbott punched harder.

Finally, the referee stopped the match. The Tank had won again. It had taken just over a minute.

In the after-fight interview, Abbott let his braggadocio overflow. "I just wanted to tickle his brain a little bit."

While watching a replay, the gap-toothed brawler said, "Oooooh, I'm starting to get sexually aroused. Better turn that off."

Abbott strutted away from the Octagon, awaiting his fate in the evening's final matchup with The Bear--Oleg Taktarov, an expert in sambo, a Russian military fighting art.

It was a fight that promised to be more than just a letting of bad blood: This was shaping up to be a contest of skill.

In the world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, better known as the UFC, Abbott and Taktarov have become superstars.

No-holds-barred "ultimate fighting," which combines elements of all the martial arts, is the fastest-growing spectator sport on television. The UFC's quarterly tournaments are perfectly suited to pay-per-view cable, where the 2-year-old UFC event has carved out its domain. The winners have to fight three times in two hours, and the viewer gets seven bouts for one admission price.

The UFC touts its lack of rules. These fights aren't the sissified, costume-clad, choreographed spectacles seen in professional wrestling. They are real: the blood, the knocked-out teeth, the battered jaws, and the concussions.

And the fans love it, rewarding Semaphore Entertainment Group, the New York-based creators of the UFC, with ever-increasing audience shares for pay-per-view events as well as brisk video sales and rentals.

But with success comes controversy. As the sport went from being a cult favorite to a full-fledged hit, spawning several low-rent imitators, complaints arose. Opponents decried the lack of rules, some likening the fight-till-you-submit event to "human cockfighting." Lawmakers protested the violence of the sport and what they saw as a lack of safety precautions. Some have tried to find ways to keep UFC tournaments out of their states or at least create rules that soften the sport's vicious side.

But UFC participants say all of this is shortsighted and mistaken. They argue that the sport is safer than boxing--which, they point out, has seen four deaths in the two years the UFC has been operating, while the UFC has experienced none. And the UFC has proven that people want to watch it.

"There are a lot of reasons" for the UFC's growing popularity, says Campbell McLaren, vice president of programming for Semaphore Entertainment Group. "If the '80s were the overblown era, the 1990s seem to be about what is real. People like what is more real, what is more gritty. The UFC is real fighting in a sport form."

In Dallas, three young fighters have set their sights on the UFC's upcoming tournaments. Guy Mezger, 28, owner of Free Style Martial Arts studio in downtown Dallas, has already fought in two UFCs. For him, the UFC has been a chance to jump-start his sagging professional fighting career. Anthony Macias, 26, head of security at Cabaret Royale, has also fought in two UFCs--IV and VI--and is itching for another shot in the Octagon. Tra Telligman, 30, owner of Pavers Plus contracting in Dallas, is training for a chance to get into the next tournament--UFC IX in Puerto Rico, scheduled for February 16.

The men differ in martial-arts specialties and social backgrounds, but are united in their need to convince themselves that all the years of training as fighters means something.

The UFC has become that redemptive proving ground.
"This is a chance to showcase what I do," Mezger says, "a chance to show that I am the best."

Despite the UFC's promotional claims to the contrary, there are rules in the Octagon. No biting or eye gouging is allowed, but that's about it for order.

In UFC tournaments, there are no rounds. Each quarter- or semifinal bout lasts a maximum of 20 minutes. The final match and the "superfight"--an exhibition clash of past UFC champions--both have a 30-minute limit, with a five-minute overtime period if the match ends in a draw. Matches have typically been held once every three months, although in 1996, SEG will expand to stage five tournaments.

During a match, the referee can restart the fight if the action has come to a standstill, which often happens in final matches, when the fighters have tired somewhat and technique tends to override brute strength. A fight may be won through knockout, submission hold, or disqualification. A fighter's corner can throw in the towel and stop the fight, or a referee can order a halt to the match.

Semaphore came to produce ultimate fighting purely as a fluke, McLaren adds. SEG is an entertainment company that has tried to create shows for pay-per-view cable. It produced the rock opera Tommy, a New Kids on the Block concert, and the Martina Navratilova-Jimmy Connors tennis match. SEG found that boxing and wrestling consistently did well with paying television audiences, but the company was hesitant to enter that arena because the market was already saturated.

Then McLaren heard of a Brazilian family, the Gracies, who were willing to fight anyone, any way, for $100,000. SEG thought it was a great idea. Thus, in 1993, the first UFC was launched. The main event pitted a 600-pound sumo wrestler against a 190-pound member of the Gracie family. And David beat the Goliath.

Actually, according to McLaren, ultimate fighting is a modern version of the very ancient Greek sport of "pankration," which combined wrestling with boxing. It, too, was a no-holds-barred sport, and was one of the events in the first Olympics of 648 B.C.

Even then, this style of fighting was considered brutal. Ancient accounts show that the more battered the winner, the greater his fame. But this was classical Greece, where blood and sport were elevated to a level of popularity perhaps matched only by the Aztecs and their practice of human sacrifice.

A modern-day UFC fight has eight contestants and four alternates. The rounds are broken up into quarterfinal, semifinal, and final matches. The fighters battle it out round-robin-style until two remain. Then they go for the championship.

The monetary stakes are attractive to martial-arts aficionados. A fighter gets $5,000 for showing up, and alternates, who can take the place of contestants unable to complete all their matches, make $2,000. The usual champion's purse is $50,000, although the Ultimate Ultimate tournament, held in Denver last month, offered a grand prize of $150,000. While the UFC offers nowhere near the millions at stake in big-name boxing, its prize money makes it one of the highest-paying martial-arts tournaments in the country, McLaren says.

UFC pay-per-view productions are designed for maximum entertainment value. Participants make video resumes that show them fighting and talking about what they hope to do in the Octagon. They enter the arena in a billowing cloud of fog, complete with black-clad retinues carrying banners. An announcer familiar to boxing fans, Michael Buffer, stokes the crowd, introduces the fighters, and touts the lack of rules. He then asks his trademark question: "Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to rrrrrumble?"

SEG designed the UFC to appeal to a largely male, young audience. A quick pan around a fight venue shows hundreds of baseball cap-wearing twenty- and thirtysomethings calling for blood.

Even though the UFC's obvious appeal is violence, McLaren plays down the danger of the sport. Most of its critics have taken incidents from the first few matches and used them to characterize the entire, evolving sport. It's not fair, McLaren complains.

Critics never acknowledge the changes SEG has made, McLaren says. So a guy's tooth was knocked out in UFC I; now, all combatants are asked to wear mouth protectors. Yes, Matua was briefly knocked unconscious from Tank's final, nasty blow to the head; but a ringside doctor and ambulance crew immediately attended to him, and he eventually left the Octagon on his feet.

Another no-no in the UFC is padded gloves--the kind boxers use. "Boxing gloves are a weapon," McLaren says. "They allow a man to hit another man in the head over and over again." Without gloves, he adds, the head is a lot harder than a person's hand, and that fact will naturally bring some caution to a barefisted brawl.

Gloves, however, are a necessity if one wishes to fight in a state with a boxing commission--like Texas. In Oklahoma, a boxing commission was launched in 1995, right after UFC IV had been staged in Tulsa. That move effectively banned the sport in that state. Jim Hall, Oklahoma's boxing administrator, said at the time that he was concerned about the no-rules nature of the UFC. Hall, who is also past president of the Association of Boxing Commissioners, sees no problem with today's UFC matches, but worries about the safety of the fighters--even if they don't themselves.

Although the UFC has never staged an event in Texas, a recent change to the state's boxing rules could be used to bar the event because contenders are now required to wear gloves.

Some lawmakers object to the sport altogether, and have tried to ban it. In Arizona, Republican Sen. John McCain has advocated starting a federal boxing commission to prevent UFC-style events. Newspapers across the country have condemned the fights as barbarous. Yet these same critics defend boxing, because of the commissions that watch over it.

This riles UFC advocates. To hold boxing up as the standard that all fighting events should equal is akin to holding up a criminal as a model citizen, McLaren says.

"Boxing stinks," he says. "It seems rigged. The best draw in boxing is a convicted rapist...who is held up as the epitome of the sport. To be like boxing would be a step down for us."

Pay-per-view numbers show growing audience appreciation for the UFC. Since its first pay-per-view broadcast in 1993, the UFC has increased its audience by leaps and bounds--from 80,000 to more than 300,000 for the Ultimate Ultimate.

Hugh Panero, CEO of Request Television, the largest pay-per-view distributor in America, says the UFC has pulled impressive numbers in its short run. He ranks its matches third in ratings of all pay-per-view events, behind major boxing matches and major professional wrestling matches. But he doesn't see ultimate fighting surpassing boxing anytime soon.

Those who don't want to pony up the UFC's $19.95 pay-per-view fee can pick up a video if they can find it. Rentals of UFC videos have been strong, making them the most popular sports titles in the country for Blockbuster Video, according to a company source.

Why do it?
It's the first thing you want to ask someone who has fought or aspires to fight in the UFC. For Dallas' Mezger, Macias, and Telligman, the answers differ, but the sentiment is the same. The Octagon gives them a chance to show off.

"After being in that ring, I'm afraid of nothing and no one," Guy Mezger says. "I got a chance to face death, so to speak. I lived. I won."

Nowhere else in martial arts is there a tournament that pits the different fighting disciplines against each other, Mezger says. The UFC also showcases some relatively obscure martial arts. Most people are familiar with kickboxing, but not many have heard of Muay Thai fighting, the full-contact version of kickboxing that allows elbow and knee blows to the body and legs.

You may be tops in your respective fighting art, but the UFC is the way to know how you truly rate, Mezger adds.

Mezger is a philosopher in the body of an action hero--6 feet 1, lean, 205 pounds, with a face like a saint and long black hair pulled into a ponytail. His manners are old-fashioned: He holds doors open and pulls out chairs for women, for example. And for him, fighting has been a means to several ends: first, to channel his youthful exuberance; next, to make money; and now, to own and operate his own freestyle martial-arts studio.

Mezger got into martial arts at age eight--when he began wrestling. Later, at 13, he got into karate. The two sports kept him too exhausted to cause much trouble, he says.

Fighting in the UFC was the break he needed to advance his professional ambitions. As a result of his two UFC appearances, Mezger now fights monthly in Japan, where the money is good and steady for UFC-style sports. "To be honest, the notoriety has been good," Mezger says. "I think it suits me."

For Anthony Macias, who fights under the name Mad Dog, participating in the UFC is living his lifelong dream: a chance to fight on television. "You know, like the Bruce Lee movies," he says. "That's why I'm so happy."

Macias was born and raised in Oklahoma, and fought in his home state for his first UFC appearance in UFC IV. He has been named both American and world champion in Muay Thai. His fighting record is 38-4--with 28 won by knockout.

Macias looks like a fighter. He's a lean 205 pounds on a 5-foot-10 frame. His head, with its closely cropped hair, is pockmarked and angular.

Macias came up the hard way. He says his mother gravitated toward "terrible" men who would beat her or Anthony's two older sisters. Macias says he tried a number of times to defend his family, but "didn't do too well."

"I just had a line of abusive father figures," he says. "I've always fought. I am going to be around violence one way or the other. I'd rather get paid for it than be in prison."

There is a deep contrast, however, between Macias, the fighter, and Macias, the man. Though he says fighting is like breathing or walking--an extension of his being--he considers himself a nonviolent person with a high regard for life and living things. He appears to treat his wife, Lisa, a petite, delicate woman who weighs less than 100 pounds, with the utmost care and gentleness.

For an interview, Macias changed into a suit after a hard practice earlier this month. Lisa wears an elegant long black velvet skirt with a ruffled white shirt. They look as if they are going out on the town.

"Anthony likes to make sure that he makes a good impression," Lisa explains. "He doesn't want people to think that he is a thug."

Macias is also a practicing Christian. His sensei back in Oklahoma was also his pastor. When he fights, his wife and family set aside a certain time for prayer to give him strength. They pray no matter where he is. He sees no incongruity between what he does and being a Christian. What matters is what is in your heart, he says.

"I've always been able to turn it off," Macias says. "When I leave the hotel room [for a match], I become Mad Dog rather than Anthony Macias."

To Tra Telligman, 30, fighting is a sport, but not a way of life. His life, so far, has been his contracting business and his work with the Polytechnic Main Street, a volunteer organization that does repairs to low-income housing. Fighting is his secret life. "Most of my friends don't know I'm doing this," he says.

Telligman is a native Texan. Tall, with long blond hair ("which gets cut off this week," he says), he looks more like a gentleman rancher than a fighter. He has practiced flowing circles-style jujitsu for 10 years, and the martial arts in general for 20. He fought in a UFC-style tourney in Russia, where he won by knocking out his opponent.

Telligman has been training for the last month or so on the slim chance that he will get a berth among the eight contestants for the Puerto Rico UFC in February.

"It's hard to explain," he says. "It's...it's a big deal. It's a chance to prove that you are better than they are, and you are matched with some of the finest fighters in the world."

To critics, someone like Tank Abbott, the bare-knuckle bruiser of UFC VI, epitomizes the UFC. He's ruthless. He gloats over the fallen bodies of opponents with a ghoulish glee. He has no front teeth. He likes to pound his opponents into submission or unconsciousness.

But if you ask the fighters, Abbott is the decided minority.
"Ohhh, that guy," says Mezger, rolling his eyes. "He gives the sport a bad name."

Macias agrees, saying that 98 percent of UFC fighters are "great guys. But Tank, he is the 2 percent who are not."

McLaren, who remained mum on the subject of Abbott, says people would be surprised at how calm and positively businesslike the typical UFC fighter is. "Fighting is what they do. They are focused and relaxed," he says.

So how does one get to be a UFC contender? It is a tedious process.
McLaren says he receives anywhere from 300 to 1,000 applications from men wanting one of the eight berths in a UFC tournament. (Women are not permitted to fight in the Octagon.) From there, SEG winnows out the real contenders.

Every fighter must be recognized by a national or international martial-arts body as a champion in his field. Contestants must be at least 21 years old, and a fighter must have full-contact experience and go through a medical evaluation.

Once a fighter meets those criteria, the selection becomes subjective. McLaren says he tries to mix it up, bringing in fighters from a variety of disciplines to face each other in the ring. He looks for exotic styles. He also looks at the sorts of recommendations a fighter gets.

Having an agent helps. Buddy Albin of Denton has become promoter extraordinaire for the UFC. Albin started his career as a professional wrestling and kickboxing promoter 15 years ago. He saw a good thing in the UFC, and latched onto the infant sport soon after it was organized. Since then, he's supplied the UFC with some of its better-known fighters, including Taktarov and Macias.

Albin sees money to be made in the UFC. Taktarov, one of the UFC's biggest stars, now gets $25,000 just for showing up at a match. Albin, of course, takes a cut, though he won't say how much. In addition, Albin goes to the Ukraine from time to time on scouting missions--in search of the next big man in the Octagon. The Ukraine has "120 schools for UFC fighting," he claims.

Albin plans to import two Ukrainian fighters who are world sambo champions and have beaten Taktarov. "These guys are 6 feet 9 and 7 feet, 300 pounds, and less than 8 percent body fat," Albin says with relish. "They have never been beaten, and they are brothers."

The controversy surrounding UFC-style events couldn't be more advantageous for Albin. The more the politicians hate it, the more publicity it gets. "These guys [the media] sell out my shows," Albin crows. "We don't need to advertise anymore. I sent them all Christmas cards."

Guy Mezger got involved in the UFC through Albin. Mezger was a national kickboxing champion with a 22-2 record, with 19 wins by knockout. The UFC was looking for a kickboxer to fight in a challenge match--an exhibition pairing of two fighters of different disciplines. Albin thought Mezger was perfect. Mezger wasn't so sure.

"Buddy took me to UFC III, and I thought, 'This is nuts. No way.'" Albin explained to him that to the victor comes the spoils of fame. So Mezger agreed to participate.

The weeks leading up to his debut match were harder than Mezger thought. Here he was, a man who had fought and won countless kickboxing matches and had never backed down from a fight, but found that the thought of going into the Octagon disturbed his rest.

"I could not sleep for weeks," he says. He didn't worry about getting hurt--he worried about losing. "I mean, if I lose, then the whole world would see it," he recalls thinking then. "The first time Guy Mezger fights on television, and he loses in front of everyone." That thought kept him pacing and training.

The night of his fight, Mezger says, an eerie calm fell upon him, as though he had burned up all his nervousness in the previous weeks. He met his opponent, Jason Fairn, a 225-pound jujitsu expert. Both men had long hair. At the beginning of the match, Mezger and Fairn made a gentlemen's agreement: no hair pulling.

Mezger took the long walk down the hall to his corner of the Octagon and waited. Then he heard the tell-tale scrape of the bolt locking the two inside the ring.

"Let's get it on!" the ref said.
Mezger and Fairn went at it.
The match lasted about two minutes. At one point, Mezger had Fairn pinned to the ground, trying to get a choke hold on him. Fairn could have reached up and pulled Mezger's locks, but he didn't. He was a gentleman to the end. Fairn eventually tapped out, signaling that he was in a hold from which he couldn't free himself.

Anthony Macias' forays into the Octagon came through determination and a bit of fibbing. Two years ago, he watched one of the first UFC matches on television. He decided right then that he was going to do that. He found an application for the UFC in the back of Black Belt magazine, and sent it in, including a list of his titles, his win ratio, and notes on his expertise.

But he lied about his weight. He said he was 190 pounds; in reality he was 165. "They wouldn't have let me in otherwise," he explains.

Macias was picked from among the 300 applicants for UFC IV in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because of his connection to Albin, the fighter says. He was pitted against Dan Severn, a 35-year-old, 250-pound Greco-Roman wrestler who's a darling of the UFC. Macias was unknown and underweight. But he fought valiantly, he says.

"The oddsmakers had it at 100-1 that I would last past 30 seconds," Macias says, laughing at the memory. "The match went one minute, 48 seconds." He lost.

After two years, the UFC is becoming its own small world, where a bond often develops among the men who have fought in the Octagon. Macias, Mezger, and Telligman met through the UFC and have trained together for a year now. Friends who have trained together, however, may find themselves at the opposite ends of the ring. The results can sometimes leave those friendships in tatters.

It happened to Macias in UFC VI. He was an alternate, who decisively won his bout against Bill "He-man" Gibson. One of the semifinal contenders was unable to go on, and Macias replaced him. He was to fight against Taktarov. Taktarov and Macias had trained together for more than a year and were both managed by Albin. The two fighters were also friends.

Macias doesn't like to talk about what happened in the ring today. What viewers saw was Macias running at Taktarov and Taktarov grabbing Macias and immediately taking him to the ground. Taktarov then placed Macias in a choke hold. The entire fight took less than 20 seconds.

"I won't say that I fought Oleg, but I won't say that I didn't, either," Macias says, "but it won't happen again. That took a lot out of me. It's not a problem for me to fight anyone [in the Octagon], not even my mother."

A recent practice finds Mezger, Macias, and Telligman in Mezger's Oak Lawn studio practicing their punching and kicking. Macias is on the heavy bag, double punching, kicking, double punching. "High, low, high, low," he says in cadence.

Giving a hit, these fighters say, is much like swinging a racket or a bat; it's all a matter of finding the sweet spot.

"You know when you get a good hit," Telligman says.
"Yeah, it causes your arm to vibrate--like a bat against a telephone pole," Macias adds.

Another practice has the three grappling on the cold mats of a judo studio off Northwest Highway. Before a fight, the men practice their ground work, because a fighter can have all the high kicks and swift punches in the world, but if he can't work on the mat, he's defeated.

Grappling on the floor takes a great deal more skill than just being able to bash someone with a good right cross, Mezger says. "There is an intellectual side to this. It's skill and technique. A large percentage [of UFC fighters] look at it from that aspect."

Once an opponent is on the ground, the idea is to get him to submit. This can be done through a variety of submission holds, many of which were made famous by professional wrestling--"only they're real" in the UFC, Macias says. The figure four, figure eight, ankle hook, leg lock, and arm lock are all used.

The three men trade off fighting each other, and three others are present to spar. Macias says they need the extras; otherwise they'd wear each other out.

Grappling, with its reliance on technique, is the irony of the UFC. While critics complain unceasingly about the competition's violent nature, most of the matches don't end in the bloodletting seen in the UFC VI's Abbott-Varelans pairing. Most end up on the ground, with little discernible action. You wonder what the big deal is.

In the final bout of UFC VI, "Tank" Abbott faced Oleg Taktarov. Abbott came out swinging, trying to take Taktarov down with head punches. He didn't count on the Russian being so hardheaded. Taktarov barely budged.

Taktarov, who had defeated his two earlier opponents, also found Abbott difficult to take down. Taktarov got Abbott on the ground a few times, but couldn't get a hold on him to make him submit.

In the end, the audience was treated to the sight of two grown men--who at times did little more than lie inertly on top of each another--throwing halfhearted punches in response to a referee's prodding. Twice, the referee broke up the fighters' embrace to make them start again. Both times they ended up in the same position: punch, pant, punch, pant, punch and pant some more.

Seventeen minutes after the start of the fight, Taktarov won the match by finally forcing Abbott into a choke hold. The Tank tapped out.

Abbott and Taktarov collapsed on the mat. Medics ran to their sides, administering oxygen and aid. A few minutes later, Abbott got up and left the Octagon.

Taktarov had to be helped to his feet and held like a child while he raised an arm in victory.

But he did it. For this one night, he was The Man.

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A January 2001 Dallas Observer piece on The Fighter's House a Dallas area gym that Shannon Ritch and others were involved with...

http://www.dallasobserver.com/2001-01-1 ... -bangfest/


A Real Bangfest

Pounded by state regulators and rabbit-punched by promoters, the gladiators at Fighter's House struggle for legitimacy

By Thomas Korosec Thursday, Jan 18 2001

"I'm off like a prom dress," says Shannon Ritch, finishing an afternoon of 330-pound bench presses--not bad for a guy who weighs 190 tops. He brushes back his bleached-blond flattop, adjusts a black T-shirt over his T-bone shoulders, and swaggers toward the door. The aggressive blare of Limp Bizkit and DMX rattles the boombox in the corner as a few students continue working out. At the center of the storefront gym, a skinny guy is mashing away at a heavy bag. On the floor beyond, two heavyset men grapple on a mat, fighting for the top position in a contest that looks at first glance like rough sex.

On the walls around them are a couple of Ritch's trophies and belts from the bush leagues of his sport: the Absolute Face Off in Phoenix in 1999; Super Brawl IX, held in El Paso in September 1998; the World Free-Fighting Championship at Dallas' Bronco Bowl. There's also a slick, fat program, housed in a glass case, from Ritch's October trip to the big time, the Pride11 fighting championship in Osaka, Japan.

Appearing before a crowd of 20,000 fans at a ring built next to an ancient Samurai castle, Ritch got his shot at Kazushi Sakuraba, a reigning prince of the sport. In Japan, where the cable TV audience for the fights numbers 2 million or more, Sakuraba's popularity extends to TV spots for Kirin beer, clothing endorsements, and a fast-selling autobiography. That's considerably above its standing in the United States, where mixed martial arts--also known as no-holds-barred, extreme fighting, or vale tudo (anything goes, in Portuguese)--has been limping along for the last several years in the fringe world of satellite TV, specialty videotapes, and small-time shows staged in second-tier venues.

Entering the Osaka ring through a gaudy blast of fireworks and smoke, Ritch looked fit and game as he stripped off his black wrap-around sunglasses and red T-shirt, exposing the crucifix tattoo on his back. In contrast to Ritch's rippled physique, Sakuraba looked almost soft. But the difference in their skills was another matter altogether.

After circling the ring like two barefoot boxers, fists covered in light, fingerless gloves, Ritch and Sakuraba traded two vicious leg kicks--weapons borrowed from Thai kickboxing. After another rapid-fire exchange of thigh-high kicks that sent Sakuraba briefly to the mat, Ritch rushed his opponent, lunged slightly, and offered the champ the only opening he needed. Sakuraba grabbed Ritch's knee, levered him to the ground, and, employing a move borrowed from Brazilian jujitsu, applied a harmless-looking but agonizing hold to Ritch's foot. The challenger had no choice but to tap his opponent's leg, signaling submission and the end of the match.

The fight lasted 68 seconds, although it left a more enduring impression on Ritch and his friend Todd Handel, a fighter who flew with him to Japan and served as his corner man.

Stoked by the money and sporting prestige no-holds-barred fighting commands across the Pacific, Ritch and Handel returned to Fighter's House, their gym in suburban Farmers Branch, ready to ramp up the local action. Fighting-wise, it was time to start heading Dallas up the long road to world class.

Rather than simply train the several dozen students who work out at Fighter's House, they began hosting twice-monthly amateur matches on Saturday mornings and charging spectators $5 a head. "We wanted to give people a chance to show what they've got," says Handel, who won five regional pro fights before injuries set in.

Little did they know they were about to pick a fight few think they can win.

Within six weeks, Texas boxing officials declared the fights illegal, and state Attorney General John Cornyn moved swiftly and publicly to shut them down. Ritch and Handel were threatened with jail if they refused to comply.

Although they obeyed the state's order, they argued to anyone who would listen that the sport's heavyweight critics--Arizona Sen. John McCain, columnist George Will, the American Medical Association, to name a few--simply don't understand. "We're fighting for our sport. This is a way to do it," says Handel, the gym's chief trainer and part owner, who argues his game is no more dangerous than boxing or football.

Over the last two years, aspiring pros from Fighter's House have gone to Indian reservations and Mexican bullrings, put up with sleazy promoters and missed paydays to punch, kick, and grapple guys as tough as, or tougher than, they are. With the same crazy nerve, they weighed in to extreme fighting's uphill battle for legitimacy and acceptance, a contest it has been losing in the United States for the last three years. Decried as a barbaric spectacle, no-holds-barred fighting has generated a lot of hand-wringing from pundits and politicians who say America is heading straight to a brutal, blood-spurting hell.

Texas made clear where it stands on the issue in October, when it installed a new set of highly restrictive rules. "You start talking about no-holds-barred fighting, and you automatically throw up a red flag," says Dick Cole, Texas' top boxing official. "It sounds like somebody is gonna get hurt."

Using the same "anything goes" marketing hype that helped knock the sport's top American event--the Ultimate Fighting Championship--off cable TV in 1997, Fighter's House dubbed its Saturday-morning matches the "Back Yard Brawl...in your yard, in yer face." The name grew out of backyard mixed-martial-arts fights Handel and some friends used to hold at a friend's house in Irving, before they began training in a gym. "It was like, watch out you don't fall into the dog house or hit your head on the boat," Handel remembers.

For rules, which can change from contest to contest in the still-developing sport, Handel and Ritch outlawed the most radioactive feature of no-holds-barred fighting: closed-fist punches to the head. Those are taboo in Texas without the use of regulation boxing gloves, which have no use in ultimate fighting. They also banned the cheap shots that are prohibited in most contests: fish-hooking (grabbing inside the mouth), head-butting, and eye-gouging, the moves that made the Three Stooges every mother's curse. But Handel and Ritch permitted liberal use of kneeing, as well as blows by a standing fighter directed at his opponent on the ground, which are outlawed under Texas' new rules.

Because they were charging a nominal admission, they also were violating a raft of state regulations governing commercial fights. They had no promoter's license, no licensed referees, no ambulance, no emergency medical crew, no approved ring, and on and on.

"I told them what they were doing was against the law," says Cole, the state boxing official who was among 30 paying customers on hand in early December for Back Yard Brawl III and its four amateur matches.

What happened next brought down the state's regulatory fist, he says. They began promoting and putting out flyers for another Back Yard Brawl.

"Yup, they were trying to shut us down," Ritch told the small band of adherents reading the gym's Web site in advance of Back Yard Brawl IV, which he promised would be "a real bangfest." "I guess we will see what happens next."

Attorney General Cornyn answered Ritch's question on December 15, the day before the fight. Acting at Cole's request, his office obtained a temporary restraining order. "Unfettered and unprotected fight contests such as these surely don't always have a happy ending," Cornyn said in a release that sent TV crews and newspaper reporters scurrying north to see what this "fight club" was all about.

Fighter's House was hardly conducting unfettered fights, words that bring to mind images of men stripping down and beating one another to a pulp. But it was pushing its brand of sport fighting beyond what is allowed in Texas and all but a handful of states that have either banned or strictly regulated full-contact mixed martial arts.

"I know these young men want to be successful in their sport. They love it, like people love boxing. But sometimes you have a love that bites you in the ass," says Cole, who has been in boxing since 1948. "You know the expression. They have a paddle to fit every backside, and everyone gets a chance to expose it."

To Handel, Ritch, and a handful of others who train at Fighter's House, mixed martial arts is not only a sport, but the ultimate sport. To do it well, they explain with missionary zeal, an athlete must be strong, flexible, quick, endurance-hardened, and cross-trained in a variety of skills, including the most practical elements of the martial arts.

"People who make this spiritual, they're just wasting their time," says Handel. "It's all strength and leverage...what works in a real fight."

And these guys should know. A core group of them work as bouncers at Laura's Last Chance, Zubar, Cuba Libre, and other Dallas-area clubs, jobs that leave the afternoons free for hitting the gym. They've wrapped so many rowdies around the neck and tossed them out of Jack's Pub that they joke about giving out T-shirts: "I was jacked at Jack's."

On New Year's night, five Fighter's House guys were at their posts at Jack's, a roadhouse near SMU with a reputation as the bar in town on Monday nights. Handel, a compact 26-year-old, worked the door, shivering against the cold in a windbreaker and thin stocking cap. The glibbest of the crew, he flirted with the young women in line ("Hey, what's your favorite water sport?") in between explaining a few things about his fighter-trainer-bouncer life.

A Farmers Branch kid who was drawn more to paintball and racing remote-controlled cars than making grades at R.L. Turner High School, he began learning kickboxing and the jujitsu "ground game" of locks, defense, and holds in local gyms, he says. He added other elements of mixed martial arts while stationed with the Navy in Southern California, the U.S. hotbed of the sport. After two years in the Navy, which Handel calls "the biggest bunch of losers I've ever seen," he returned to Dallas, moved in with his commercial-photographer father, and began training in earnest to become a pro. In his best fight, in McAllen a year and a half ago, he outclassed a bigger opponent and finished him off with a triangle choke, a leg lock around the neck that blocks the flow of blood to the brain, causing a temporary blackout.

"We're all poor right now. Eventually we'll be able to pay the credit cards off," he says.

After a while, as he talks engagingly about the bit TV parts, the screenplays-in-the-works, and prospects of moving to Hollywood to work in martial arts movies, he sounds like someone with a lot of big ideas, if not solid plans. His personality--think TV fitness trainer, plenty of fizz and enthusiasm--and knowledge make Handel a teaching draw at the gym.

His friend Joe Garcia, who has known Handel since he was a kid, is working this night at Jack's main bar, a cramped horseshoe-shaped space where all the nudging and shoving produce their share of drunken scuffles.

A husky, rounded, soft-spoken guy, Garcia moved to Handel's neighborhood from Oak Cliff, where his first introduction to fighting came on the streets. "My neighborhood was very tough. There were a lot of black kids who would beat me up, so I learned how to protect myself in a straight fight--you know, 'I'm gonna knock you out.'"

Learning kickboxing, tae kwon do, and jujitsu over the past six years with his friend Handel, he's now teaching students at Fighter's House and training every day. Garcia, 24, is undefeated in four pro fights, but holds few thoughts about making a living at the sport.

This fight game, like the old one it's trying to replace, is littered with sleazy promoters, false promises, and slim paydays, he says.

He fought in a bullring in Nuevo Laredo last year and was stiffed. He's fighting in Arizona this month and has been promised only airfare and $200. Because the sport exists in a netherworld between legality and illegality, the rules are spotty and unclear. In California, for instance, pro fights are staged on Indian reservations to get beyond state prohibitions. Out there on the fringe, there is no drug testing for substances such as steroids or uppers, making for fights that are less fair, he says.

"I like training with these guys. They're good guys. You can challenge yourself every day. That's the good part about the sport," Garcia says. "The bad part is, it's usually a big scam on the money side. They offer you a thousand, and you leave with a hundred. You're in the hole. That's what discourages me. You're not treated like a professional athlete."

So while he has ideas about making it to Pride or the UFC, which is trying to make a comeback on satellite TV, he spends four hours a day taking computer networking courses at Richland Community College. Garcia figures that's a more likely road to a steady job.

Mark Graham
Fighter-trainer Joe Garcia unloads on a heavy bag. Thai kickboxing is one of the big, flashy weapons in mixed martial arts.

At 30, Ritch has already executed some of his career plans. For the last decade, he's been finding ways to get paid to fight, mixing it between jobs as a bodyguard, teaching self-defense, and, a few years back, working as a guard in an Arizona prison.

The son of a boot maker from rural Coolidge, Arizona, Ritch says he grew up ranch-work tough, and there were plenty of chances to match fighting skills with the local Mexican kids. He studied karate when he was young, wrestled in high school, and later became proficient enough at kickboxing to make $200 or $300 for a fight.

Scanning Jack's with quick glances, he says he's always been a little high-strung. "I think I had A.D.D. as a kid. The fighting's helped that. I just love to fight. One time a guy asked me to do a pit fight. Really, no rules, some secret location behind a warehouse. I fought in jeans and whatever, just fight."

In no-holds-barred, Ritch says, he's been in more than 70 "shows," with 51 wins. He says he has about five good years left and wants to return to Japan this spring.

On the bouncing side, Ritch is the guy his friends say can be counted on to wade in when fists fly. Just before closing time, he proves them right.

After tossing one shirtless guy out into the cold with a ferocious kick, Ritch headed back into the bar and soon was bursting out with another--an enormous man, at least 290 pounds and woozy from drink.

"He called me a midget!" the 5-foot-9 Ritch roared to Handel as the two began facing each other in the parking lot. After the guy told Ritch to commit an impossible act on himself, and Ritch came back with a phrase he illustrated by pointing to his zipper, the fighter opened his arms and crowed, "Come on, let's dance. They're playing my song."

Lucky for Ritch's would-be opponent, he just stood there for an impossible minute and didn't provide much resistance when a couple of friends nudged and pushed him toward their car.

"He would have rushed me," Ritch told Handel as he headed back into the bar. He circled his arms, feigning how he might have wrapped the man's neck into a nasty no-holds-barred headlock. "It would have been perfect for the guillotine."

Mark Graham
Shannon Ritch is the gym's most seasoned fighter. He's been brawling for money for 10 years.

The rise and fall of mixed martial arts in America over the past seven years has left local hopefuls such as the Fighter's House core group in an interesting place. They latched on to the sport as it was evolving and developing. But since it hit a wall of disapproval, their ambitions have few places to go.

The sport burst into view in the United States in 1993, when Brazilian jujitsu master Rorion Gracie teamed up with pay-per-view's Semaphore Entertainment Group to produce the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. With the slogan "there are no rules," the promoters built an octagonal chain-link cage and invited top martial artists to mix it up. Kickboxers vs. wrestlers. Boxers vs. karate champions. Using pretzel-like moves to tie up and submit opponents outweighing him by as much as 100 pounds, Royce Gracie, Rorion's brother, became the event's first star.

The fights, which promised the sort of ultraviolence that built the Roman Coliseum, were an instant success. The tension, electricity, and pure violence of it, much like a playground fight, provided a marketable spectacle. As many as 300,000 households paid $19.95 to watch the likes of former Olympic wrestler Dan "The Beast" Severn land more than 200 elbow strikes against 270-pound pit-fighter "Tank" Abbott, the king of head-butts.

In Congress, op-ed pages, and the executive suites of the nation's cable TV companies, pressure on the sport began to mount. In 1996, Arizona Sen. John McCain led a one-man crusade against ultimate fighting after someone sent him a fight tape. McCain called the sport "barbaric" and sent a letter to all 50 governors asking them to ban "human cockfighting."

Soon, the American Medical Association recommended a ban. Athletic commissions in important venue states such as Nevada and New York refused to sanction the sport. Cable TV pulled the plug.

Clyde Gentry III, an editor of a Dallas-based fanzine on Hong Kong kung fu films who is writing a book on no-holds-barred, says the early days of UFC hardly served the sport well. "The marketing elements got carried away with it," he says, pointing out that early UFC fights were billed as matches to the death, and that videotape boxes played up the blood and doom.

But the sport and the UFC have evolved, spawning contests no more dangerous than boxing--and very likely less dangerous because there are only occasional blows to the head, he says. And unlike boxing, where fighters are shamed into taking a beating, it's not bad form to surrender, to "tap out," in a no-holds-barred match.

Light gloves, which protect against cuts, and prohibitions against early UFC staples such as head-butting and elbow shots, have bred an organic, skill-driven sport, Gentry argues. After several initial exchanges of punches or kicks, the fight usually goes into grappling, take-downs, and holds. "On the ground you have to be pretty intelligent to know what to do. There's not a lot of flash," says Gentry. "With the athleticism and strategy that goes into these fights, it's a human chess match. You have three-dimensional fighting that to me is so much more entertaining than boxing."

That is how it is viewed in Japan, he says, and there are signs that the UFC, still the Nike of the sport in America, is making its comeback here. This fall the series held its first sanctioned fight in Atlantic City at the Trump Taj Mahal, where Olympic-grade wrestlers Randy "The Natural" Couture and Kevin "The Monster" Randleman, the current champ, faced off in the featured heavyweight bout.

After several rounds of grappling in which Randleman appeared to be in command, Couture climbed aboard his opponent's chest, struggled against several defensive maneuvers, then unleashed a flurry of punches to both sides of Randleman's head. As quickly as in an amateur boxing match, the ref jumped in, declared a winner, and stopped the fight.

At places such as Fighter's House, which is one of four mixed martial arts gyms in the area, guys are learning those moves as an integrated whole, Gentry says. Out of gyms like this the sport will be built--if they are allowed to practice it at all.

Todd Handel and Shannon Ritch drop down on a living-room sofa, rifle through a set of videotapes, and check how Fighter's House fared the night before on the TV news. "On Channel 4 we beat out George Bush!" Handel says enthusiastically, taking a bite from his burger-in-a-bag lunch before turning back to his giant TV. A big screen comes in handy for a sport that lives on videotape, the rentable kind as well as dupes of fight footage from Japan and Brazil.

Nearly every breaking-news report about the state's crackdown makes a reference to Fight Club, the Brad Pitt film about men exploring their savage nature in bare-knuckle brawls.

"People think we're like those kids pro-wrestling in the trailer park, you know, with their white-trash parents drunk on Keystone beer," moans Jason House, a Fighter's House regular. A few days later, someone at Fighter's House mockingly tacks a Fight Club poster on the gym's wall. Handel liked the movie, but says it was completely unrealistic.

Underground pit-fighting, to the extent it occurs, is about illegal betting, not abstract quests, he says.

Mark Graham
Jason House, a Fighter's House regular, shows off a cut over his right eye. "It's not a sissy sport," says Dick Cole, the state's top boxing official.

Kirk Dudley, the gym's majority owner, ducked the cameras and stayed in the background last month when the state officials came to visit, letting Ritch and Handel wade into the fray. "Fighters have big egos," he says, talking in the middle of an evening workout. "They wanted to be out there."

On the business side, "the idea was for us to get a couple of hundred [dollars] for rent, generate a little interest, and attract a few new students," says Dudley, a 37-year-old construction contractor who turned a space formerly occupied by a Color Tile store into a clean, well-equipped gym.

Tanned, rock-hard, and blessed with movie-star looks, Dudley is as enthusiastic about no-holds-barred as the fighters, which is why he opened the gym about 18 months ago. Since then, he has taught his 6-year-old son, Drake, most of the basic moves, which the two run through on the mat. Dudley gives the commands: "Kick...Arm bar...Arm bar escape...Guillotine...Guillotine escape." He says he's teaching his son golf and hunting too. "I think it's good he learns a few basics about defending himself," Dudley says. "If he likes it, he can take it from there."

As much as anyone, Dudley is frustrated with the sport's quasi-outlaw status and the way state officials have tried to rein it in. "I've seen thousands of fights, and in my opinion, the more you water this sport down and try to make it less violent, the more you prolong the fight and actually make it more dangerous. Fatigue becomes a factor. A guy gets a little woggy, and that's when he gets hurt--after it goes round after round."

While not a pro, Dudley speaks from some experience. For the thrill of it, he fought a pro fight in Killeen last June. He won, but only after his opponent chinned him and blackened his eye. "I was completely gassed," he says.

As a business built on students who pay $100 a month to train, Fighter's House has been a rough proposition, Dudley says. "I hear on TV we have 60 or 70 students. We've had 30. It's been a long, hard ride to push this over the top."

Younger guys recruited out of the bars think it's simply a show of macho, he says. They either brag and don't show up, or drop away fast when they learn it's demanding and complex. Older students pull muscles or sprain shoulders and take time to heal. "There are a lot of injuries," he says.

As for aspiring pros, Dudley says he would like the gym to be part of a growing farm league, which every sport needs. "I want an active gym. But you see guys get chumped out of their money, which is this sport's dirty little secret."

Dudley says the gym tested the state's boxing authorities at least partly out of frustration. Like most people in no-holds-barred, he thinks boxing people have no business regulating it. They don't know or understand it, he says, and its potential popularity and young audience could put boxing out for the count.

Once the state issued its injunction last month and threatened possible criminal penalties for violations, though, Dudley and everyone else at Fighter's House backed off.

Mark Graham
Kirk Dudley, the gym's majority owner, got a taste of the sport last June when he fought his one and only pro fight in Killeen. "I was completely gassed," he says.

That included Gary Warren, their lawyer, who trains at Fighter's House most nights and happens to have been one of the fighters in Back Yard Brawl III. "Since I've been working out here, I've lost 40 pounds," says Warren, a 36-year-old who wrestled in high school in Garland and boxed in frat tournaments at Texas Tech. At the fight gym he's broken his nose, sprained an ankle, and hurt his shoulder--"just minor things...You just have to want to do it really badly. There are guys who can bend you up."

Warren, who usually practices as a corporate counsel and in white-collar criminal law, says the gym wants to put together an amateur program under the state's guidelines and stage fights as a nonprofit. He hopes they can "tweak the rules a bit and see if we can get something that still maintains the integrity of the sport. The problem is, you can't be tough and comply."

Mark Graham
Fighter's House lawyer Gary Warren working out at the gym

At a meeting in Austin last week between Cole and the principals at the gym, Cole said he made it clear that the state plans to enforce all of its rules.

"The biggest problems are the gloves and the ring," Handel said after the meeting. Without being able to throw punches using the sport's light, open-finger gloves, "the fights end up being a lot of slapping...it winds up being boring. You can't please a crowd with fights like that." Without the closed-fist shots, it becomes something called pancration, a grappling match with kickboxing and open-hand slapping thrown in.

Guy Mezger, the most successful no-holds-barred fighter in Dallas and winner of the UFC middleweight title in 1997, has been working with a promoter and staging pancration events at the Bronco Bowl for the past two years. He calls the Fighter's House "a bunch of morons" for thinking they could face down the state.

"They don't even understand how much trouble they're in," says Mezger, who runs his own training gym. "They thumbed their nose at the state and got their 15 minutes of fame. Now they're gonna learn how much power these state regulatory commissions have. You can't piss off the powers that be."

One day, no-holds-barred will supplant boxing, he says, but it will take small, careful steps and a show that the sport can be safe. "You have to spoon-feed it to them," Mezger says. "You can't shove it down their throat."

Carlos Muchado, a cousin to the famed Gracie brothers who runs a well-regarded jujitsu studio in Dallas, says he, too, thinks the sport has a big future. He respects Handel and Ritch, both former students, for "their great skill" if not for their judgment, he says. "It's hard to upset the status quo."

Handel says Fighter's House bucked the rules and is "taking a beating for it. I hope five, seven years down the line, people will say this was where someone took a stand. Not to sound trite, but this is our little Alamo."

Mark Graham
Trainer and pro fighter Todd Handel demonstrates a grappling move to one of his students, Ian Wootten. Fans of the sport consider it a three-dimensional chess game, not a bloody slugfest, as its critics contend.

Handel, in the white trunks, used a hold called a triangle choke to win this 1999 match in McAllen. He locked his legs around his opponent's neck and squeezed like a python until the man passed out.

Mark Graham
Joe Garcia (on mat) trains with Warren.

Mark Graham
Ritch, who plans to return to Japan, does some sit-ups on a heavy bag.

Edited by nfc90210
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Re: How much mainstream coverage did UFC 1 get?

A March 1998 piece from the Houston Press. Shannon Ritch pops up in this one as well.

http://www.houstonpress.com/1998-03-19/ ... a-cha-cha/

Choke, Hit, Bash, Cha-Cha-Cha

It's a bare-knuckled fight for gory glory in this Texas twist on an ancient form known as submission fighting

By Randall Patterson Thursday, Mar 19 1998

By a quarter to nine that Saturday, they were at the gym, waiting to see the doctor. They stood with their arms crossed, not speaking. At least half of them had shaved their heads. One man wore a picture of Bruce Lee on his shirt and the words "Seek and Destroy."

The doctor, it turned out, was not actually a doctor but a paramedic. Later, there would only be so much that he could do. If people started bleeding, he could give them a towel and some ice. If they started breaking, he could provide a splint and a wrap. He could say "There there" and he could say "Oh well." But for now, he just checked their blood pressure and said, "Good luck." He cleared them all to fight. They were all healthy enough to sustain a beating, even the boy with high blood pressure who said he was cold and nervous.

"Thank you for attending the dungal," announced Zulfi Ahmed, when the 70-odd fighters had gathered at half-court.

First of all, he said, there will be no strikes to the face, the groin, the kidneys or the spine. Sticking your thumb into an opponent's mouth and ripping off his cheek -- that is not allowed. Nor can you gouge eyes, pull ears, bite or lift your opponent over your head and slam him down.

Otherwise, in the free-fighting matches, anything goes. You can slam your opponent from chest level. You can twist his feet, distend his arm, choke him, hit him anywhere at any time.

You have been advised, of course, that only basic first aid is available. And you have signed the waiver of liability.

Okay then: Let the dungal begin.

The Dungal All Styles Fighting Championship was held on the last day of February. It was not heavily advertised, perhaps because bare-knuckle fighting is illegal in Texas. But in the fliers that Ahmed distributed in fighting circles, he billed it as "the most elite and complete fighting championship in the world." Anyone with 50 bucks could enter. The arena was the gym of Baker Junior High in La Porte. Principal Larry Cox said he was told there would be a karate tournament for children. He never would have allowed it, he said, if he'd known what on earth a "dungal" was.

"Dungal" is the Urdu word for the grappling tournaments of Pakistan and India. According to Ahmed, the original dungal warriors fought in sandpits with knives and brass knuckles until someone died or surrendered. By the time Ahmed came of age in Pakistan, they had abandoned the weapons and were satisfied with unconsciousness. Ahmed's dungal heroes were the Great Gama and the Great Bhollu, and most especially, the Great Goga, who gave his life to the sport in 1977.

After immigrating to the U.S., Ahmed established himself as a fighter and says he was named some sort of national champion in the martial arts. He says he developed his own style and began teaching it from his "international headquarters" in Deer Park. And one evening, when he sat down before the television, he must have felt a warm spot in his heart as he watched the Ultimate Fighting Championships.

The UFC's original slogan was, "There are no rules." Two men simply stepped into a ring and punched and choked and kicked each other until unconsciousness or the referee intervened. Ahmed watched and grew nostalgic. It seemed that we were all one on this planet, joined by our interest in combat.

Three years ago, he sponsored his first dungal. He saw it as a chance to make a little money -- "People love to watch other people get beat up," he said -- and a chance to let fighters test their skills. There are students of the martial arts for whom training is like building a bomb: Every now and then you want to set it off. The dungal is for these people. "This is reality, baby," said Ahmed. Some people called it a reality tournament. He said it was known as "hard core."

They gathered in the gym under the mural of the green Baker bear, beneath the banners for basketball and volleyball championships.

They came with their wives and children, fathers and brothers. A bouncer from Clear Lake said he had come to find himself. A Houston stockbroker said he got a rush forcing men into submission. The biggest guy there was the owner of Bad Boy Tattoos. He wore his hair in a ponytail and his beard in a goatee. Another fighter said with awe, "Are you John Lammons?" and he said yeah, he was, but people call him "the Beast." "Anything scary, I like," said the Beast.

And there were others like him. The fighters networked and made allies before the war. "They call me 'Cannon,' " said one to another. "Cannon," said the other, holding out his hand, "they call me 'Terminator.' " Who knows? Maybe that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Shannon the Cannon Ritch was an unusual character, even here. His back was entirely covered by a tattooed crucifix. "Go with God," it said, and Cannon said he had gone all over the world fighting. He was only five-foot-nine, but he was a professional fighter. When he was asked how he manages against much larger foes, he laid his forefinger on the source of his confidence, which was the reporter's throat.

"No one can actually build that Adam's apple," he said, "so you can crush it."

Though Ahmed had sworn this was an amateur tournament, several of his professional colleagues were in attendance. The Johnson brothers had come from Carlsbad, New Mexico. They had neither nicknames nor tattoos, nor menacing attitude. They were generally cheerful. Adam was a short, swarthy man who resembled Lenin. Izzy was tall and blond and looked like he might have a dandy tennis game. The brothers shared nothing in appearance, except their black eyes, which they had received the previous weekend in California. It would be five weeks before the next no-holds-barred tournament in Virginia. When work is short like that, the brothers strip-tease for a living and try to stay in shape fighting wherever they can. They had driven 15 hours to practice here.

"I live for this!" said Izzy. "It sounds strange, but I can't think of anything else that I was born to do."

The tournament offered seven categories of fighting. In traditional Japanese point fighting, a green belt named Onah Chukwubeze repelled his opponent with a fist to the eye. The winner went in search of first aid; Onah sat down, disqualified. An hour later, in the continuous sparring event, the same thing happened again -- more work for the paramedic, another disqualification for Onah.

"I was aiming for the top of his head," Onah told his instructor, "but his face got in the way."

In every event, the fighters left their faces exposed, which raised the question of how real such a reality tournament could be. The face would be the obvious target in a street fight. How could the dungal prepare anyone for such a fight, if no one had to protect his face?

And then there were times when the reality was too real. Whatever submission grappling offered to the participant, it was strange sport for the spectator: two half-naked men locked in each other's arms, lying on the mats together, hardly moving at all, for 15 minutes at a time. From the stands, it was slow and dull. Up close, it was obscene -- these bodies close enough for love but moving to kill. It seemed an act of too much hate to put your hands over the nose and mouth of someone beneath you, or to press your elbow slowly into his throat.

At a quarter till two, there were broken bones. One submission grappler had managed to place his knee in the bent elbow of another. As he pulled on the arm, his foe did not surrender. There were two sounds -- pop pop -- and then the arm was released and withdrawn, looking as though another joint had been installed above the wrist. More work for the paramedic. The grappler who caused it said he was sick to his stomach. A photographer snapped a picture. Zulfi Ahmed shouted, "No injury photos!"

Izzy Johnson, meanwhile, was in the stands, dozing on the lap of his wife. His wife said she doesn't worry about him, because he can take care of himself. Elsewhere, a mother said the same about her son, though she covers her eyes when he is on the mat.

They had come expecting violence, but then, submission grappling did not seem violent enough. It was a muffled, under-the-sheets affair, and even when a fighter stood up with a ripped earlobe and the blood streaming down, the people leaned on their fists and watched without passion. Expectations of ass-kicking had not been met.

"Notice," said Adam, suddenly appearing, "that when the free fighting starts, they'll cheer and hurrah. That's something people pay to see, and that the fighters need to be paid for."

Just then his name was called. Adam slipped out of his sweats and stood hairy and brazen in a black Speedo. His was the first free fight -- an explosion of fury. Yes, the people were screaming now, but Adam looked like a naked pirate in his Speedo, and so they were screaming for his foe. It did the poor fellow no good. He had only been studying ass-kicking for a few months. Adam took him down and sat on him and began raining punches and elbows into his chest. He paused to look up and let Izzy snap his photo. Izzy kept snapping tourist photos and calling out to his brother, "Work it, work it! Key lock. Can opener. Keep on, it'll give." Adam kept cracking away at the ribs, and before long, like a nut, it did give, and the boy surrendered. Adam gave him a good hug and walked off triumphant. The boy lay quietly in the lap of his girlfriend, staring at the ceiling as she stroked his hair.

The free-fighting category was more purely wild than any other. Some men had paid to enter only to find they were not capable of fighting back. Even as the blows fell upon them, they couldn't abandon that bargain of civilization: "If I don't hurt you, you won't hurt me." It was hard to forget the rules. In the middle of one fight, a man asked the referee if it was okay to slam his elbow into his opponent's shoulder. The referee had no objections.

Adam was thoroughly uncivilized, but he got into trouble in his next match. He had broken a knuckle on his first foe, and he badly needed that knuckle to use on the second. Suddenly, he was on the bottom, his hands trying feebly to block the fists and the crowd cheering at his pain. At last, there was no way out. He gave up with a scream of rage.

On another mat, Izzy used a nice rib choke to subdue his first foe in about 15 seconds. Shannon the Cannon got away with an elbow to the skull, and after that his opponent offered little resistance. One by one, they plowed through the bodies, and then they stood facing each other. Izzy got the takedown. "Good move," said Cannon. "Hey, thanks," said Izzy, as he began punching him in the ribs. The referee barked, "No love stories!" but by then, it was too late. Cannon had politely requested no punching, and Izzy had agreed. It was professional courtesy; there was no sense in getting hurt out here. Izzy finished Shannon the Cannon off with a quick ankle lock.

For John "the Beast" Lammons, meanwhile, the day had been most relaxing. He had not broken a sweat. Each time it was his turn to fight, his opponents had gotten a look at him and had thrown in the towel. Now, sneering through his goatee, there he stood for the grand championship -- 270 sculpted pounds of mean, with arm tattoos of a machine gun and the words, "Thank God I'm white."

"Whoa!" someone said.
"That guy's a brute," said someone else.
Zulfi Ahmed said, "You sure you want to fight him?"

Israel Johnson said, "You gotta be kidding me! I didn't drive all this way to stand here. Let's get it on!"

The Beast had never lost a match; he was 40. Izzy often fought four times a month and had lost quite often. They came charging out of their corners. The big man held his hands like David Carradine on the old Kung Fu show. Izzy, who was exactly 100 pounds lighter, had his arms stretched wide, like he was going to tackle an elephant. Boom -- that's what he did. As he began pounding into the ribs, the Beast turned to the audience and smiled. Big guys always do that when they're hurting, Izzy knew, and he kept punching. The Beast twisted and got on top. "Now it's my turn," he said, but Izzy already had him in an arm lock and was threatening to dislocate his shoulder. The Beast yielded for an instant, which was long enough for Izzy to throw a roll tuck and emerge on top. He was fastening his arms around the neck when the big man pounded the mat for mercy.

Izzy jumped up and began leaping wildly around the mat. The Beast rose and said he'd had the flu, you know. Izzy shook his hand and said, don't worry about it -- he had fought someone twice his size just the week before.

Dungal champion -- Izzy and the Great Bhollu! He put his arm around his brother. They stared into the video camera and said, "We came, we saw and we kicked some butt!"

Zulfi Ahmed let him pose with the trophy but wouldn't let him take it home.

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A short piece that appeared in Newsweek in late 1995.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/1 ... wling.html

Brawling Over Brawling

Nov 26, 1995 7:00 PM EST

The rules are simple; two fighters square off, battling bare-knuckled until one gives up, passes out, or the fight is stopped by a doctor, referee or cornerman. Biting and eye-gouging are off-limits, but otherwise anything goes--punching, kicking, kneeing, choking, whatever. It's known on popular pay-per-view broadcasts as "ultimate" or "extreme" fighting. Its detractors call it brutal--and so, for that matter, do its promoters.

But that's where the agreement ends. Officials across the country, led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, are crusading against what some call human cockfights. Promoters insist that the fights are legitimate pro sporting events and are safer than they look--as safe as, say, football or hockey. And, unlike in boxing, nobody's been paralyzed or killed. Not yet, anyway.

Last week the front lines were in New York City. Battlecade, Inc., a subsidiary of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione's General Media Inc., planned the city's first extreme bout, to be held Saturday night in a state-owned armory. But the firm soon found itself ejected from the armory and scrambling to find a backup site. The Brooklyn D.A. warned would-be gladiators of assault prosecutions, and ultimately organizers opted to move the contest out of state. "We have tapes in which one contestant is downed on the mat and another kneels on top of him and either kicks him in the head or punches him until he's virtually knocked senseless," says State Sen. Roy Goodman, who persuaded the armory to cancel Battlecade's lease and is pushing laws to ban future events. "This is a clear invitation to permanent injury, if not fatality."

The men behind the melees disagree. "Safety is more important than anything else," says Bob Meyrowitz, president of SEG Sports, which originated the format two years ago with its Ultimate Fighting Championship. The fights lost money at first, but the most recent of seven UFC bouts enticed about 300,000 viewers to plunk down a $20 PPV fee. Now imitators are jumping into the ring, looking for some of those young male dollars. (It's no coincidence that Penthouse and Battlecade are corporate brothers.) Meyrowitz says his contestants, who vie for purses of up to $60,000, are trained martial artists, many with years of pro-right experience under their multiple black belts. Doctors and refs can stop the carnage. Fighters can surrender, or "tap out," at will. And fighting without gloves--a big complaint--is actually safer, proponents claim. Striking with bare knuckles hurts an assailant's hands, thus skull-punching is a self-limiting proposition, or so the reasoning goes.

Nobody denies that the events appear terrifically savage. Blood flows like beer in a frat house, and choke holds that leave even spectators gasping are de rigueur. "I understand how some people are feeling, because it is scary," says UFC champ Ken Shamrock, 31. "It looks vicious. But we're not out there to beat each other up--we're out there to compete." To compete at beating each other up, anyway.

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A piece from the August/September 1995 issue of Reason magazine; it touches briefly on MMA.



Charles Oliver from the August/September 1995 issue

Workers in Yakima, Washington, forgot just one thing when finishing a building last year. They forgot to connect the building's sewer lines to the main sewage pipe. For almost a year, the pipes filled with raw sewage until they couldn't hold anymore, and the building's toilets basically exploded. The building housed the city's public works administration.

No one will ever accuse Fresno, California's Women International Network of holding a grudge. The women's group selected as speakers at a charity dinner convicted rapist Mike Tyson and Benjamin Chavis, who was ousted as head of the NAACP following a financial scandal that arose after a former aide accused him of sexual harassment.

In Moscow, the entire 10th precinct of the city's police force has been suspended for pandering. Reportedly, officers even drove hookers to their clients in police cars.

A former assistant stage director has filed suit against New York City's Metropolitan Opera. She claims that she was fired because she is not a homosexual man.

Police had an easy time finding the man who robbed a restaurant in Pittsburgh. He had left his real name, address, and Social Security number on a job application he filled out just before knocking off the place.

Two white officers in New York's Grand Central Terminal grabbed businessman Earl Graves Jr. and frisked him. They had been alerted to look out for an armed 5-foot-10 black man with a mustache. Graves is 6 feet 4 inches and clean shaven. But he is black.

A senior official of the Mormon Church warned followers against patronizing groups that purport to enhance one's self-esteem. Instead, he urged Mormons to live their lives according to biblical teaching. So the church has now been sued for $189 million by the owners of Life Management International, a self-esteem company. Although their company was not mentioned by name, the owners claim injurious falsehood, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Our Hypocrites of the Month Award goes to CBS Sports and announcer Pat O'Brien. The network ran a hatchet-job piece on the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a no-holds-barred martial arts contest. The piece, which decried the alleged brutality of the pay-per-view event, highlighted some of the tournament's bloodiest moments over the air on a Sunday afternoon. Then O'Brien urged viewers to stay tuned for an upcoming boxing match. This as boxer Jimmy Garcia lay dying in a hospital from injuries suffered in a nationally televised boxing match.

Three inmates have sued the Mini-Cassia Jail in Idaho, charging that jailers' refusal to give them a midnight snack was cruel and unusual punishment.

The manager of a Carvel's ice cream store in Southington, Connecticut, has been suspended. He refused to write "Happy Birthday" in Spanish on a cake, telling the customer, "This is America."

School officials in Wheeling, West Virginia, know just how to deal with students caught smoking or chewing tobacco on school grounds. They take them to court. School officials there now file complaints against those who violate school policies against tobacco. The maximum fine is $5.00 plus court costs.

The National Rifle Association is all for the Second Amendment. But it seems to be squeamish about the rest of the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment seems to give them particular problems. James Warner, assistant general counsel to the NRA, was set to testify, as a private citizen, against a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. Then Rep. Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.), a sponsor of the amendment, got on the phone to the NRA to complain, and Warner cancelled his testimony at the last minute.

In Camden, New Jersey, the family of an alleged killer who fell to his death while trying to escape jail has filed suit against the facility. They charge officials with failing to maintain a reasonably safe facility.

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A 1997 piece from Reason magazine.


Ultimate Wimps

Rick Henderson from the August/September 1997 issue

Ultimate fighting, the no-holds-barred hybrid of wrestling, boxing, and martial arts that was recently spoofed in the popular sitcom Friends, may have gone the way of roller derby. Surprisingly, the people who pulled the plug on the sport were those who stood to make money from it: cable operators.

The first Ultimate Fighting Championship was held in the United States in 1993. A number of critics charged that ultimate fighting is barbaric, some comparing it with cock fighting. Such charges led the boxing commissions in Nevada and New York to refuse to sanction the events, effectively banning the sport. Yet it has been popular in Brazil for more than 70 years, where promoters say no contestant has died as a result of injuries suffered during a fight. Indeed, fans of ultimate fighting point out that combatants, who wear no gloves or other protective padding, may be more likely to be defeated by an opponent before they are seriously injured than, say, boxers or even football players.

In May, Time Warner's cable division joined TCI, Cablevision, and other providers by announcing it would no longer carry ultimate fighting matches on its pay-per-view outlets. A few weeks earlier, National Cable Television Association President Decker Anstrom had urged members to drop the fights, saying they weren't up to the standards of other cable offerings (presumably including such stellar programs as wet T-shirt contests, bodybuilding championships, professional wrestling matches, or reruns of The A-Team).

In a more telling statement, Anstrom also suggested it might not be politically astute to air ultimate fighting contests. Good move: The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee is Arizona Republican John McCain, a longtime foe of ultimate fighting. McCain, whose committee regulates the cable industry, has suggested a federal ban of the sport. McCain shouldn't bother: Without the prospect of pay-per-view revenues, ultimate fighting may have to throw in the towel.

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An article on Randy Couture that appeared in the Portland Oregonian at the end of April 1999. I found this on a newsgroup so there is no link to the newspaper website. The Portland Oregonian has a website but their online archives only go back five years or so.

I'm not sure if the person who posted the article (it was posted on the newsgroup just after it ran in 1999) was able to cut and paste it or if they had to transcribe it. There are some mistakes with the names (Halme becomes Halama and Belfort becomes Belford). I don't know if that is due to the original author making the mistakes or not. If the article had to be transcribed it's possible that the transcriber messed those up. It's also just as possible that those errors appeared in the original published article.

Anything goes once you have entered this cage

The "sport" is called Ultimate Fighting, and Gresham wrestler Randy Couture is its current legend

Wednesday April 28, 1999

By Jason Quick of The Oregonian staff

He is 300 pounds of anger. Hairy. Mean.

And he wants Randy Couture of Gresham.

"I will rip his arms off," Tony Halama says into the television camera. "And then I will rip his legs off."

And the scary part is, there are no rules preventing Halama from doing so.

This is Ulimate Fighting, a no-holds-barred competition that is banned by TCI, Time Warner and Cablevision as well as three states because of its violent nature.

This fight, in Augusta, Ga., is Couture's first, and it will not end until one person is knocked out or choked into unconsciousness -- or taps the ground in submission. At stake is the right to advance to the night's next fight, which is for $20,000.

Couture, a 35-year-old father of two, is a national-caliber Greco-Roman wrestler who twice was one match away from making the U.S. Olympic team.

His wife, Tricia, is in the crowd. The man she calls "domestic" -- the one who cooks dinner, the one who decorated their bathroom, the one who cuddles with their potbellied pig, Fletcher -- is about to step in a cage with this behemoth.

When she sees Halama, and then hears what he says, she becomes queasy.

"I mean he is huge. Huge!," Tricia says. "I thought I was going to throw up."

The fighters enter a caged ring.

"There's nowhere to go unless you jump the fence," Couture says. "It's an interesting feeling."

Halama, who calls anyone under 225 pounds a "smurf," charges the 223-pound Couture. He throws a punch at Couture's face.

Couture ducks and executes a textbook move used in wrestling, a double-leg takedown, where he wraps both arms around Halama's legs and drives him to the mat.

Couture quickly puts his knee in Halama's stomach and punches him in the face. Halama turns the front side of his body to the mat for protection. Couture, still on top, puts his legs inside Halama's and wraps his arms around Halama's neck, then pulls, cutting off his air supply.

Halama taps the mat in submission.

Couture has won.

And a legend is born.

But it is not the legend that Couture is seeking.


Ultimate Fighting began in 1993 with the idea of putting two fighters in different disciplines into a ring to see who would win. The fights include kick boxers, wrestlers, ju-jitsu artists, boxers and the general bar-stool brawlers.

The idea seemed to appeal to fans who were growing tired of the phoniness of professional wrestling and the corruption in boxing. The demographics of Ultimate Fighting fans, mostly teen-age to middle-age males, indicated they wanted to see blood. They got it.

Ultimate Fighting rocketed in popularity, going from 86,000 pay-per-view subscriptions for its first show, at $50 a pop, to 350,000 subscriptions by its eighth.

It was promoted as the bloodiest, most violent sport in the world, and in the early years the only rules were no eye-gouging and no biting. Since then, there have been several modifications: There is no head-butting, referees can stop the fight if a fighter is defenseless, and fighters now wear gloves that cover their knuckles. Also, because there is often blood drawn, HIV testing is required.

Today's fights are more tame because of the modifications and because more skilled athletes have entered, replacing the bar-stool brawlers.

Still, to many, the competitions are viewed as an outrage. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., mounted a campaign to ban Ultimate Fighting, saying it was "barbaric" and "slashed at the moral fabric of the country."

Ultimate Fighting is banned in New York, North Carolina and Oklahoma, and according to SEG, the producers of Ultimate Fighting, the only states in which the sport is sanctioned are Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia.

"The other states are in limbo," said Carol Klenfner, director of public relations for SEG.

The big blow, however, came three years ago when the three major cable companies refused to air the fights. Now, Ultimate Fighting is its own pay-per-view distributor and can be seen only by satellite subscribers or through videotapes at rental stores.

Couture is irritated at the perception of Ultimate Fighting.

"It is largely misunderstood," he said. "Everyone thinks it's barbaric and dangerous, but it's not like that at all. It is very technical, and these are very skilled athletes."

There has been one death in Ultimate Fighting, in 1998 in Kiev, Ukraine, and Couture knows there are problems with the concept.

"Putting us in a cage definitely has negative connotations," he said. "And the way they marketed it early on as the most brutal sport in the world didn't help. And early on, there were these guys who just jumped off a bar stool. But those guys weren't athletes, they were thugs."

Since those early days, more skilled fighters, especially wrestlers, have entered the arena.

"The wrestlers took (Ultimate Fighting) to a new level," said James Werme, director of events for SEG. "The more trained athletes began to enter, and soon we had accomplished kick boxers and other martial arts specialists."


In Ultimate Fighting circles, Couture is as popular as they get.

He has been on the cover of several martial arts magazines and featured in many more.

He is billed as "The Natural" because he has easily learned the skills of mixed martial arts. Although his primary weapon is wrestling, Couture has shown he can box, defend himself against kick boxers and master submissive holds found in jujitsu.

After winning the two fights and $20,000 in Augusta, Couture went to Bay St. Louis, Miss., for a "Super Fight" against 20-year-old Brazilian boxing specialist Vitor Belford.

Billed as "The Phenom" who had "no known weaknesses," Belford had knocked out all of his opponents in less than one minute.

"No one gave Randy much of a chance against Vitor," Werme said. "We thought Vitor was our up-and-coming star."

It was Couture, however, who emerged as the star.

Couture was the dominant boxer, landing several uppercuts that eventually knocked Belford to the mat. Once on the mat, Couture administered two knee kicks to the head and several more punches to the face. The bout was stopped, and Couture won $25,000 and a shot at the world title.

In the title bout, held in Japan, Couture was pitted against kick-boxer Maurice Smith. Despite absorbing countless kicks to the thighs that caused Couture to limp for a week, Couture won by a referee's decision and was awarded $50,000.

He was on top of the Ultimate Fighting world.

But it is here, in Portland, that Couture has been training for what he wants to be his legacy.


The room echoed with the thud of Dan Henderson's body being thrown to the mat.

Arm throw . . . slam! Again. And again.

Couture was at work at the Peninsula Wrestling Club, trying to regain the form that made him America's dominant 213-pound Greco-Roman wrestler in the 1990s.

Four times he was the U.S. National and World Team Trials champion. And twice he entered the Olympic trials as the man to beat, only to fail in heartbreaking fashion.

"He has been so close to making the Olympic teams," USA Wrestling national teams director Mitch Hull said. "Either he has been ahead and gotten caught in a fluke move, or had a call go against him. . . . He's just been in a position where if you would bet who would win, you would take Randy, but it hasn't worked that way. There's definitely been the feeling that Randy should have been our guy, but you can't go back and change what has happened."

It has eaten at Couture. He said after his stunning loss in 1996 that it took almost a full year to get over the depression and second-guessing.

"I was a mess," Couture said. "I felt like I did everything right, but I just didn't win. It was hard for me to analyze."

But he has rediscovered the desire and is making a comeback for the 2000 Olympics.

The comeback starts Friday at the U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas. Couture is the fifth seed at 213 pounds and by far the oldest competitior.

"But he is still one of the leading candidates for the Olympic team in 2000," Hull said.

And that, not Ultimate Fighting, is the legacy he wants to leave.

"Wrestling has always been the most important thing to me, has been since I was a kid," Couture said. "All this other stuff is basically to pay the bills so I can pursue my Olympic goals.


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Another article I found on a newsgroup (rec.sport.pro-wrestling in fact). It's a 1996 piece that ran in the Sunday Telegraph. Once again there is no link to the newspaper's website. The Daily Telegraph (The Sunday Telegraph being the Sunday version of that paper) does have a website but their online archives only seem to go back to 2000.

This was posted on the newsgroup three days after it ran. There were several spelling mistakes, which I have corrected, in the article that was posted. So, it was obviously transcribed by the poster. This raises a question. Is the boxing correspondent quoted not Steve Bruce as the article states but in fact Steve Bunce? I would lean toward yes, and I think that the person who transcribed the article probably mistyped the name.

Bare-Knuckle Fights on Way to British TV

9 June 1996

by James Langton

A NEW and brutal version of bare-knuckle fighting is on the verge of being introduced into Britain by a leading cable television company.

Negotiations are understood to be taking place between the cable company and the American promoters of Ultimate Fighting, which boasts "no-rules" combat between contestants for prizes of $50,000 (37,000).

A spokesman for the New York based firm said he hoped a deal would be signed soon, but refused to name the British TV company involved.

Ultimate Fighting has grown in popularity in America since it's introduction in 1993. Contestants are pitted against each other in an eight-sided chain fence area until one either surrenders or is incapacitated.

Fighters mostly claim training in obscure branches of the martial arts. The only rules are no biting or no eye-gouging. Kicking with shoes in not permitted. Contests are brief and bloody.

In America, Ultimate Fighting is banned in a number of states. Opponents have called it "dumb, disgusting and depraved" and "human cockfighting". The promoters say that there have been no deaths or serious injuries and claim contestants show fewer signs of brain damage than conventional boxers.

Tournaments take place several times a year in the United States, with the next due in mid-July. They regularly attract audiences of more than 200,000.

Bare-knuckle boxing was banned in Britain in the last century, and Ultimate Fighting almost certainly could not take place live. However, the Independent Television Commission says it has no power to ban such broadcast, although the sport would contravene several sections of it's code of practice.

"This certainly sounds like something that would never be condoned in Britain." said an ITC spokesman. "But we can penalise companies only after a broadcast with fines or, ultimately by taking away their license."

Mark Stephens of Stephens Innocent, a London firm of lawyers specialising in entertainment and media law, said he believed negotiations were going ahead, although "probably not with mainstream cable networks."

"I have heard that at least three companies are looking at importing Ultimate Fighting." he said. "It does not surprise me. The sport makes huge amounts of money in America."

Two of the leading companies, Sky and Live TV, both deny any interest.

Steve Bruce, a boxing correspondent, said yesterday that it was "truly vile stuff, the equivalent of Romans in the arena. But the companies which claim such lack of interest would not be so aloof if they looked at the money the shows make their American promoters."

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A piece that ran in the World News section of The Independent in April 1996. It deals with the legal issues surrounding a Battlecade event held on Indian land in Quebec.

There were actually some well known MMA names on the card. Ralph Gracie, Carlos Newton, Steve Nelson, John Lewis, Igor Zinoveiv and Conan Silveira all fought. John Perretti was also involved with the show.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 07367.html


'Human cockfights' on Mohawk land foil court

Hugh Winsor in Ottawa

Monday 29 April 1996

Despite an 11th-hour injunction from the Quebec Superior Court aimed at blocking them, American promoters went ahead with a series of no-holds- barred human "cockfights" in a smoky hockey arena on a Mohawk reserve near Montreal on the weekend and broadcast them via satellite to North American audiences.

The promoters , who are allied with Penthouse magazine, and supporters among the local Mohawk leadership, defied the court order, claiming Mohawk territory is outside the ambit of both American and Canadian laws banning the brutal contests advertised as "Extreme Fighting, the most brutal event in the history of the sport".

The matches are a mixture of boxing, wrestling and martial arts. Unlike boxing, which is tightly regulated, with matches being divided into a fixed number or rounds, an Extreme Fighting match continues without interruption until one of the competitors is knocked out or quits from exhaustion.

At the Mohawk event there was a referee present and three doctors at the ringside, but they did not stop any of the matches which have no rules other than a prohibition against biting or eye-gouging.

The fights are aimed at the lucrative pay-per-view television market where an estimated 500,000 people watched the spectacle on Friday evening. As the controversy over the event intensified, some of the Mohawk leaders apparently had a change of heart. As a result, Mohawk tribal police backed up members of the Quebec provincial police force in a raid on a hotel early on Sunday morning where the combatants were staying, and made seven arrests.

Earlier, Guy Chevrette, the Quebec minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, called on the federal government to ensure another such event was never held on Quebec soil.

"It is evident that when an American promoter is barred in 40 American states and chooses another site to commit their illegal acts, we have to reinforce the Criminal Code to prevent these situations," he said.

The location of the fights was kept secret until tickets went on sale a few days before the event in an attempt to avoid legal measures to block them. When the government prevented the local telecommunications company from transmitting from the arena, the promoters rushed in a satellite truck and transmitted the event directly.

About 5,000 people paid up to C$200 (pounds 100) each for tickets to watch gladiators with nicknames like "The Iron Panther" and "The Iceman" punch and kick each other in the chest and buttocks. One match lasted only 44 seconds before one of the participants gave up but the other five fights lasted an average of 15 to 20 minutes each.

Labelled Battlecade II, this was the second such event organised by a New York company called Battlecade Productions which uses "Extreme Fighting" as a registered brand name.

Between each match, half-a- dozen Penthouse Pets in bikinis and high heels paraded around the ring waving at the mostly male spectators who shouted obscene propositions.

One critic described Extreme Fighting as a purely American creation "not simply because it is barbaric and cruel ... but because the barbarism is created for the purpose of being marketed".


Clyde Gentry's book, No Holds Barred: Ultimate Fighting and The Martial Arts Revolution (http://www.amazon.com/No-Holds-Barred-U ... 190385430X) describes the same events and some of their aftermath.

Extracted from pages 122-123...

...As the sellout crowd began to leave, there was an immense sigh of relief backstage that the show had managed to go on despite numerous obstacles. But the following night, the Chief of Mohawk Peacekeepers, in conjunction with the Quebec police, raided the hotel and made eight arrests. "They wanted to make it look like it was an Indian action," said Zuckerman. "The Chief of [of the Mohawks] betrayed us, although we don't know that for sure." The police had a list of whom they were going to arrest, though Mike Thomas and Zuckerman were not on it. As Zuckerman recalled, Conan's brother Marcelo didn't take this very well. "His brother was three inches away from my face, telling me that if I didn't get him [Conan] out of jail tonight, I was a dead man. At one point I was going to have him arrested." The locked-up fighters would be more than okay though, as word had spread about these no-rules gladiators. The regulars behind bars were scared out of their minds, especially at the sight of Conan, who has two eyes tattooed on his back.

Other arrests were equally unpleasant. "The Texan [Steve Nelson] was in bed with his girlfriend, and they literally opened his door with a passkey and stood there and watched her dress," said Zuckerman. As Nelson was put in the squad car with Igor Zinoveiv, Nelson's girlfriend said, "If these fighters had known this was illegal, I know my boyfriend, for one, would have never fought." Nelson would later form his own fighting organization, the United Shoot Wrestling Federation, and become a major activist in the legalizing the sport. He also fought a rematch with Ralph Gracie, and it took Gracie over eleven minutes to beat him. Gracie, incidentally, escaped arrest by hiding out in friend's hotel room for three days.

When John Perretti returned to the USA and found out about the arrests, he took the next plane to Quebec and got himself arrested so that he could be with his fighters. Zuckerman worked out an agreement with the Quebec police, and all charges were dismissed after he signed an apology letter stating he had taken part in something that was illegal and not a sport. Zuckerman made sure the fighters didn't have to sign anything. Thomas was never arrested but was charged with the same violation. The prosecutors came up with a plea bargain to admit guilt that would cost him a mere $100. "I was more interested in making a statement that this was a sport, and I was prepared to spend whatever it cost to win that battle," said Thomas, who anted up $50,000 during the lengthy court case. All charges against him were dropped four years later.

The arrests confirmed that the Canadian judiciary's stance on mixed martial arts, shutting down something they didn't understand. But the pioneers weren't ready to give in. They were just getting started...


Edited by nfc90210
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A late 2000 piece by Jeff Powell in the Daily Mail. In it he defends boxing. Two days earlier Britain's IBF featherweight champion Paul Ingle (http://boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_ ... &cat=boxer) had suffered a serious injury in a bout against Mbulelo Botile. Ingle had to have surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. Ultimately, he lived.

I am including Powell's piece in this thread as in the course of defending boxing he touches briefly on "extreme fighting".

Jeff Powell still writes for the Daily Mail.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/colum ... eroes.html

Don't ban heroes

Jeff Powell

Last updated at 00:00 18 December 2000

THE PLIGHT of Paul Ingle, a man of tiny stature but huge courage, will have the boxing abolitionists beating a path to the hospital door.

That reaction, in all its knee-jerk predictability, will perform as weighty a disservice to Ingle's warrior spirit as the blows from his South African opponent have inflicted on his very existence.

The sight of this pale, prone figure surrounded in the ring by the grim paraphernalia of the paramedics is nothing less than profoundly distressing.

The anguish of Ingle's loved ones at his bedside as he clings to life confronts this sport with its recurrent nightmare.

Let nobody deny that prizefighting is a brutally dangerous and potentially fatal game.

Nevertheless, to use the stricken Ingle as a pawn in a politically correct argument is an insult to every fibre in his own being.

Such men are born to fight. Society - which is by no means as civilised as it cares to imagine - does not have the moral authority to deny them that right.

Not when none of the partial victims themselves can be coerced into campaigning for a ban.

Not Michael Watson in his wheelchair as a consequence of blood clotting of the brain similar to that which is imperilling Ingle.

Not American Gerald McClellan, who was consigned to a twilight world by his London encounter with Nigel Benn.

Certainly not Muhammad Ali, even though those dazzling faculties have been impaired demonstrably after the ballistic events in which he lit up the world.

These men, none more so than The Greatest himself, found not only fame with their fists but also their absolute definition as heroic human beings.

It is not easy for members of the softer professions to comprehend the basic urge which drives boxers to the limits of their own survival. As a unique species they assuredly deserve all the protection their paymasters can muster.

But that is now a matter of fact on such nights as this dark Saturday at Sheffield, no longer an issue for debate.

Much progress has been made in the decade since Watson was laid low when on the brink of victory over Chris Eubank.

Painstaking observance of stringent Boxing Board regulations ensured instant treatment for Ingle at the point of collapse and hurried him onto the operating table well within the 'golden hour' which neurosurgeons cite as vital in such cases of brain trauma.

No expense was spared by promoter Frank Warren, even though the hall was barely half full for this and three other World Championship fights.

Nor was there any cynical betrayal of compassion by his mentor Frank Maloney, for whom Ingle is not only a fighter but also a surrogate son.

With the precious gift of hindsight, perhaps Ingle's corner would not have permitted their man to come out for the 12th and last round of a featherweight battle in which he was taking a beating from the ebony-hard Mbulelo Botile.

Yet, it seems that the Scarborough lad himself insisted on defying exhaustion to take his last tilt at the knockout which would have wrested a world title from his points deficit.

No-one who knows fighters will doubt that for one second.

Ingle's consuming passion has been for a rematch with Prince Naseem Hamed, his brother-atarms Yorkshire man whom he came so tantalisingly close to beating in their first - and what must be their only - fight.

Whether any legacy from that late and violent stoppage pursued Ingle to Sheffield this sad weekend we shall never know.

However, it seems there was no more reason to doubt his fitness for this collision than his motivation. At 28, Ingle was not only in his prime but at the critical point of his career. If anything drove him back out to meet his fate it was the knowledge that a defeat which was clearly impending would effectively terminate his aspirations to championship glory.

The black-and-white cinema dates when ruthless promoters exploited befuddled pugs and then left them penniless are long gone.

Boxing can now be as enriching as it is hazardous. But it is not only for the money that men - and even women now - lace up the blood-red gloves and strive to batter each other senseless.

Not only are they aware of the risks, they relish the thrill which accompanies the danger.

To abolish boxing would serve only to drive them underground, into the unlicenced mayhem of extreme fighting without proper supervision or adequate medical care.

That is the unsavoury but very real world falsely glorified in Brad Pitt's movie, The Fight Club.

It would also deprive sport of its ultimate challenge to man's bravery and character.

Then what? Prohibit horse racing, skiing, mountaineering, potholing, power-boating - maybe even chess for fear of nervous breakdowns.

Life should be exciting and in no-one does the adrenaline flow more freely than the fighter.

To protest that this is the only legalised discipline in which the protagonist deliberately set out to damage each other is to deny that many spectators go to motor racing in search of the accident waiting to happen.

While boxing can damage the health, it also ennobles the human condition.

Even as Ingle may be fighting for his life, Joe Calzaghe and Richie Woodhall, longtime friends, were embracing each other at the end of their bruising session of hand to hand combat in the Sheffield ring.

No more little chap has been so tragically damaged since Welshman Johnny Owen died in the dehydrating heat of a Las Vegas fight night some quarter of a century ago.

All our hearts go out to Paul Ingle and those who love him so dearly. But none of our hearts is bigger than his own.


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