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A statement released by the Battlecade promoters after the legal problems that followed their show on Mohawk land in Canada in 1996.

http://www.allbusiness.com/crime-law-en ... 143-1.html

Statement from Battlecade LLP., sponsors of "Extreme Fighting 2"; Donald Zuckerman, executive producer.

Published on AllBusiness.com

MONTREAL--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 29, 1996--Statement from Battlecade LLP., sponsors of "Extreme Fighting 2"; Donald Zuckerman, executive producer:

On Saturday night, April 27, peacekeepers from the Kahnawake Band of the Mohawk Nation and agents of the Quebec Provincial Police (Surete) arrived at the Hotel du Parc in Montreal and arrested five contestants of the previous night's world championship Extreme Fighting matches, the referee and the ring announcer.

The next day, matchmaker was arrested and jailed. This action was in direct contravention of the spirit of an agreement made between the Kahnawake tribal council and promoters of the world championship Extreme Fighting event.

These hamfisted arrests were a flagrant attempt to intimidate Battlecade and the skilled athletes who compete in our Extreme Fighting matches, which were sanctioned by the Mohawk Athletic Commission.

The Quebec government has caused extreme and unwarranted damage to these individuals and we will take the appropriate steps to redress this wrong. The athletes and the crew were held in squalid conditions in a Montreal jail. They were not given an opportunity to be arraigned until Monday, even though the charges were the equivalent of a misdemeanor.

This outrage arose because the Quebec government was embarrassed that it could not intimidate the Mohawk Nation into calling off the fights that it considered were legal under its sanction.

During the raid on the Hotel du Parc, police burst into the room where fighter Steve Nelson and his girlfriend, Mitzi Jones, were lying naked in bed watching television. Five or six police refused Ms. Jones' pleas for privacy to get dressed as Mr. Nelson, a high school teacher and coach, was taken into custody.

We want to emphasize again that we did not come into Canada to break any law. We were invited by the Mohawks to stage the matches at the Kahnawake Sports Complex, which were attended by about 5,000 people and broadcast in the U.S. on pay-per-view. The matches were held in total compliance with Mohawk regulations and several attending physicians were present. Referee John Donahue, who was arrested and jailed, supervised the fights carefully.

Battlecade Extreme Fighting is a rugged combat sport, but it has far less potential danger to our highly trained athletes than a rough and tumble Canadian hockey game or the boxing matches Quebec thinks it regulates so closely.

CONTACT: Battlecade Public Relations, New York

Kelli O'Reilly, 212/687-1765

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A 2002 E Online article on Pride FC.


Pride...in the Name of Blood

Thu., Jun. 27, 2002 5:45 PM PDT by Scott Steinberg

A new breed of fighter is coming to American shores... tougher, faster, stronger and less camera-shy.

More loosely regulated than Ultimate Fighting Championship, even showier than the WWE, Pride Fighting Championship is a mixed martial arts phenomenon sweeping the world. Operating under the rules of "ValeTudo"--or anything goes--the contest welcomes international masters of all fighting disciplines, including judo, karate, wrestling and any exotic variant thereof.

With UFC showing its age and the WWE bleeding viewers and losing key wrestlers (the Rock is focusing on his acting career, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has apparently left the circuit), the Japan-based Pride is poised to make a splash in the U.S.

"Pride is the premier combat sports organization now," says Renzo Gracie, black belt in jujitsu and world-class combatant. "They bring the biggest crowds...some shows have over 52,000 people. Fights are so beautifully orchestrated, they make WWE, UFC and anything like that look like a beginner's project."

The five-year-old league plans a Stateside invasion this September, as soon as authorities sanction its activities. Likely venues include Hawaii and Las Vegas.

For now, however, American audiences have to content themselves with videos of the previous competitions and a pay-per-view offering of the most recent contest: Demolition. The eight-bout card, headlined by American Don Frye vs. Japan's Yoshihiro Takayama will be available this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.

Although excessively brutal at face value, this is a sport of scholars, not street thugs, or so the thickly muscled combatants tell us. These beefcakes must be familiar with multiple techniques, and once engaged, the conflict can become downright scientific, as something simple as stamina level, body position or an exposed joint can turn the tide of battle.

Think Jean-Claude Van Damme's Bloodsport with brains.

"People don't understand," bemoans Gracie, whose family helped pioneer both Pride and the better known Ultimate Fighting Championship. "They see us only as bruisers. We're actually thinkers. This is an art. We study this so much, play with people's leverage, balance, momentum. It's unbelievable. Martial arts is always evolving. There are always new things to learn and add. It's an infinite source of knowledge."

That, and hospital bills if you don't know what you're doing. In other words, do not try this at home--entrants typically boast a minimum of five years' prior experience before stepping in the ring. And then there's the small matter of training, which requires upwards of seven hours a day, six days a week of weightlifting, combat practice and muscle development.

Oddly though, serious injuries are few and far between. Most wounds are simple cuts and bruises, to which men in such peak physical condition are all but oblivious. All that blood you see? Flesh wounds. Even something as major as a broken arm only sideline superstars for three-four weeks.

"I've been around fighting my whole life," laughs Gracie. "If you look at me...the only scar I have is from riding a bicycle. You'd be better fighting than riding a bike in the street."

Well, assuming you comprehend the in-ring dynamic and can bench 350. Explains Gracie, "Once you understand the sport, it makes the Russian ballet look uncoordinated. When you can see what's really going on when two good grapplers are going at it, it's a beautiful thing."

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A December 1998 Village Voice piece on Manny Yarbrough and his adventures in sumo. It's not about MMA, but it does touch briefly on Manny's UFC fight. It exaggerates Manny's ultimate fighting prowess and states that he beat Keith Hackney. In reality he didn't. It also makes no mention of Manny's other two MMA bouts, both of which took place in 1998. Still though I liked the article; it's descriptions of the crowd reactions at the American sumo event made me chuckle.

http://www.villagevoice.com/1998-12-22/ ... e-matters/

Size Matters

At 6-7 and 720 pounds, sumo wrestler Manny Yarbrough is living large. Very, very large.

By Jeff Yang Tuesday, Dec 22 1998

Atlantic City Without a doubt, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino is one of the Eastern Seaboard's most breathtakingly vulgar edifices: a tatty, spangled eyesore bearing the name of one of the world's great architectural treasures. The original was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a love gift for his deceased queen; this garish mockery is a love gift from Donald Trump to his own penis, or, perhaps, to his god Mammon. Asian tradition tarted up and harnessed to the service of American greed, the Taj might seem an appropriate venue for an event like "Night of the Giants," billed as the first-ever all-world "super-heavyweight" amateur sumo tournament. To the eye of the purist, anyway and, for millennia, one couldn't be a sumo fan and not be a purist. In Japan, o-zumo, or "grand sumo," is an ancient and sacred tradition, the pastime of gods and emperors; it's as much a spiritual ritual as it is a sport. The Kojiki, Japan's oldest surviving written text, relates a legend about how the god Takemikazuchi defeated his brother Takeminakata in an epic sumo match for control over the Japanese archipelago.

Even today, sumo is revered as a ritual upon which the prosperity of Japanese society depends. Sumo wrestlers rikishi, or "strong men" are vessels for the Yamato spirit, the soul of the nation. They aren't just sportsmen. And they certainly aren't just obese guys in absurdly scanty thongs, beating the crap out of each other.

But to a crowd that came for a dinner buffet fit for a sultan plus the loosest slots in town, the Divine Contest of Strong Men is not much more than a novelty act: fat-ass vs. super fat-ass in a fight to the finish, or at least until one has fallen and he can't get up.

"Get a load of that butt," shouts one drunken, heavily moussed patron, waving a pimp roll the size of a cylinder of toilet paper. "C'mere, I got a dollar bill for ya!"

Two gigantic men, desperately trying to concentrate above the din, face off and crash like runaway locomotives. A straining knot of fabric gives way, and the smaller of the two men abandons his grip on his opponent to prevent his mawashi from unraveling and revealing his worldly assets.

"God damn," mutters another audience member, throwing an arm over her eyes. "That is just too much man, and too little clothing."

It doesn't take much imagination to envision the Spirit of Yamato staring down on this spectacle and getting desperately plastered; regardless of the promotional hype, this event has little to do with o-zumoas it is practiced and revered in its place of origin. This is Sumo, American Style: louder, brasher, and stripped of refinement and ritual. What is missing in decorum is made up for by democracy virtually anyone of a certain size can come and compete. "We had Ultimate Fighters," says Harry Krebs of Corporate Entertainment, the promoter of the event. "We had power lifters, and competitors from ESPN's World's Strongest Man." A dozen countries were represented, from Brazil to South Africa to Mongolia, by men at every level of ability. The only common thread between these stout-hearted (and -bodied) fighters? A will to compete, and a minimum weight of 300 pounds or more.

"We wanted to strip this sport down to the basics," says Krebs. "Very large men, battling against one another. Very, very large men. Take a look at football. It's basically big men hitting into one another. Basketball big men, banging it up. Look at virtually any popular sport in the U.S., and why do people watch it? Because they want to see big men going at it. Bigger than life."

And, as every sport has its icon its Junior, its Michael, its Tiger so too does this embryonic martial competition: The biggest man of all, Emanuel "Manny" Yarbrough. At 6 feet, 7 inches, and 720 pounds, Manny is the world's heaviest competing athlete.

Manny is a legend in his own time. As a three-time All-American wrestler in college, he was an unstoppable force, crushing the competition, both figuratively and literally. In his brief career as an Ultimate Fighter, he was a quarter-ton warrior whose strength, surprising agility, and sheer mass made a mockery out of smaller opponents; one 200-pound karate champion shattered his wrist attempting to knock him over. Manny still bears scars from that match; he won, but not without deciding that he had no future in blood sports.

"I'm not afraid to say that I'm afraid," he says. "When I was in junior high, the coach and the principal said they wanted me to play football by sixth grade, I was already 5 feet 11 inches and 260 pounds. I told them, no way. Even if I was the biggest kid in the school, I would have been the youngest on the team. Yeah, I was afraid."

Manny ended up joining the varsity football squad his senior year in high school, helping them to the state finals as a starting tackle. He went on to play for two more years in college, where he discovered a sport that gave him an even greater chance to excel: wrestling. At 400 pounds, he beat all comers in his weight class until the NCAA decided to impose a maximum-weight restriction on competition. He petitioned to be grandfathered in, but was denied. "To this day, I still have a beef with the NCAA," he says.

Leaving college after his third year, Manny briefly considered the pro-wrestling circuit, but had no stomach for the WWF's ultraviolent, theatrical antics. Abandoning his dreams of a sporting career, he got a job driving a delivery van and as a bouncer. ("Usually, one look at me was enough, but I had to deal with my fair share of problems. The way I mark it, I was 11-0 in velvet-rope competition.")

And then a friend introduced him to Yoshisada Yonezuka, the sensei at Cranford, New Jersey's Judo and Karate Center. Yone, as he likes to be called, was looking for big men bigger than life to compete in judo at the Olympic level. Manny's size, strength, and wrestling experience fit the bill. "Yone likes size," laughs Manny. "He's a size freak. Somehow, after less than a year of training, I ended up placing third in the nationals. I was still a white belt, [but] I was the fifth-ranked judo player in the country at the heavyweight division." Still, when a slow-to-heal knee injury nearly got him fired from his day job, he decided to quit competition for good.

Two years later, in 1992, the then infant International Sumo Federation was looking for competitors. Yone, who'd been an amateur sumotori in high school in Japan, thought of Manny. Promised an all-expenses-paid trip to Japan, Manny agreed and after just three days training, he found himself competing in the first Sumo World Championships. Despite never having fought in a match outside of practice, Manny reached the finals. He became a celebrity; he was pestered for autographs, and fans begged for the opportunity to rub his sizable belly for luck. Although he was already nearly 30 years old, he'd found a new avocation, and a new mission in life.

"Manny is an ambassador," says Kevin Carter, a feature writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and an aspiring amateur sumotori himself. "Right now, he's the most important face in sumo, outside of Japan. When you think of international sumo, you think of him."

Because of Manny's prominence, sumo in the U.S. is bringing in participants from communities with a diversity that Japanese sumo couldn't hope to match. "You go to Hawaii, most of the guys in sumo are Polynesian," says Carter. "But here on the East Coast, they're mostly black or Latino. A lot of that has to do with Manny. People know him and identify with him. A guy in Africa, this 300-pound pro wrestler, saw Manny win the Worlds and decided to put on another 200 and jump over to sumo. He ranked third in the Worlds last year. Strangely, you just don't have too many straight-up white Americans doing this art." Carter believes that part of the reason why black athletes are dominating the American amateur sumo circuit is cultural, citing grappling traditions in Africa. "And of course, we all watched martial arts flicks and samurai movies as kids," he says. "We grew up thinking, 'Bruce Lee, now he has juice.' "

At the "Night of the Giants," a contingent of black fans watches the bouts with intense focus, giving props to black rikishi like James Perry, Michael Munford, and when he makes his monolithic entrance Manny Yarbrough. When Manny is thrown to the ground with an earth-rattling crash, they let out a choral gasp. He loses his bout quickly, and walks back to the lockers, rubbing his bum knee. "You're still beautiful, Manny!" shouts a female fan. "You're beautiful!"

Carter, who's providing commentary for the ESPN broadcast of the tournament (which will be shown January 2), takes note. "Women find him sexy, they do. Size is power, man; some of your greatest African chiefs were overweight. The asanteheni, the sultans of North Africa. The top potentate in Ghana. It's an atavistic thing you're that big, it means you're handling your business, because you can really feed yourself and your family."

And Manny, with a laugh, agrees. "Of course I'm sexy," he says. "I'm the sexiest man in the world, over 600 pounds."

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A Sports Illustrated piece from the summer of 1997.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/more/w ... _fighting/

Human cock fighting or legitimate competition? Ultimate Fighting draws hundreds of thousands on pay-per-view

Ultimate fighting draws viewers, world-class athletes

Posted: Fri August 1, 1997 at 1:32 PM ET
From Nick Charles, CNN/SI

A controversial competition known as ultimate fighting has become a pay-per-view phenomenon.

While the no-holds-barred scraps might offend some, the fights routinely mesmerize more than 300,000 home viewers. The matches, staged by Ultimate Fighting Championship, typically have television production values of more than $1 million, according to UFC, the main ultimate fighting organization.

The ring is an octagon-shaped cage, which was created by John Milius, director of the movie, "Conan the Barbarian." Bouts usually end on the ground with one man punching or choking his opponent into submission. Or the referee stops the fight.

Critics call it barbaric, primordial. In fact, ultimate fighting has been banned in eight states.

But the participants are generally not barroom brawlers. A majority are accomplished martial artists in disciplines such as kick boxing, judo and jujitsu.

"I think when they call it human cock fighting, when they call these guys barbarians, I think it's an insult to anyone who wears a black belt or practices any discipline in combative sport," said Jeff Blatnick, a gold medal winner in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Olympics and a color commentator on ultimate fighting matches.

"In our discipline, we think we're good, but we never have the opportunity to show the world what we can do against others. The format of the ultimate fighting championships allows for disciplines to cross lines and compete against one another."

Indeed, three world-class wrestlers participated in ultimate fighting matches this past Sunday in Birmingham, Alabama.

Their credentials are hardly those of undisciplined brawlers. The three: Marc Kerr, the 1992 NCAA champion at 190 pounds and a 1994 World Cup champion; Mark Coleman, two-time All-American at Ohio State, a double gold medalist at the Pan American Games and a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team; and Kevin Jackson, who wrestled at Iowa State and won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

"I'm Olympic champion, I'm a world champion and there's no way in the world somebody can tell me that I'm not an athlete," Jackson said. "I'm just coming off the street to do this thing -- how can they say that?"

Jackson said he continues to wrestle on a world-class level.

But why would world-class athletes get tangled in an event so controversial that many people don't even consider it a sport?

Kerr, the 1992 NCAA champ, said it's a chance to legitimize wrestling.

"People don't realize there are world-class athletes who had taken wrestling and have made the best of it and have made themselves into Olympic champs and world champs," Kerr said. "Now they've changed gears and are in mixed martial arts."

Jackson said he is trying to prove that his wrestling discipline can stand up to others.

To prepare for ultimate fighting matches, the wrestlers rely on their usual training routines and supplement them with martial arts disciplines.

Coleman said serious training is central to ultimate fighting.

"You don't have two people just coming there like a bar fight," he said. "You know everybody knows how to defend themselves. They train many hours for this."

Jackson said he prepares much like he does for wrestling. "To be prepared for an event like this you have to learn how to defend strikes, learn how to defend kicks, also to develop some striking skills and some kicking skills," Jackson said. "And you have to learn some submission holds to make you a complete fighter in this arena."

With its pay-per-view popularity that has mushroomed since the sport's 1993 inception, ultimate fighting also gives the wrestlers a chance to make a good living. But they have to do it quickly, because by its nature, ultimate fighting does not lends itself to long careers.

"I'm doing it for love, but also I'm doing it because you get paid for doing it," Kerr said. "You know, I didn't enter the NFL. I'm not in the NBA. I'm not in the NHL. This is my means to make money. You know I'm not going to sign a million-dollar contract. I'm going to do this for a couple of years and then that's it."

He and other ultimate fighters know their sport might not be widely respected or accepted. And they understand that standing over a fallen opponent or beating him to the canvas can appear barbaric. But for the participants, ultimate fighting is a legitimate test of strength, skill and courage.

"True, there are some things that happen that might make you cringe," Kerr acknowledged. "But what people don't understand is that there are world-class athletes involved in this. The people have been preparing for this in various forms of arts for 15, 20 years and they're masters at what they do."

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A piece that was published in the LA Times on November 15, 1993. In it a writer details his viewing of the first UFC, which had taken place two days earlier.

http://articles.latimes.com/1993-11-15/ ... ampionship

'Ultimate' Fight Lives Up to Name : Television: Pay-Per-View Battle, Instead of Being Merely Gory and Funny, Gets Interesting After the First Two Bouts


November 15, 1993

Yes, as a regular television viewer, I'd seen my share of violence.

But this time, leaning forward on the edge of my chair in front of my TV set shortly before 6 p.m. Friday, I was poised to wince, flinch, shudder and scream out in terror as never before.

To say nothing of laugh.

And no wonder, for about to enter my home from Denver's McNichols Arena was the "Ultimate Fighting Championship," a live pay-for-view cable event ($14.95 a pop) in which "eight of the deadliest fighters in the world" would be competing for $50,000 in a fenced-in, eight-sided ring designed for . . .


The eclectic field of "deadlies" for this SEG-produced spectacular consisted of a sumo wrestler, savate champion, kick boxer, karate specialist, jujitsu whiz, cruiserweight prizefighter, "shootfighter" and tae kwon do expert. Everyone was here but David "Kung Fu" Carradine.

Having survived the prelims, these guys would pair off in single-elimination bouts, with the two finalists meeting to decide who was the "ultimate fighter." A win would occur when there was a knockout, a "chokeout," a doctor's intervention, a corner throwing in the towel or a fighter giving up by tapping on the ground four times.

As for rules, except for eye gouges, groin shots, biting--and of course using knives, guns or explosives--no tactic was forbidden. Not even spitting?

"If you think you know tough," shouted an advance promo, "you ain't seen nuthin' yet!"

Ring announcer Ron "The G-Man " Goins was ready. TV commentators Bill Wallace, Kathy Long (a former kick-boxing champ) and Jim Brown (the community activist and former pro football great) were ready. I was ready.

And so were the first pair of contenders, savate champ Gerard Gordeau of the Netherlands and Teila Tuli, a 410-pound sumo wrestler from Hawaii. Like all the fighters, they and their entourages entered the arena the high-concept way, through a haze of smoke and colored lights.

"I see the perspiration, I see the anxiety," Brown said. "But you also see the respect," Wallace said.

Soon they were seeing the massacre. After 26 seconds, punctuated by a savage kick to the already grounded Tuli's face that sent a tooth flying and blood pouring from his mouth, Gordeau advanced to the next round when the doctor stopped the fight.

Next, karate expert Zane Frazier of North Hollywood was worn down in less than a minute by kick-boxer Kevin Rosier, a roly-poly 265-pounder from Buffalo, N.Y., who wore his trunks over his belly like Martin Short's Ed Grimley. After exhausting himself by repeatedly kneeing Rosier in the head and the groin area , Frazier helplessly collapsed onto the canvas, and his corner threw in the towel when Rosier stomped on his head.

"The crowd seems to be enjoying it," Wallace said.

The crowd would have enjoyed the Christians and lions. Fights broke out throughout the evening, not only in the ring, but all around the announcers and elsewhere in the arena. "This is the most alive group of people I've ever seen," Brown said. "In fact, I'm kind of worried."

After defeating Frazier, meanwhile, Rosier disclosed his strategy to an interviewer: "Let him hit me." Very shrewd. And incredibly, it worked.

Yet a curious thing happened after the first two contests. Instead of merely gory and funny, the "Ultimate Fighting Championship" began getting interesting.

St. Louis cruiserweight boxer Art Jimmerson didn't get to throw even one punch before giving up. He was swiftly taken down and dispatched with a chokehold by jujitsu master Royce Gracie, whose family is synonymous with the sport in their native Brazil, where mixed-martial arts championships like this one are commonplace.

In the battle of 220-pound strongmen that followed, Lockeford, Calif., shootfighter Ken Shamrock looked invincible in getting tae kwon do battler Pat Smith of Denver to submit to a painful ankle twist, setting up an intriguing semifinal with the much-lighter Gracie.

The Shamrock-Gracie winner would face Gordeau. Even though he had broken his hand against the sumo wrestler Tuli, the Dutchman easily battered the blimpish Rosier, who again succeed in getting his opponent to hit him, but unfortunately in all the wrong places. Defenseless on the canvas, Rosier took a rib kick from Gordeau that made your own ribs ache.

The semifinal between Shamrock and Gracie was the evening's best, with the Californian getting an early advantage, only to be taken down by Gracie and choked into submission. Like a constricting anaconda that is unstoppable once it has you in its coils, Gracie used the same breath-stopping technique to easily cut off the windpipe of the much-bigger Gordeau in the final, winning the championship and the $50,000.

Refreshingly, "The Ultimate Fighting Championship" featured little of the obligatory bravado and trash talking that usually accompanies prizefighting. In fact, the sportsmanship in post-match interviews was striking, with Shamrock praising his conqueror, Gracie, for example, and the gregarious Rosier--this event's Mr. Congeniality--repeatedly lauding the man who had clobbered him, Gordeau. Obviously, they had recalled Key Luke's "Kung Fu" advice to Carradine: "The wise man walks away with his head bowed, humble like the dust."

That humility also applied to Gracie, who afterward celebrated his family instead of himself. His brother, Rorian, founded a jujitsu academy in Torrance.

It was fascinating to watch Gracie strategize and employ his jujitsu moves in his matches, which were all one-sided. "I found my sport," Brown said. Me, too.

And we thought we knew tough.

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A piece that ran in The Independent on July 14, 2002. That's the day after UFC 38 took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 48219.html

Eye witness: This isn't sport. It's a public execution

Ultimate fighting: Punching, jabbing, kicking, strangling - anything goes.

By Cole Moreton

Sunday 14 July 2002

Mark could kill me with a single kick to the throat, but is too polite to mention it. He's a nice bloke: softly spoken, good manners, loves his mum. And by the time you read this she may have seen him spill blood, break bones or get beaten into submission while fighting a man called the Wolf in a cage at the Royal Albert Hall.

Flag-waving on the Last Night of the Proms used to be as rowdy as it got at the Albert, until someone agreed to host the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a new sport from America that some compare to human cock-fighting.

The boxing promoter Frank Warren says it is like a public hanging. The British Medical Association wants it banned, because combatants intend to inflict injury, including brain damage. It is the closest thing you can get to bare-knuckle, no-rules fighting, this side of the law.

The Wolf has a speciality strangle called the Guillotine Choke. Mark does not intend to get caught in it, so strips to his fighting shorts to show me how those long legs can land precise blows at blinding speed. His smile may be gentle but his body is rock hard. Frankly, with his clothes off he is terrifying.

Afterwards we sit in the rooftop conservatory of a posh hotel in Kensington, surrounded by huge men from all over the world who have flown in to compete, and Mark tells me his mother is to blame for getting him into this.

She stopped him boxing as a boy because of all the blows to the head. So he took to martial arts instead, and became the Tae Kwon Do world champion. Then someone brought videotape of ultimate fighting bouts home from America.

"Eight men enter, one man leaves," said the flashy, all-action presentation. "A blood sport to the death." Behind the hype, Mark saw an astonishing sport that combined the martial arts he was good at with the skills of boxing, judo, wrestling, kung fu and many other disciplines including the Brazilian vale tudo, "anything goes".

Now the 33-year-old from Gloucester rises at 5.30am to train for six hours a day, every day, in his own gym, called the Pit. His mother flew in from Jamaica to watch last night, or possibly to hide her eyes and reflect on what happened to his career as a civil engineer.

When ultimate fighting was invented in 1993 there were only three rules: no going for the groin or throat, and no gouging of eyes. Now they ban biting, hair-pulling and even "unsportsmanlike conduct". Kicking an opponent in the head when he's lying down is apparently OK, if he can defend himself. You win if the other guy gives up (he can tap the floor if unable to speak) or the ref stops the fight.

Thank God for rule 29, is what I say: "No timidity, including avoiding contact with an opponent." That's me out then. Running away is forbidden; and the cage is locked during the fight. Otherwise, anything goes. Kick, punch, pull, twist, jab, slam, wrestle or strangle. The best arm or knee locks make the victim black out in seconds; the side choke will kill in 20 if the ref doesn't intervene.

Despite all this, ultimate fighters say they are safer than boxers. The worst injury suffered so far has been a punctured lung. "If you can't defend yourself the ref steps in," says Mark. "It is honourable to tap out but I have seen boxers go to their corner, get patched up and called names, then pushed out there to take another beating."

The reason for this civilisation (some say taming) is the desire for respectability, and cash. Promoters used to boast of being banned in 49 US states, and everyone agreed the spectacle was akin to watching a car crash, but broadcasters and advertisers thought it all too hardcore. Last year the original organisers sold their tournament to a company from Nevada and ultimate fighting began to acquire the trappings of a proper modern sport: rules, accreditation and a slot on Sky Box Office.

Elvis Sinosic is a big Australian with close-cropped hair dyed green and yellow. His T-shirt proclaims him as the "king of rock'n'rumble", and I'm not about to argue. Elvis his real name is an IT consultant but he hopes to go full-time as a fighter. "When I first started promoters just put you up for the night. Now they are flying us from all over and paying appearance money though you still have to pay for training partners, masseuses, gym time and equipment."

Ultimate fighters train as hard as any athletes but are used to being treated as freaks by outsiders. What counts is the competition. "None of us are getting rich," says Elvis. "The only thing you get for all the years of effort, and for getting into that cage, is respect."

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A 2004 feature on Juliette Lewis that ran in The Independent in the summer of 2004. The UFC gets a brief mention.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-enter ... 65436.html

Juliette Lewis: The trouble with Juliette

A decade ago, she had Hollywood at her feet - and Brad Pitt on her arm. Then came a spectacular fall from grace. Now Juliette Lewis is back - and she's got something to sing about, as she tells Nick Duerden

Saturday 17 July 2004

Here was a time when Juliette Lewis had it all. The natural heir to Jodie Foster's crown, she was a former child actress who acted nothing like a child actress should. She was all spice, no sugar, and determinedly so, delivering a string of performances that exuded daring, danger and an incipient promiscuity. Lewis was never exactly beautiful, but she was attractive in a prohibitive way that made her seem lethal, a bad girl whose badness ran deep. At 18, she'd been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Cape Fear, the film in which she very nearly acted Robert de Niro off the screen.

Afterwards, for a while at least, all was milk and honey: Woody Allen directed her in Husbands and Wives, and the memorable roles continued to follow, alongside Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), and Gary Oldman (Romeo is Bleeding). After making Kalifornia in 1993 - a blip in her CV because it was, admittedly, rather krap - she began dating her co-star, Brad Pitt. Within a matter of months, they did what all famous couples must do when dating in the public arena: they got engaged.

A year later, Lewis established herself as one of the most arresting actresses of her generation when she played the tyrannically maladjusted Mallory Knox in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. Stone's assertions that she had "tremendous instinct" and that she was "young, mean and hungry" were entirely correct. Her performance was so intense that it would overshadow all her future work. But if her career was progressing in leaps and bounds, then her personal life was beginning to unravel and, with it, any claim she may have had to mental stability. Pitt left her, and she quickly slid into a downward spiral of drink and drugs. Rehab followed, and she was forced to quit the film industry. Suddenly, Juliette Lewis no longer had it all. She was off the radar, and out of view. End of story - or almost.

After bingeing, mostly on cocaine, she promptly did something else famous people tend to do when things crumble: she turned to religion. In late 1996, she checked herself into Narconon, a rehabilitation centre with links to the Church of Scientology, the celebrity religion with which she rapidly became obsessed. Detox was as painful as detox always is, and for Lewis the process was an interminable one. Three years later, now finally clean and sober, she began the slow resumption of her day job. In 2001, she recalled those darkest days, saying: "There were times when I felt I was dying. For whatever reason, I felt so conflicted about myself. I had an incredible confidence about my talent on the one hand, but on the other, I felt really insecure about who I was as a person, and I didn't know how to articulate myself."

At 31, Juliette Lewis now says that all her "little tragedies and war stories" are behind her. "This industry can be full of heartbreak," she tells me, "but you just have to pull on through. In this business, there is always the road to sell out. You can do shitty-ass work and get paid a whole bunch of money, but I'm just not interested in that. I've achieved a certain level of credibility, and I want to maintain that. Sure, I've done some stupid popcorn movies recently ..." and here, you have to wonder whether she's referring to her role as the villain's girlfriend, Kitty, in the fun but ultimately fluffy Starsky & Hutch remake, "... but I've tried not to do too many of those. I've always been left-of-centre, and sometimes casting directors don't know what to do with me, but I do get respect for my talent." She begins to nod her head, and nod it vigorously. "That's the ... yeah, it is ... the important thing."

Today she is clean and healthy, and, like a reformed smoker, possesses the kind of zeal that suggests she has been to hell and back. Scientology seems to have been a crucial factor in her rehabilitation, so much so that she offers it nothing but praise: "It has made me more of an individual [and] revitalised everything good in me." And she happily returns the favour - regularly lining up on the endorsement podium alongside Cruise and Travolta at starry Scientologist events.

But there's another reason for her salvation, and it is one that she readily admits comes cloaked in cliché: rock'n'roll. "It saved my life!" is her succinct reading of the situation. Like Keanu Reeves, Russell Crowe and, well, like Jason Donovan before her, the actress has turned singer, with a band that goes by the name of Juliette Lewis And The Licks.

"My whole life I've wanted to be a rock star."

She says this, appropriately enough, while on board her tour bus which is right now pulling into an anonymous truck stop in Texas. Outside it's just endless dust and the occasional cactus. She and her band have been on the road for a week, playing a different city every night. The reception has been buoyant.

"I used to do musical workshops when I was little," she says, "and I was really drawn to jazz. My heroes were people like Billie Holiday, Rickie Lee Jones ... "

This is a somewhat surprising claim given that her début album, Like A Bolt Of Lightning, owes absolutely nothing to jazz. It is punk rock incarnate, and Lewis equal parts Iggy Pop and Courtney Love. She looks the part, too: tiny and taut, with raisins for eyes, her waif-like figure squeezed into barely a rumour of a vest, while the pallid complexion, framed by clearly un-Timotei'd hair, is all very reminiscent of that brief Nineties obsession with heroin chic. When she screams into the microphone, saliva flies in all directions and the veins on her neck protrude like a viper's nest. Her conviction is terrifying - almost, you could say, unhinged. But while the album is commendably authentic, it's going to take some time before she can even hope for credibility.

"You know what?" she begins. "I love the problem of whether or not we will be taken seriously. That's good, it plays into our hands because, let me tell you, there has never been an actor like me doing a band like this. Never! I've had to prove myself my whole life, I've never had anything easy, and I've always been the underdog. So I'm perfectly happy if people are suspicious of us. Bring it on! If the expectations are so super fricking low, then that makes it all the more easy to impress everyone." Here, she raises herself to her full height, nostrils flared. "This band is urgent, hungry, energetic. And the album is amazing. It's a punch in a face. I love it. I absolutely love it!"

Of this, I tell her, there is little doubt.

She laughs. "Oh, I'm cocky about it, I'm f cocky as hell! But then I have to be, because I have so much to prove!" She's shouting now, every word italised with its own exclamation mark. "When I perform live," she continues, "my entire goal is to inspire them [the audience]. I want people to leave the venue with some of my energy, I want them to feel elated. And if that means that ... that ... you know - if that means I have to roll around on the floor and give people the unexpected, then that is EXACTLY WHAT I'LL DO! I LOVE BEING UNPREDICTABLE!"

It is at this point that her manager, Jay, intervenes. He tells her that she is yelling, that she should lower her voice for the sake of her vocal chords. They've a show tonight, after all. Lewis's response to this paternal concern is near hysteria. She kicks back her head and laughs like a hyena, teeth everywhere.

"Jay is always telling me I yell when I talk!" she says. "Maybe I should whisper instead...?"

Inexplicably whispering myself now, I remind her of something she says on her band's website: "I live for the sweat I drip on-stage."

Immediately, the laughing hyena returns.

"I sure do!" she says, beginning again to holler. "I SWEAT A WHOLE LOT!"

This voluble actress's first taste of a film set came in 1975, just two years after her birth. Her father, the character actor Geoffrey Lewis, would take her to work with him, while mother Glenys Batley, a graphic artist, remained at their LA home to tend their youngest daughter's seven half-siblings. Her parents were clearly fond of wedlock: by the time Juliette came along, Lewis had already vowed to have and to hold four times, Batley three.

Lewis landed her first television role in a soap called Homefires when she was 12 and, two years later, she divorced her parents in order to sidestep child labour laws (apparently a common practice among precocious teen thespians). By now, she was acting full-time, dropping out of high school to do so. At 15, her parents already divorced, she went to live with her father's actress girlfriend Karen Black, the emblematic Seventies star of Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, and within months of emancipation from the fractured family home, was arrested for underage drinking.

Meanwhile, her career was blossoming. After a succession of cursory roles in limp late-Eighties comedies like My Stepmother Is An Alien and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Lewis hit her stride in Cape Fear. The next few years brought a whirlwind of critical acclaim, but her method-like approach to the unhinged characters she portrayed on screen was beginning to cause concern.

Her fall from grace came in 1996, when her relationship with Pitt foundered. She doesn't talk about her former boyfriend anymore - the subject is entirely off limits - but her last public statement on the matter was this: "I have never got over him and probably never will. I am resigned to the fact that I will always be in love with Brad."

Later that same year, while filming the Terms Of Endearment sequel The Evening Star with Shirley MacLaine, she checked into rehab for the slow, three-year path back to sobriety.

Then, in 1999 and newly evangelical about life, she met and married professional skateboarder Steve Berra, and began to audition for movies again. But reputations don't die easily in Hollywood, and producers were reluctant to hire her. She only managed eventually to land her comeback role, as a mentally challenged teenager in The Other Sister, when the director Garry Marshall and co-star Diane Keaton personally took responsibility for her. Lewis has enjoyed steady work ever since, but the films she has appeared in have been independently funded and, consequently, low-key. These days, she is as far removed from the A list as she has ever been.

"But that's OK, because I'm not interested in being A list," she says. Instead, she wants to be challenged in the roles she takes. "I get lots of offers to play the crazy girl, but I've done the crazy girl to death. I'd rather not repeat myself any more." To this end, she tells me that she has recently turned down a big part in a potential blockbuster, something that would have paid her a lot of money and raised her profile exponentially. But the role didn't appeal, and so she said no.

"I want to do something completely different, something like, I don't know - maybe a romantic comedy," she says, smiling broadly. "I can do it, really I can! Trouble is, it's going to take some convincing because, you know, I'm the crazy girl from Natural Born Killers."

Meantime, she will continue to act only in those projects she deems interesting. Her latest starring role is in the new "baguette" Western, Blueberry, alongside an intriguing cast which includes Eddie Izzard, French hearthrob Vincent Cassell, Michael Madsen, Djimon Hounsou, Ernest Borgnine and her father Geoffrey Lewis, which opens in the UK this week. And she has two film performances under her belt - one called Aurora Borealis, the other Grilled - both of which she hopes will secure a release some time soon. But, for the immediate future at least, Lewis wants mostly to concentrate on her music, and concentrate hard. Last year, she filed for divorce, and now wants to fill the gaping hole it has left in her existence. She claims the divorce is an amicable one, but when was the breakdown of a marriage ever truly amicable?

"Things are good right now," she says insistently. "Being in a band is just the best thing. I can't tell you how much fun being on the road is. In many ways, I'm having the time of my life."

A week earlier, her band played in Las Vegas. While there, they went to see something called the Ultimate Fighting Championships, where two men beat the living hell out of one another inside a cage. The girl from Natural Born Killers embraced it with a passion that her character from that film would applaud.

"Oh my God, it was awesome, amazing, I loved it!" she says, bouncing up and down. "See, I'm completely obsessed with masculine strength. As a female in this world, things for us women can get pretty oppressive at times, and so I find it really cathartic - and inspiring - to watch men fight. Why? Because it's so pure. The fighting breaks down exactly what you need in this world to survive: skill, endurance, intention. I just love that, don't you?"

"To see two men fight?" she says, temporarily whispering again, and sounding palpably turned on. "That's a beautiful, beautiful thing."

'Like A Bolt Of Lightning' will be available on import from 14 September. 'Blueberry' is released at cinemas on Friday

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Re: How much mainstream coverage did UFC 1 get?

Bill Simmons goes to UFC 39: The Warriors Return.

A piece from late 2002...

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/st ... ons/021001


October 01, 2002

Sodom, Gomorrah and the UFC

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Sometimes, you just know things. When the UFC scheduled an Ultimate Fighting Championship card for Sept. 27 in Connecticut -- at the Mohegan Sun Casino, no less -- I knew I would end up going. Didn't know where I would get tickets, didn't know who would make the 100-minute trek from Boston with me ... just knew I was going.

Of course, the good people at UFC made the decision easier, offering two freebies. Out of the blue. Good ones, no less. So I called my buddy J-Bug on Wednesday night, leading to this exchange:

-- Me: "What are you doing on Friday?"

-- J-Bug (very available): "Um, nothing. Why?"

-- Me: "I have UFC tickets at the Mohegan Sun ... I'm thinking about devoting my entire Friday to some reckless gambling and drinking, followed by some controlled violence. Any interest?"

-- J-Bug: "Can we leave right now?"

Quick interjection: I'm not saying that the UFC is for everyone. In boxing, you might see somebody get knocked out and you might see blood ... in the UFC, you will definitely see somebody get knocked out and you will definitely see blood. You also may endure at least one knockout that leaves you uneasy and uncomfortable afterward, like seeing a sex scene involving Tony Soprano's sister, but worse. Just know that going in. These guys aren't playing around.

As a budding major sport, it works for me because it combines many of my favorite boxing-wrestling traits -- mayhem, theatrics, unintentional comedy, ring girls, championship belts (shouldn't every sport use a championship belt?), and especially the "I don't know what the hell might happen next" factor. Maybe eight out of 10 times, a pay-per-view boxing card lets you down. Not the UFC. Some shows may outshine others, but it always maintains your interest. Throw a UFC party and invite 10 friends some time ... I guarantee that nobody budges for three hours.

How would it work as a spectator sport? J-Bug and I traveled to the Mohegan to find out. We arrived at 3:45 in the afternoon, five hours before the show, more than enough time to get annihilated at a $15 blackjack table. Not only were we getting more 12s and 13s then R Kelly, but the Mohegan's equivalent of Randy Johnson (a dealer named Ramon) was pitching so well, they didn't even have to call in their closer from the Asian Gaming Room to finish us off.

(Note: Ramon tossed a complete game shutout -- 17 Ks, two hits, nobody reached second base -- just a startling performance, and since the place was so crowded, we were locked into an "Either we turn things around with Ramon, or we gamble at a $25 table" situation. Yeah, that always works out well. You know you just had a bad experience at a blackjack table when the dealer is profusely apologizing as you're leaving. And just for the record, I hate the Mohegan Sun -- it's the unluckiest place on the planet. I haven't won there in four years. Don't go there. Go down the road to Foxwoods. Save yourself. The Mohegan is like the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining." It's evil. Stay away. I hope this paragraph is costing them money. Man, this feels good ...)

Needless to say, after that unexpected shellacking, J-Bug and I were ready to see people beat the crap out of each other. Following a healthy dinner at Johnny Rocket's -- bacon cheeseburger, fries, onion rings, vanilla shakes and a complimentary angioplasty -- we entered the Mohegan's new 10,000-seat arena to find our seats. Looking around, I think the Bug put it best: "It's definitely saying a lot when the J-Bug is in the top 10 percent of the gene pool here."

In the crowd at the Ultimate Fighting Championships, there were plenty of Vin Diesel look-alikes ...

Yikes. You could practically smell the testosterone. Every guy in the building looked like he was waiting for somebody to make eye contact with him, just so he could stalk over and scream, "You lookin' at me? You got a problem?" Sleeveless shirts, gold necklaces, slicked-back hair, swaggering walks ... it was like we had suddenly entered Badda Bing. The entire place was a fight waiting to happen.

We headed toward our seats, careful not to bump anyone along the way. The good people at UFC stuck us in the fourth row, just high enough for a perfect view of the octagon, just far enough away so we wouldn't get splattered with blood. Of course, it also meant we were in the VIP section, which may or may not have also been the Champagne Room. Sweet Jesus. Were these girlfriends or escorts? Frankly, it was too early to tell. Every man in the first few rows had a glazed, giddy "I can't believe I'm with this girl" look, even the guy two rows in front who was wearing a smoking jacket.

One buxom blonde companion commanded everyone's attention, mainly because of her skintight black cocktail dress, topped by an "I know everyone's looking at me" smile and a cowgirl hat decorated with cubic zirconium crystals and sapphires (all she was missing was a long metal pole). The guys next to me were staring at her intensely, frozen, like how my dad's dog Maggie looks whenever somebody eats popcorn. Meanwhile, the girl sitting in front of J-Bug was wearing a strapless dress, looking like she just arrived off the set of "Men In Black, Part 69," prompting the Bug to wonder longingly, "Imagine if she was into slightly overweight guys with no money?"

Hey, you have to hand it to the UFC ... they know their audience, which I'm guessing is a wealthier, more energetic, more buffed version of a WWE audience (considering the best seats went for $200 and $100). During warmups, they blared every strip joint song you've ever heard; at one point, before the show even kicked off, they followed the Guns 'N' Roses classic "Welcome to the Jungle" with that song by Kid Rock that goes "Bawitaba-da-bang-da-dang-diggy-diggy-diggy-said-the-boogie-said-up-jump-the-boogie" (I think we all felt that way).

I offered J-Bug 100-1 odds that they wouldn't play Ozzy's "CrazyTrain" song at some point during the night. He ignored me, mainly because he was busy ogling the UFC's ring girls (who were hotter than the equator, and apparently wearing wet-naps for outfits). There was a weird buzz in the air -- part WWE, part boxing, part strip joint, part "I hope I don't get beat up," part "I hope I have the chance to beat somebody up." It was a writer's goldmine. I was busy soaking everything in and jotting thoughts down, my notebook a rambling mess. One section reads, verbatim:





"Far enough away -- won't get splattered with blood. Kind of place you see someone wearing an eye patch. Cool WWE-type setup -- big screen TV, expensive entrance ramps, lasers, looks like fireworks. Stripper in front of us. Bug wants to inquire about potential lap dance. NO BUG! Wow, Bruce Buffer!"


Yup ... it was Bruce Buffer, Michael Buffer's brother, UFC stalwart and the Frank Stallone of ringside announcing. I will always support the UFC, now and forever, simply because somebody made the decision, "Hey, we could get any ring announcer ... let's hire Michael Buffer's brother, just for comedy's sake." Stroke of genius. You know he just sits around all day, wondering how he could top "Let's get ready to rummmmmmmmmm-BUUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLL!", then getting pissed off and throwing things around his living room.

... and mysterious characters like these whom you knew to avoid.

After Bruce's garbled intro, we witnessed a dark match (two beginners "warming up" the crowd, neither of them good enough for TV), followed by UFC veteran Matt Lindland winning a unanimous decision over Ivan Salaverry in the worst kind of UFC match -- not enough punching, too much time spent wrestling on the ground, waaaaaaaaaay too many uncomfortable positions involving a guy on his back with his legs up. Not good times. I mean, really, really bad times.

(If you're looking for "Reasons why the UFC may never make it," start right here: Guys vigorously rolling around on other guys. Never really a crowd-pleaser. They need to encourage more kicking, more punching and less of the other, um, stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Here's where things progressed to the next level. First, the pay-per-view telecast started -- fireworks, lasers, explosions, video montages, Buffer's incoherent screaming, the whole shebang -- just as two separate groups of guys plopped down near us: The first group featured three muscled, beer-guzzling, sarcastic guys who came off the Vin Diesel assembly line (one of them asked if he could smoke inside, decided "Ah, f--- it," lit the cigarette, then explained, "It's a peace pipe, man, we're on a reservation"). The second group featured rowdy Long Islanders whistling at girls and singing at the top of their lungs to Papa Roach's "Last Resort." And group No. 3 featured me and J-Bug bracing for the inevitable melee by calling our closest loved ones, just in case we didn't survive.

Fortunately, everyone got along. The turning point came when someone from Group No. 2 spotted Bruce Buffer in the octagon, then started screaming, "Hey, Buffer... buff this! Ha-ha ha-ha! Buff this, Buffer! Ha-ha-ha-ha! Bufffff-errrrrrrrrrr! BUFF THISSSSS!!!!" That won just about everyone over.

(Note: This was also the point when I turned to Bug and said, "Can we just mail this column to the Pulitzer Committee right now? Do I even need to write it?")

Now we were fired up. Our first pay-per-view match featured Long Islander Phil Baroni against middleweight Dave Menne; Baroni was accompanied by two scantily clad valets, wearing a robe with the Yankees symbol on the back, strutting and sneering as if he were auditioning for the WWE. The crowd couldn't have been sucked in any faster. It wasn't possible. Here was a man who clearly understood his fan base.

So the match started, the fighters danced around for a few seconds, we were already wound up ... and then Baroni caught Menne with an overhand right. Menne stumbled backward. Baroni pounced on him, landing three more punches. Flush. Now Menne was out on his feet, slumped against the octagon wall ... and this is the best and worst part about the UFC, right here, those two or three seconds where one fighter goes for the kill and the referee hasn't quite realized yet that the fight needs to be stopped. Baroni ended up unleashing five more punches, the last one dropping poor Menne in sections, before the referee finally intervened. And we were sitting there cheering the whole thing.

Then we turned to the big screen.

The camera zoomed in on a discombobulated Menne -- face already swelling up, vacant eyes, blood dripping from inside his left eyeball -- and everyone hushed. Yikes. This guy doesn't look good. They quickly brought a stretcher out for him, as one of the dudes behind us gleefully shouted, "There's your ride!" Suddenly, I wasn't sure I wanted to be there anymore. I was bummed out. Some imaginary line had been crossed, one of those, "Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it" lines. As Bug said, "That dude will never be the same."

Bill Simmons' blackjack hands reminded him of R Kelly.

We weren't the only ones rattled. The entire crowd seemed shell-shocked, especially after watching three people help Menne back to the dressing room, right after Baroni shouted, "I'm the man, I want my f---ing belt!" in his post-fight interview. I've seen boxing beatings before -- hell, I watched Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini kill Duk Koo Kim on live TV 20 years ago -- but this was different: more brutal, more sudden, more jarring. We were about two more punches away from witnessing Baroni kill someone with his bare hands. A little unsettling.

The Bug and I grimly sat through the next two matches -- Gan "The Giant" McGee stopping former heavyweight champ Pedro Rizzo (TKO, cuts), followed by lightweight Cael Uno outlasting Din Thomas (unanimous decision). Nearly 40 minutes passed before I made my first joke since The Beating: I asked Bug if he knew Cael Uno's brother, Pizzeria. When he didn't laugh, I mentioned how Cael was a submission specialist and added, "Sounds like my prom night." Still, no laughter from the Bug. He was busy giving birth to a new Face in the Pantheon of Faces -- the J-Bug's "My mind has been turned to Jell-O by violence" Face. He looked like Nicholson at the end of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." I was ready to stick a pillow over his head.

Thankfully, the immortal Bruce Buffer snapped him out of it. Between matches, I noticed something on the floor, picked it up ... and it was an authentic Bruce Buffer trading card! You couldn't make up this stuff. After a round of "I'm putting this on eBay with a reserve bid of $600 or more" and "New, from Topps' 'Black Sheep Brothers In Show Business' Collection"-type jokes, an overwhelmed Bug finally cracked a smile.

"I'm sorry, man," he said. "I just ... I ... I've never seen anything like this."

Right around that time, we noticed that every UFC interview sounds just like an NHL interview, only more macabre: "I just want to go out there and fight my match, and uh, be the better man, and uh, hopefully I'll come out the winner." That kinda stuff. We quickly twisted that to "I just want to go out there, and uh, pummel the hell out of him, and uh, hopefully punch him until he's unconscious, and uh, hopefully his brain will swell enough that he passes out ..." Trust me, this joke never got old.

Meanwhile, lightweights BJ "The Prodigy" Penn and Matt "The Terror" Serra were battling it out in the final undercard (that's another thing the UFC needs to work on, the lame nicknames for every fighter), as everyone rooted for Long Island native Serra. When Penn eked out a lackluster unanimous decision, the pro-Serra crowd went ballistic, booing Penn through his entire post-fight interview. At least the crowd had loosened up after The Beating. A few-hundred thousand f-bombs always has that effect.

And then it happened.

With the telecast running short, they trotted out a "filler" match between Hawaii's Wesley "Cabbage" Correira and Tim Sylvia, two UFC newcomers who looked like rejects from that "Toughman" show on FX. After three straight technical matches involving top fighters, the sudden dropoff in talent was jarring, like they pulled these guys out of a local bar. The "Cabbage" guy was covered in tattoos, with rainbow-colored hair, looking like he hadn't done a situp in five years. And Sylvia was tall and gawky, like a backup center for a Division III hoops team. Neither of them had any semblance of style. They were just throwing bombs. It was practically Amateur Night.

Midway through round one, Sylvia connected with an overhand right, buckling Cabbage's legs. Then he started peppering Cabbage with blows, one after the other, bouncing them off Cabbage's head like raindrops in a thunderstorm. Unable to defend himself, Cabbage crossed his arms up in front of his face, looking like Joe Frazier, but Sylvia's punches kept barging through. We waited for the referee to stop it, but every few seconds, Cabbage threw another wild haymaker, buying himself a few more seconds.

Now the crowd was coming alive. Noticing there were 75 seconds still left in the round, we encouraged Cabbage like he was finishing a triathlon. He continued to assault Sylvia's fists with his head, occasionally throwing a punch himself. You know those HBO "Compubox" numbers they always show? Sylvia unleashed about 12,000 punches in five minutes, 11,979 of them landed ... and still, our boy Cabbage wouldn't go down. With 15 seconds remaining, with Cabbage tripping around the ring like Brian Griese, with Sylvia unable to land one last solid blow, everyone was standing and screaming encouragement. Finally, the horn sounded -- END OF THE ROUND! -- and we practically blew the roof off.

"That was a moment!" I kept screaming to the J-Bug, who had a pulse for the first time in two hours. "That was a moment!"

Cabbage wobbled back to his corner. About 40 doctors jumped in to check on him. Improbably, they decided he could continue, causing us to erupt all over again. This was like every "Rocky" movie we had ever seen. Was this really happening? If Cabbage rallied back to win this thing, it would have been like ... I can't even imagine a comparison. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. After two more minutes of punishment, Cabbage's corner threw in the damn towel. We didn't care. We stood and cheered some more. Sylvia may have notched the victory, but as far as we knew, Cabbage was the toughest guy on the planet. You would have needed a stun gun to take him down.

"I'm telling you, that was a moment," I told the Bug for the 30th time in five minutes. He was busy watching the girl in the cowgirl hat climbing over the seats in front of her, unable to properly bend because her outfit was tighter than Joan Rivers' face.

"This is another moment," Bug said, eyeballs bulging out of his head.

We were still standing and clapping. Cabbage departed from the octagon to appreciative applause, the lovable warrior who captured our hearts. Baroni emerged from backstage, accepting congratulations for his earlier match ("Way to kick his ass, Frank! Nice job!"). A number of other UFC fighters were milling around, waiting for the heavyweight title fight to commence, and UFC groupies were multiplying around them like bugs on a windshield. One of the guys behind us was screaming, "Anth-o-neeeee! Antho-neeeeeee!" to a buddy on the other side of the arena. The Bush song "Machine Head" was blaring from the speakers, the latest from the "Songs from the Spearmint Rhino" soundtrack that the UFC uses. It was quite a scene.

"We can't top that last fight," I told J-Bug. "It will never be topped. Wanna skip the title match and play blackjack?"

Even as I was uttering those words, the Bug started gathering his stuff. We were shifting from one vice to another: Three hours of organized violence was more than enough. All the beatings were starting to blend into one another, like one continuous barrage of punches. Now it was time to lose more money. And we did.

Four days later, the question remains ... was it worth going?

The answer lies on my refrigerator, where my Bruce Buffer trading card has been triumphantly placed, brightening my mornings. Every time I think of that Cabbage guy, I feel like hugging someone. And even though I can't remember what I did 10 days ago, I remember everything about my night at the UFC -- crowds, fights, sounds, smells, everything else -- and I have to say, it was an enjoyable night. Like it or not, I'm officially a UFC fan, and I guess I always knew it would happen.

Sometimes, you just know things.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine.


Edited by nfc90210
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A South African article from May 2003...

http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/ ... n-1.107266

Fight club craze comes to town

May 30 2003 at 02:43pm
By Renelle Naidoo

When Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) fought the unnamed protagonist and many others in the Hollywood blockbuster Fight Club, millions of global viewers were introduced to the brutal world of no rules fighting.

It was gripping stuff - sadistic, violent and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The reality of such extreme fighting sank home when heartthrob Pitt walked away from fights battered and bruised.

But, if you thought such fights only happened in movies, or that it was an illegal practice, think again.

No rules fighting, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as it is known, is fast growing in popularity in South Africa and various parts of the world.

Jiu-Jitsu (meaning "gentle art") is a discipline from Japan that can be traced back thousands of years, to the roots of ancient wrestling techniques, but is believed to have first

originated in India.

The idea is to use your opponents' energy against them, and it is appealing because smaller men and women can defeat heavyweights.

It is a form of self defence that takes place almost entirely on the ground, and is unlike any other fighting technique. Fighters use snake-like grappling moves to choke their opponent or, using the weight of their entire body, press against key joints, thus bringing opponents closer to breaking point.

Losers acknowledge defeat by either tapping their fingers on the ground or by saying "enough".

In the late 1800s Jigoro Kano developed Judo, a version of Jiu-Jitsu, to preserve the art's realistic effectiveness, as the day of the Samurai was coming to its end.

One-hundred and twenty-years later, a Japanese ambassador to Brazil, Mitsuyo Maeda, befriended a politician, Gastao Gracie. Maeda taught Gracie's son, Carlos, the art of Jiu-Jitsu and judo.

Carlos, who was a renowned boxer, trained with Maeda for a year and refined the technique into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

He tested and modified the system, fought many matches and, although just 68kg, defeated all his opponents to become a Brazilian legend.

Carlos had 21 children and his younger brother, Helio, had seven sons, thus creating a dynasty of Gracie fighters and instructors who have spread the Gracie style of fighting that dominates the world of "no rules" contests today.

Jiu-Jitsu was put on the map when the first Ultimate fighting championship took place in 1993 in Denver, USA - Royce Gracie (Helio's son) fought and defeated wrestler Ken Shamrock.

Rickson, Royce's elder brother, is currently regarded as the best no-holds-barred fighter in the world being undefeated in over 400 bouts.

Luiz Claudio, current black belt world jiu-jitsu champion, trained under Rickson Gracie and decided to introduce the sport to various countries. He has academies in Rio de Janeiro, London, USA, and South Africa.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Micah Atkinson saw how effective and popular the sport was overseas and decided to switch from karate to jiu-jitsu.

The 30-year-old chiropractor and South African No Rules champion has been involved in martial arts since the age of six.

He moved from karate to Shun Wutang Kung Fu until 1994, representing SA at a competition in San Francisco that year.

After reaching his third dan black belt in Chinese Kung Fu, Atkinson switched to Jiu-Jitsu and travelled with his brother, Ivan Brittain, to London, where he received his blue belt from Royce Gracie.

He competed in various competitions, including the Rio de Janeiro championships, and scooped two silver medals consecutively at the 2000 and 2001 European Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champs.

The Durban Institute of Technology clinician often travels to Brazil to further his understanding and knowledge of the sport, and is currently a purple belt under Luiz Claudio.

He lives with his girlfriend, Penny Thomas, (first female in SA to attain her blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and has a private clinic in Argyle Road.

The brothers opened the Novagen Jiu-Jitsu Academies on the Bluff and at Game City.

Atkinson said he keeps his working hours to a minimum to allow him to focus on training and running his academies in Durban.

As the highest ranked Brazil-ian Jiu-Jitsu fighter in SA, Atkinson has more than 50 students in Durban, including females.

Novagen members holding blue belts include Ivan Brittain, Abdul Hassan, Mark Arm-bruster, Penny Thomas and Atkinson.

Atkinson and Hassan have been training together since they were 12-year-olds.

Hassan, undefeated no rules fighter in the lightweight division, also switched from kung fu to jiu-jitsu because of its growing international popularity.

These fighters will represent South Africa at the World Brazil-ian Jiu-Jitsu champs in Rio, between July 24 and 27.

On Sunday, there will be 11 No Rules fights at the Jewish Club, North Beach from 6pm.

Twenty-two men will battle it out in a fight where just about anything goes - kicks, knees, punches, elbows, slaps, head butts, arm bars, chokes, shoulder and leg locks.

However, not allowed are: eye-gouging, fish-hooking, biting, hair-pulling, head butts, groin strikes, elbows on the back of the head, small joint manipulation and strikes to the spine.

Fights consist of three rounds of five minutes each. The fight is declared over if a corner throws in the towel, the referee stops the fight or if a fighter taps out.

If they fight the full three rounds, a panel of judges will decide the winner.

There have been several no rules contests in SA, but the bigger fights usually take place in Johannesburg. Local fighters are hoping to make it a regular feature on Durban's calendar.


Dinesh Moodley v Dane Dunn

Darell Moodley v Shane Cambier

Yuki Kuarnstrom v Carl Webster

Kevin Thomas v Mbuso Ntuli

Dean Strydom v Henk van Wyk

Chris Bright v Dave Verster

Julio Greco v Hannes van der Berg

Junaid Azmuth v Weihan Leish

Abdul Hassan v Brandon Knipe

Micah Atkinson v Othello Barna

and Ronald Dlamini v Eric Neethling (extreme fighting).

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A long (it's over 4000 words) LA Times article that ran on November 1, 1997.



A Brutal Sport Fights for Its Life

Ultimate Fighting at first succeeded wildly. But as pressure to stem the gore grew, promoters found it's hard to turn a profit in the world of extreme sports.


Tank is big. Tank goes 270, easy, his belly bulging out, huge as a camel hump, and strong, my lord, he can bench-press 600 pounds. He is bad in a way you can see from the 49th row, the shaved head and heavy dark goatee and eyes that seem to glare from under the heavy line of his brow like a machine-gunner's under a helmet.

Tank is a street fighter with a bazooka right hand, and he is stalking Cal Worsham, a 230-pound U.S. Marine who is no slouch either, a master of taekwondo. They are going at it in a chain-link pit known as the Octagon, in Birmingham, Ala., in an arena roiling with noise and roving spotlights and stage smoke and placards hoisted by long-legged women.

Closing fast, Tank grabs hold of Worsham's thighs and lifts him right off the mat, so high Worsham is suddenly teetering atop Tank's shoulders, raining down punches. "Look out!" a television announcer yells as the Marine reaches the top rail of the chain-link, about ready to go over. Only then does Tank turn and slam him to the canvas and bring the fight to an end.

At a long table adjoining the Octagon sits a young executive, David Isaacs, who looks like anything but a fighter--or even a fight fan. Wavy-haired, trim, he is all Madison Avenue, even in jeans and tennis shoes. With a pair of Harvard degrees--in economics and law--Isaacs is, at 31, one of the two men directly responsible for the Ultimate Fighting Championships. He handles daily operating matters and the planning for future bouts--where, when, who takes part.

His boss, Robert Meyrowitz, out in the TV production truck, is the avuncular owner and CEO of Semaphore Entertainment Group, a New York firm specializing in pay-per-view television events. Meyrowitz, 55, graduated from Syracuse with a bachelor's degree in history and a passion for the Rolling Stones. He is the money man--a riverboat gambler who sinks formidable sums into promoting concerts and other entertainment programming.

Together, these two entrepreneurs took a flier on a bold concept--live, real fights with almost no rules--and turned it into a spectacle worthy of ancient Rome or American television. For a while, it took off. There were heady times, beginning in 1994, when Ultimate Fighting brought in a flow of cash like a Texas gusher. Telecasts from small-town arenas went out through satellite uplinks and cable networks and exploded into homes. Men sat transfixed, contorting with body English.

This was action, oh man, it hammered you right in the gut--like a violent playground brawl--and it was yours to watch for $19.95. It was primitive, more elemental than any other sport in how it measured a man. Boxing comes close, but boxing is not real fighting. Look at Mike Tyson, constrained by three-minute rounds, padded gloves and a whole framework of artificial rules. Real fighting is not like that, Isaacs will tell you. Real fighting is what you see when two men tangle in an alley--or in the Octagon.

"At one point, people generally thought Mike Tyson was the toughest guy on the planet," Isaacs says. "But I think anybody who's seen Ultimate Fighting believes that our heavyweight champion . . . will take Mike Tyson and twist him into a pretzel."

By 1996, the choke-outs and bloody eyes and head-butts shone in more than a quarter-million living rooms. Isaacs and Meyrowitz had found a winner, or so it seemed. But society beats down extremism, even in sports, and during the last year Ultimate Fighting has taken a drubbing.

Politicians, clergymen and newspaper columnists denounced it as brutal and abhorrent: no more than human cockfighting. The backlash echoed from Congress to the legislative halls of Oregon, Hawaii, New York and Montreal; dozens of states and major cities have either banned the tournaments or imposed restrictions that prevent them from being held. Cable companies stopped selling air time. Viewership plummeted to half what it used to be.

The rise and fall of Ultimate Fighting is a madcap tale with a pointed lesson: It is difficult to turn a profit in the world of extreme sports. Mainstream audiences want thrills and danger, but not if they're too raw or too ugly. ESPN's X Games tapped the reckless abandon of youths on bikes and skateboards and became a marketing triumph. Ultimate Fighting reached further, putting muscular behemoths in brutal contests, and fizzled.

The venture is not yet dead, but Isaacs and Meyrowitz are scrambling. They are holding to their ambitious schedule--still running five tournaments a year, mostly in small towns in the South--but they realize the sport may never play big in Peoria; it is illegal there, too.

All they can do at the moment is hang on and tinker with the rules. Try to appease the most vocal detractors without destroying the character of the sport. Try to promulgate their view that this jarring ultraviolence contains something beautiful and pure--"the essence of competition," as Isaacs likes to say. "Two men walk in there . . . who walks out the champion? Who walks out defeated?"


Playboy magazine identified its own choice for the world's toughest man--or at least "the toughest man in the United States"--in 1989. He was a bronze, 37-year-old Brazilian living in, of all places, Torrance. Rorion Gracie had claimed this title with the brash offer to fight anyone in America, winner take all, for $100,000--a challenge no man ever accepted.

Rorion was destined to become the father of Ultimate Fighting. He was suave, engaging, someone who moved comfortably through the mirrored halls of business. He valued the rich traditions of the martial arts; the attitudes and techniques had been passed down to him from infancy; they ran through his family like veins of gold through a mother lode.

No one knows the origins of hand-to-hand combat. Surely it dates to the Stone Age; there are references in the writings of Homer, in hieroglyphics etched on tombs in the Nile Valley. In Asia, systemized combat is traced to the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, a founder of Zen, who shortly after AD 500 taught self-defense to embattled monks at the Shaolin Temple in China.

Those teachings later spread and evolved into disciplines devoted to striking (karate and kung fu), throwing (judo and aikido) and both striking and grappling (jujitsu). Early this century, a Japanese master who resettled in Brazil taught jujitsu to a teenager named Carlos Gracie. Carlos taught his brother Helio, later Rorion's father and Brazil's first great sports hero.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Helio produced headlines in O Globo, Brazil's biggest newspaper, by taking on all comers in sensational, no-holds-barred arena fights. Some lasted more than an hour. He beat opponents who outweighed him by 70 or 80 pounds. He broke one fighter's ribs. He filled 80,000 seats in a soccer stadium. He founded a dynasty, passing on his skills to his own nine children, brother Carlos' 21 and others who followed.

"There were 90 grandchildren and 68 great-grandchildren," Rorion says, "all of them involved in jujitsu."

The Gracies became perhaps the most remarkable family in the history of sports. Jujitsu was their showcase, and they refined it to emphasize grappling holds and joint manipulations. Their approach--known as Brazilian, or Gracie, jujitsu--was a formidable weapon in no-holds-barred tournaments that spread both in Brazil and in Japan, under the names vale tudo ("anything goes") and pancration ("game of all powers").

Vale tudo was virtually unknown in the United States when Rorion moved to Los Angeles in 1978. Shaking off the weight of his family's fame in Brazil, he set out to build his own small empire. He cleaned houses, hustled for bit parts in movies and taught martial arts in a garage. Before long he developed a client list of actors--he coached Mel Gibson for the original "Lethal Weapon"--and eventually, in Torrance, opened the Gracie Jujitsu Academy.

In 1993, Rorion decided to stage a big-money tournament of the type popular back home. He raised $135,000 from his students, signed up fighters and rented an arena in Denver, where bare-knuckle bouts were legal. To market the event for television, he sent out a videotape to Semaphore Entertainment; it featured Rorion's younger brother Royce, who was just entering his prime as an undefeated Brazilian champion. In his homeland he was known as "the Python."


Meyrowitz, who had created and syndicated radio's well-known "King Biscuit Flower Hour," started his company in 1988 to develop pay-per-view programming. Television was changing. Cable was expanding. The pay-per-view market allowed promoters to couple a live event--say, a Billy Joel concert--with nationwide TV sales that might total 50,000 or 100,000 households. Semaphore's entire project list in 1993 consisted of musical and entertainment events.

Sports programs were expanding, too. As a metaphor for an active, beer-drinking, top-down, go-for-it lifestyle, no advertising vehicle was better, and the rights fees spiraled accordingly. NBC was about to complete a deal that would cost it $456 million to telecast the Summer Olympics. Fox was negotiating a $1.6-billion, four-year contract to televise pro football.

Smaller networks and independents were shut out unless they were willing to specialize in ice skating or track and field, or come up with an entirely new product, an event that a network could own and develop without paying huge sums for rights.

ESPN was taking that tack. The all-sports network--owned by ABC, a loser in the Olympic bidding wars--was launching its second network, ESPN2. Programming Director Ron Semiao cast about for ideas by browsing through specialty magazines devoted to skating, rock climbing and bicycling. In 1994 his brainstorm, the Extreme Games, would begin a run of extraordinary success; the games would grow into a $15-million-a-year extravaganza with competitions in street luge, ice climbing and other hip high-risk sports.

When a programming director walked into Semaphore's Manhattan office clutching Rorion's videotape, Isaacs and Meyrowitz thought they had found their own breakthrough product. Isaacs had never heard of the Gracies--"To us they were nobodies"--but he watched the poorly shot images dance across the screen. "It was just so compelling. You were just drawn to it. The office filled up with people, saying, 'What is this?' It was amazing."

Semaphore and Rorion agreed to become partners. They would build the venture from scratch as a TV event, control the rights and divide the revenues, with Semaphore buying air time for the tournament in Denver. "From a business standpoint," Isaacs says, "this was wide-open."

The name, Ultimate Fighting, was chosen despite Isaacs' concern that it sounded too much like Ultimate Frisbee. Film director John Milius ("Conan the Barbarian") devised the Octagon. The slogan, "There are no rules!" was part of a marketing scheme that exploited the savagery with a brazenness that Meyrowitz would later rue as "an early, bad mistake."

From the start, crowds were unruly. Fights broke out in the grandstands. But the show itself was often stunning, especially when Royce Gracie entered the Octagon. The 6-foot-1, 178-pound fighter dominated three straight matches. His defeat of a fighter who outweighed him by 40 pounds was galvanizing--not only for the crowd on hand, but for a pay-per-view audience of 80,000 households, double what Isaacs had expected. At $14.95 a pop, the income stream was substantial.

"It wasn't like we made hundreds of millions of dollars," Isaacs says, "but we thought, 'Maybe we've got something here.' " Certainly enough to proceed with the next event, boost the promotional budget, reach a rental-video deal with a company that would splash this descriptive across the video jacket: "The bloodiest, most barbaric show in history. . . ."

Five events a year became an optimum pace. Royce Gracie became the giant-slaying superstar. Pay-per-view sales kept climbing. All over the country there were people like Robby Russ, a bar waiter from Atlanta who happened to catch a promo one night and became a zealot; he now records every bout and travels hundreds of miles to see fights. Or Bob Voss, a pizzeria owner in Tulsa, Okla.; he rented a tape on a whim at Blockbuster and "was hooked."

Early bouts had no judges, no scoring system, no time limits. A fight could end three ways: by knockout, surrender or by intervention of the referee. You weren't allowed to gouge eyes or "fishhook"--snag an opponent's mouth with a crooked finger--but you could choke, pull hair, kick the guy in the face.

Issacs and Meyrowitz were hearing some flak about the untrammeled violence, but their primary problem was how to format their event for television. Disaster struck in late 1994, in Tulsa, during the night's climactic battle between Royce Gracie and a difficult opponent.

"The fight lasted 16 minutes," Rorion recalls. "But at 14 minutes . . . nationwide, all the television sets went blank." The air time had expired. Out in the electronic universe, in about 240,000 homes, friends were eating pizzas, drinking beer, watching the action. Then, blammo. Nothing. "The biggest mishap in pay-per-view history."

For Isaacs and Meyrowitz, it was a catastrophe. Complaints poured in like windblown hail. Hours were spent on phone calls, meetings. This can never happen again, they decided. Never. The solution was galling to the purists: time limits. Twelve minutes and a fight was over. Rorion was outraged; time limits changed the psychology of the contest. Royce, who liked to "cook" his opponents, letting them exhaust themselves in vain attacks, lost his edge when a larger man could fall on him and do nothing and let the clock run out.

"I told Meyrowitz, 'If you instill time limits you're going to kill the show,' " he says. Meyrowitz stood firm. Next came kiss-your-sister draws, and then, to settle those, thumb-twiddling judges. The frustrated Gracies sold out.

Rorion, who still runs his two-story academy in Torrance, laments what might have been. "I always felt I had everything to blow boxing off the map," he says. "That if I can do the thing the way I want, nobody's going to watch boxing any more."


While Rorion was getting out, another promoter was jumping in, creating a rival enterprise that would cause no end of difficulty for Isaacs and Meyrowitz. Donald Zuckerman, a onetime lawyer and former owner of the Ritz nightclub in Manhattan, had wangled financial support from Penthouse baron Bob Guccione and founded a pay-per-view venture he called Extreme Fighting.

Zuckerman was a raconteur, a fledgling Hollywood producer, a man hot after bicoastal opportunities with a phone pressed to his ear. With a circular fighting ring and his own cast of gladiators, Zuckerman booked an inaugural event in November 1995 at the Brooklyn Armory, a Gothic-looking, century-old warehouse large enough for 5,000 bleacher seats.

Word of a major event in New York got the media going, got the mayor's office involved. The city blocked the use of the Armory. With all hell breaking loose, Zuckerman retreated to a film sound stage in Wilmington, N.C., where he was forced to give away tickets.

"A nightmare," Zuckerman said.

Isaacs and Meyrowitz followed the news reports with trepidation. They had scheduled their events in mostly modest media markets--Tulsa, Charlotte, Casper, Wyo. Slip in, slip out. But Extreme Fighting streaked across the New York skyline like a noisy turbo-prop. Isaacs' next target was Denver. The mayor, though, blocked the engagement.

Radar screens began flashing at the U.S. Capitol. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), an ex-Naval Academy pugilist and Vietnam prisoner of war, was already aware of Ultimate Fighting; someone had sent him a video. Disgusted, McCain fired up his word processor and blasted off letters to all 50 governors: "A brutal and repugnant blood sport . . . [that] should not be allowed to take place anywhere in the U.S."

Isaacs had no idea--yet--of McCain's involvement, but phone lines were crackling. Anywhere Semaphore tried to go, attorneys general and athletic commissioners were putting up roadblocks. Booking dates was now complicated by court hearings and lawyer consultations and long nights worrying about whether a $1-million show would even hit the air.

Critics fixed on the blood and the cage-like Octagon. Isaacs found himself on the defensive, pointing out time and again that there are doctors at ringside; that fighters can surrender with honor; that there are pre-fight medical exams and blood tests for HIV and hepatitis. He argued that the sinister-looking chain-link is actually a safety measure, preventing fighters from tumbling into the crowd. His fighters are safer than boxers because unpadded fists get hurt before they can strike enough blows to cause brain injuries. No one has ever been seriously injured, he told detractors. It is only a matter of time, they replied.

For most of 1996, Ultimate Fighting staged its battles in the courtroom. In Rhode Island, state commissioners ruled that the bouts would have to be held in a wrestling ring. Isaacs went instead to Detroit, where a judge's last-minute ruling allowed the event to go on provided there was no head-butting or punching with a closed hand.

"Seconds into the first bout," the Detroit News reported, "Cal Worsham . . . drove his head into the face of Zane Frazier. . . . By the end of the night, the ring had the dark, stained look of the floor of an auto repair shop."

Detroit did huge box office, but, damn, the picture was becoming scary. For every arena he rented, Isaacs had to line up an alternative spot. North America became a tactical board game; Canada was out of bounds. Bans were being enacted in North and South Carolina, Missouri and Oregon. Other states, including California, were making it clear that the fights were not welcome; by McCain's tabulation, that list would grow to more than 40.


Drawn by purses of $50,000, fighters came from everywhere. Rorion recruited the first combatants; later, Isaacs ran ads in Black Belt, Karate International and martial-arts magazines in Japan, Brazil, Germany and Russia.

Talented boxers were difficult to get--they could profit more in the ring--but the sport attracted judo artists, kickboxers, karate masters. A number of new stars--Royce Gracie's successors--were former collegiate and Olympic wrestlers: Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, Mark Coleman. They trained at gyms like the Lion's Den, the House of Pain and Hammer House.

Never mind that Ultimate Fighting was the narrowest of subcultures, visible only to a fraction of cable and satellite TV subscribers; it offered a spotlight to athletes like Coleman, a former national collegiate champion who competed for the 1992 U.S. Olympic team. The glory he never experienced as an amateur wrestler rained down on him like tinsel in the Octagon. He was besieged for autographs, pictures.

"My phone was ringing all day long," he says. "Various people wanting to represent me . . . telling me I'm the best. It changed my life."

Ego is why they do it, why they enter the cage, risk getting their eye sockets broken, their lips mashed to tomato pulp. Fighters hear the crowd. The noise swells up in their brains, part of the sensory cocktail of colored spotlights and faces--the fans and officials, the entourages, the trainers, the security and medical people, all eyes on them--and the tense warmups, hands hitting leather, the sweat flowing, waiting in concrete staging rooms. Take the cue and step through the curtains into the arena in a fervor, like snake-handlers, caught up in the danger and theater.

A long, arduous fight can begin to drain away the energy, producing a fatigue that turns arms and legs into lead pipes. Now and then a puncher or kickboxer will inflict blows that land like clubs, but usually the adrenaline buffers the pain; blood flows and the fighters scarcely feel it, cheeks and ears slam into the mat but the mind is concerned with moving, seizing the advantage.

Severn, religious, married with four children, says his most difficult adjustment was not in absorbing abuse, but in meting it out: "I had to struggle more with my conscience than with my opponent. I was going against 26 years of sportsmanship."

Sportsmanship yielded. In one fight against Tank, Severn landed 276 elbow strikes alone. He is now known as "The Beast."


For Isaacs, there had to be a line of demarcation, a place where Ultimate Fighting dug in. That place was New York state--home turf, where the Legislature was considering a ban. This was Normandy and Waterloo put together. Legal expenses topped $1 million a year as Isaacs and Meyrowitz lobbied in Albany. The amazing part was that it worked. They wheedled passage of a law that allowed the sport to operate under the state Athletic Commission.

Although not exactly carte blanche, it was at least a start. Isaacs opened discussions with the commission to establish rules of combat, even while he searched for sites for a February tournament "as far as possible from [New York City], so the commission could see our first event outside the media spotlight." The place was Niagara Falls.

One morning, shortly before the scheduled event, Meyrowitz opened the New York Times: Extreme Fighting, the paper reported, was planning bouts at an undisclosed hall in Manhattan. Meyrowitz raised up, took a breath, and got Zuckerman on the phone. "What the hell is this?" he demanded.

The media, the mayor's office--everyone dived in again. The commission finally handed Isaacs its list of rules--a whopping 114 pages. Fighters would have to wear headgear; they couldn't choke, couldn't kick below the knees. The Legislature repealed its earlier bill, setting in motion the ban that would take its place. "Up until that point," he says, "I thought we had done everything right in New York."

The aftermath was another grand farce. A day before the event in Niagara Falls, Semaphore lost a last-ditch skirmish in court. The tournament had to be moved in 24 hours. Meyrowitz chartered a 757 and a cargo plane--"It cost me half a million in cash"--and all the TV equipment, lights, the Octagon, 150 fighters and crew took off in the middle of the night for Dothan, Ala. Fans arriving in Niagara Falls from all over the world were furious.

Tickets in Dothan were handed away. Isaacs presided over the production on half an hour of sleep, a sack of jangled nerves almost jubilant that the event was happening at all. "We were still painting the Octagon as the crowd was coming into the arena."


Ultimate Fighting never recovered. The failure in New York portended even further trouble. America, a place so accustomed to violence--on TV, on the streets, in the movies--was also a place trying to address that violence, trying to clean up its streets.

The Octagon became a tiny, illuminated battleground in that struggle. Values were at stake. The political momentum shifted because there were people in New York--all over the country--who did not want their teenagers seeing that it was OK to bash in a man's face. Some of those people, it turned out, were in the cable TV industry--like Leo Hindery Jr.

When he ran a small cable network in San Francisco, Hindery refused to carry the sport. This spring, to the consternation of Isaacs and Meyrowitz, he took over industry giant TCI, an octopus reaching 14 million viewers in 46 states. "I came here, found out where the bathrooms are, and I canceled [Ultimate Fighting]," Hindery says.

Almost immediately, Time Warner also dropped the bouts. Isaacs had once looked out at the universe of potential pay-per-view buyers and seen 36 million households. Now the number was down to 17 million.

With the TV market collapsing, Zuckerman's Extreme Fighting folded. Isaacs and Meyrowitz entered discussions with Hindery and conceded to new rules: no hair pulling, no kicking an opponent who is down and no groin strikes. The restrictions moved the sport another step further from Rorion Gracie's purist vision, but Meyrowitz was determined to prove wrong all those who predicted its death.

"I am totally committed to this," he says. The new rules helped win sanctioning for the latest event, on Oct. 17 in Mississippi, but Hindery has not budged from his ban.

Isaacs, meanwhile, continues the search for places to hold his tournaments. To say he has gone to the ends of the Earth may be an exaggeration--or maybe it isn't. He's gone to Kazakhstan. He's made 10 trips to Japan for a December show in Yokohama. He talks of staging bouts in Europe, Asia, of establishing a world's championship, big, big plans--as long as the money lasts.

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A very brief 1997 piece from the New York Times about Royce challenging Mike Tyson.

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/21/magaz ... icken.html

SUNDAY: DECEMBER 21, 1997: MARTIAL ARTS; Is Tyson Chicken?

Published: December 21, 1997

' Mike Tyson is a good boxer, but he is not the best fighter,'' says Royce Gracie (pictured), a Brazilian who is a three-time winner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. ''I am the best fighter.''

Them's fighting words, which is exactly what Gracie has in mind: in a calculated-but-serious P.R. stunt, he has challenged Tyson to a no-holds-barred scrap, anytime, anywhere, to bring respect to his often-maligned sport. The U.F.C., being held today in Yokohama, Japan, is a ''reality combat'' tournament, one of those Van Damme-esque events in which martial artists do anything short of grenade-throwing to win. Critics call it ''human cockfighting,'' but Gracie, a lithe 180-pounder, is not just some barroom hack. He's a skilled jujitsu fighter, and though he no longer competes in the U.F.C., he's one of the most famous competitive martial artists in the world.

Tyson hasn't responded, so one can only fantasize about how the bout might go. Gracie says he'd try to take Tyson down to the mat and choke him. Nice! And if Tyson bit him? ''I'd take his arm home,'' he says, ''and hang it over my fireplace.''

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A piece from Business Week from early 2002. It's not really about MMA. The article is essentially a guy decrying  the fact that the Washington (D.C.) Boxing & Wrestling Commission have decided to license Mike Tyson and therefore put themselves in the running to host the Tyson/Lewis fight. The writer seems to have the melodramatic idea that the Tyson/Lewis fight is somehow going irreparably damage boxing's image, and that by even angling for the fight Washington DC is sullying its image. In the course of his decrying he takes a pot shot at MMA, which he (of course) regards as being uncivilised and lower than the sweet science.

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnf ... 3_1284.htm

MARCH 13, 2002

By David Carter

Tyson's Win Is Boxing's Loss

In granting him a license to fight and hosting the Tyson-Lewis heavyweight bout, Washington, D.C., isn't helping itself or the sport

It's official: On Mar. 12, the Washington (D.C.) Boxing & Wrestling Commission granted a boxing license to Mike Tyson, thus putting the District of Columbia atop a very short list of possible venues for a Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis bout. This spectacle, which could set a record take for the fight game, will most likely take place on June 8 at Washington's MCI Center. Sadly, it's almost as if, with this decision, the nation's capital has taken a dive. If there's a bright side, it's that D.C. is allowing the sport of boxing to show just how dysfunctional it has become.

After Tyson, who bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a bout in 1997, went after Lewis -- allegedly biting him, too, during a promotional appearance in Las Vegas last month that turned into melee -- Nevada boxing authorities refused to sanction the Lewis fight. Promoters decided to shop this dust-up from state to state, looking for a local government willing to forego common sense and decency in the name of economic development.

New York, Colorado, and Texas all followed Nevada's lead and declined to sanction such a controversial bout. Although Georgia granted Tyson a license, Governor Roy Barnes was adamantly opposed, calling Tyson, who served jail time on a rape conviction, "a sexual predator." The Peach State ultimately decided this event was the pits. California, which has yet to formally rule on Tyson's request, took a similar, albeit unofficial, position. Golden State Governor Gray Davis spoke out publicly against hosting the event.

DESPERATE MEASURES. The District of Columbia bit, however. Why? According to the Washington Convention & Tourism Corp., the city has lost an estimated $1.2 billion following the September 11 terrorist attacks. In effect, Mayor Anthony A. Williams has told the sporting world and local business and community leaders that, in exchange for the opportunity to inject upwards of $10 million into the local economy, the city will tolerate the stain associated with all things Tyson. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Oh, and about those latest sexual assault charges against Tyson: They were dismissed on Feb. 21. The fight's advocates would have you believe that they're standing up for one of the nation's primary beliefs: All Americans are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. What's the fuss? Tyson's behavior may be boorish, even uncivilized at times, but at least this latest incident wasn't criminal.

Still, thuggishness is nothing to build a match around. This is no way to promote a once-proud sport, and Washington should be ashamed to host the bout. Allowing Tyson to fight in the District empowers not only Tyson but a perception of lawlessness in the boxing world. It's unfortunate that the sport's powers-that-be are willing to look the other way following Tyson's most recent string of indiscretions, rather than take a stand, strike down the match, and use the opportunity to improve the sport's integrity in the process.

RICHEST EVER? Promoters are leaning on another cherished cultural tenet: The sanctity of the free-market system, where the laws of supply and demand dictate business decisions. Many people in the fight game are licking their chops: The Tyson-Lewis fight could be the richest bout ever, generating as much as $200 million in revenues, with each fighter earning at least $20 million, not including percentages of pay-per-view and gate receipts. The District of Columbia is simply facilitating what the public wants to see. People are willing to pay $49.95 a pop for the privilege. Let the market work its magic.

Arnold McKnight, vice-chairman of the Boxing & Wrestling Commission, hopes to quell the opposition by reminding District residents that the fight is for their own economic good. "The biggest obstacle is the public's understanding of what is good for them," he says, "and the public's understanding, very frankly, is that an individual ought to be allowed a right to do what he is trained to do. In this instance, that is to fight."

It all reminds me of circus impresario P.T. Barnum, who famously observed that "there's a sucker born every minute." Sure, win or lose, Tyson and Lewis -- a truly affable guy -- will each take home a nice piece of the purse. And it's also true that Washington could realize an infusion of cash. But the short-term gains from this spectacle could quickly fade to long-term pain. Washington already has its share of image problems, and Tyson-Lewis will only add to them.

EYE-GOUGING. Then there's the possible long-term economic damage to the entire sport. Sanctioning this bout runs the real risk of alienating fans. What's the difference between this and one of those pay-per-view "ultimate fighting" matches -- the ones where fighters trade kicks, head butts and all but gouge out each other's eyes out? Not much, really.

Sports-industry analysts believe the pay-per-view customer for a heavyweight fight is overwhelmingly male, with no significant skewing toward any one racial or ethnic group. Because these bouts are much bigger events than run-of-the-mill fights, they draw wider audiences of men between the ages of 18 and 52, than, say, wrestling, which tends to attract younger males.

Because boxing's major events deliver broader audiences, the sport is susceptible to losing those future fans interested in the true athleticism boxing has to offer. After this bout, boxing won't look so much like a sweet science anymore.

It's a pity boxing couldn't find a way for Tyson to fight the fictional Hannibal Lecter. Promoters would find a blockbuster market for that. Like the upcoming Tyson-Lewis match, it would give boxing another short-term boost -- and further shrink its rapidly diminishing reputation.

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A piece that ran in Scotland's Daily Record on March 15, 2000. It doesn't seem to be online at the paper's homepage but it is archived at thefreelibrary.com.

I suspect that the headline may have been formatted differently when it actually ran.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Bareknuck ... a060882036

Bareknuckle brawl that is called a sport; It's been called barbaric and a bloodthirsty battle which only ends with a fight to the finish, but total fighting has already won over Scottish fans.

Vicky Spavin
March 15, 2000

THE two men are locked in violent combat. As one breaks free from a stranglehold that threatens to knock him unconscious, he turns swiftly, delivering a powerful blow to his rival's unprotected face with his almost bare hands.

Seconds later he presses home his advantage, lashing out with a combination of high kicks to the stomach and chest.

To the uninitiated, this could be the description of a typical bar-room brawl. In fact, it's the latest "sport" to sweep the nation. Welcome to the terrifying world of total fighting.

Banned in 40 American states and hailed the human equivalent of cock-fighting, it is proving one big headache for all concerned.

To those who practise it, total fighting is the ultimate contest - the challenge to find the "supreme fighter from all the world's martial arts," namely boxing, wrestling, judo, karate, tae-kwon-do, kickboxing and ju jitsu.

In the controversial movie Fight Club, starring Brad Pitt, about a group of bare-knuckle fighters, the only rule was that no one talked about it. But soon everyone will be talking about total fighting.

It is big in Brazil and Japan, where prize-money for top fights can be up to $50,000. And although it arrived in the UK only recently, already thousands are flocking to the fights.

It's not quite no-holds barred. According to its promoters, it's not even the world's most violent sport. But that hasn't stopped its critics.

Leading neurologists have warned that fighters risk severe brain damage.

Matthew Parton, Neurology Research Fellow at King's College, London says: "Boxing, where there are rules and a supposed code of gentlemanly conduct, damages brains, so God knows how much worse total fighting is.

"There's evidence that some individuals are genetically predisposed to recover badly from head injury, and this may result in permanent brain damage."

Total fighting is not recognised by any official sports body in the UK, and even the boxing world is outraged.

Scottish boxing promoter Tommy Gilmour says he is against anything that isn't properly regulated.

"We are very stringently medically supervised. Boxers have medicals every 12 months. They have brain scans. Everything you can think of," he said.

"Anybody who thinks total boxing is anything remotely like professional boxing - which is much more medically aware and subjective -- is seriously mistaken."

Even retired boxing champ Sir Henry Cooper has described the sport as "barbaric, undisciplined and frightening".

But total fighting is fighting back.

Scottish Thai and kick boxing champ Duncan Airlie James runs the Total Kombat Organisation in Glasgow, teaching "free boxing" - as he prefers to call it - at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall.

With three total fighting bouts under his belt, this incredible hulk is something of a total fighting veteran.

He said: "Total fighting is a genuine test of what really works between consenting adults. I don't see a problem.

"Violence is a state of mind. It is the wee thug who will rape a grandmother at knifepoint. I train up to six hours a day, but I'm the most non-violent person I know.

"Society can't get its head around two people who have total respect for each other hitting each other with no malice.

"Violence is the intent to damage, maim or kill. It's the opposite of what this is about. The levels of skill involved are awesome. You're much more likely to be injured in hockey or rugby.

"Heading a football is said to have the same effect on your brain as Mike Tyson punching you in the face, but nobody tries to ban that."

The aim in total fighting is to defeat your opponent by superior skill or technique. Fights continue until knockout, submission, doctor's intervention or death.

Duncan said: "A man can legally stand on you for 80 minutes in rugby with metal studs on his feet or drive round a race track at 180 mph in a car. That is what I call dangerous.

"Any type of boxing club is a good thing for society. Those young men take their energy out in the gym and walk away from violence.

"Anybody who comes along to me will be taken through the moves in a controlled environment. It's done safely and professionally."

Duncan even encourages women to join his Kelvin Hall classes. He added: "It's great for self-defence. I've been in martial arts for 21 years and can tell the people who are a bit dodgy and want to come to my classes for the wrong reasons.

"They soon realise they're not the toughest guy in the room."

Lee Hasdell is the brains behind the British total fighting invasion. A 16-stone martial arts champ, he calls himself the UK Total Fight Maestro and, to date, has staged six professional bouts. Tickets cost pounds 15 - a VIP table pounds 300.

Milton Keynes, in Buckinghamshire, is currently the only authority prepared to license total fighting. It did so to prevent the sport going "underground". It is something Lee plans to change, along with the likes of Duncan.

Last week, 500 people filled the Sanctuary Leisure Centre in Milton Keynes to witness total fighting when James Zikic triumphed over Keith Dacre to lift the trophy and a four-figure cheque.

Lee says: "At the moment we have people travelling to Milton Keynes from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, but it's a long way to travel. With a bit of education, it is something I think we can change."

Lee drew up the British rules for the sport: no head-butting; no elbowing; no gouging; no striking when your opponent's down and no attacking with less than four fingers. Fighters must be over 18 and must hold a black belt in a martial art or be a champ in a combat sport.

Their only means of protection are a mouthguard, a groinguard and lightweight gloves.

That the fights, organised by the Total Fight Forum with Lee at its helm, are self-regulated is something Lee knows he must address. He says: "It's not ideal and it is something we want to change."

But his crisis management planning seems to have paid off. To date, no fighters have been hospitalised, with injuries restricted to minor cuts and bruising. Each match is watched over by two referees - one inside the ring, one out.

Lee explains: "We look at each venue and work out how we are going to make it secure; how quickly we can get a fighter to a hospital. We have paramedics with an ambulance on hand, a boxing doctor and St John's Ambulance Brigade. We have security, cameras and we notify the hospital.

"But we want to make total fighting a legitimate sport, so we need an independent governing body.

"That way fighters can be drug-tested and police checks can be carried out. The referees are currently trained by the Total Fight Forum, but again we want an independent body who can do this."

Still, the British Medical Association wants the sport banned.

Lee, however, says total fighting will never be banned. Instead he is concentrating his efforts on making the sport safer.

He says: "If total fighting was banned, how exactly are the BMA going to police the ban? Are they going to ban all martial arts?

"We have challenged the BMA to count the amount of punches to the head in a boxing match and a total fighting match. Yes, being punched in the head is not healthy. But while in boxing punching to the head is the No. 1 technique, and you are using heavy gloves, in total fighting the head isn't the main target.

"We are simply using techniques from various martial arts and putting them all together. People are concerned that fighters are being strangled, but judo fighters use those techniques in the Olympics."

Describing total fighting as the "Formula One" of martial arts, Lee is determined to turn the sport into a commercial success with sponsorship, TV coverage and pay-to-view matches on the Internet.

Next year Lee will embark on a national tour, including Scotland.

"Total fighting is not violent because it takes place between consenting adults. We could certainly give boxing a run for its money," he adds defiantly.

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A piece from The Guardian about Lee Hasdell and "total fighting". It's from February 2000.

Anyway, it seems Hasdell got at least a degree of national media coverage for his shows.


Opposition grows to new sport of total fighting

Sarah Hall
The Guardian, Monday 28 February 2000 23.50 GMT

In a Milton Keynes leisure centre, Lee Hasdell, a 16-stone martial arts champion, is flinging his weaker opponent to the floor. His colossal body slides over his rival's chest; his meaty thighs lock around his neck. Fists rise, primed to pummel. "Basically," he later explained, "it's all about beating the hell out of each other."

This is total fighting - a new combat sport which has only recently infiltrated the UK but is already garnering thousands of supporters. Dubbed the human equivalent of cockfighting, it is an extreme form of fighting in which participants kick and punch as well as choke and wrestle each other into submission.

Anything goes - bar eye gouging, biting, striking to the groin or throat, or bending back the fingers.

To its fans - 2,000 of whom will on March 12 flock to Milton Keynes to watch eight of Britain's 30 professional total fighters, and many of whom will attend a similar contest in Sunderland in April - this is the most sophisticated and challenging form of fighting, incorporating techniques taken from kick-boxing, boxing, wrestling, judo and jujitsu. But to its opponents, including the British Medical Association and the boxing fraternity, total fighting - known as extreme fighting in the US - is nothing more than a glamorised form of brawling.

"It's just a street fight in a ring," says the boxing promoter, Frank Warren. "Basically, it's just about them punching the crap out of each other."

The sport originated in Japan, where millions follow it on TV, and some 50,000 spectators fill the arena.

Dereck Wade, a consultant neurosurgeon at the Rivermead rehabilitation centre in Oxford, said: "My guess is there will be a far higher rate of deaths and severe injuries from this than from boxing, which is regulated and doesn't have the additional threat of strangling."

But Lee Hasdell, a 6ft 1in, shaven-headed man, discounts such anxieties by pointing to the fact that a doctor and paramedics have been at the ringside of each of the five contests he has held so far, with an ambulance waiting on hand. "We have an amazing safety record. In 80 matches, not one person's had to spend a night in hospital."

But the BMA is concerned that the sport has not been independently monitored, and that the safety regulations have been thrashed out between the local authority licensing the fights, Milton Keynes, and Mr Hasdell, the organiser and promoter.

Bill O'Neill, the BMA's science and ethics adviser, said: "We are calling for a complete ban unless it can be demonstrated there's no significant risk of brain damage or eye damage, and until some independent expert rules and regulations are laid down."

The association's anxieties have been mirrored by the Labour MP for Dartford and practising GP, Howard Stoate, who is to put down an early day motion to galvanise opposition to the sport.

The former British heavyweight boxing champion, Sir Henry Cooper, said: "If you were the sensitive type, you'd call this barbaric. With this, unlike boxing, there's no discipline, and that's why a lot of these guys have gone into it. They can't take it - in their lives or their fighting."

The lack of independent medical testing could also be a recipe for disaster, according to Brendan Ingle, a promoter and trainer in Sheffield. "If you are a professional boxer in Britain, you have to have a brain scan and a full medical every year, you have to go through checks and counter checks and you can still get seriously injured.

"You don't have to have that with total fighting... It's out-and-out violence. It's absolutely vicious."

Mr Hasdell says the controversial sport is safer than boxing because the head is not the sole target. But even he admits the success of his "mission" to ensure total fighting replaces boxing in the popularity stakes depends on gaining some sort of external regulation which might bestow respectability.

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Another piece on Lee Hasdell's events. This is from the Daily Mirror and is, again, from 2000. Like the Daily Record piece it was found on http://www.thefreelibrary.com.

There is a little bit of a transcribing error in the middle of the piece.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Ultimate+ ... a060288838

Ultimate contest ..or total brutality?; AS THE WORLD'S MOST VIOLENT SPORT TAKES HOLD IN BRITAIN, WE ASK ..

Jenny Johnson
March 14, 2000

THE gold-waistcoated MC introduces the two contestants and tells them the rules.

"No biting, gouging, fish-hooking or attacking with less than four fingers. No groin, joint or throat strikes. No oil or Vaseline to be applied."

Then he frees James Zikic and Keith Dace to beat the hell out of each other.

Welcome to total fighting.

There are no boxing gloves, just light sparring gloves which offer little protection to either attacker or victim.

Punches are backed up by kicks and shoves. A knee comes up. Dace's eyes blaze. Within a minute, the pair are on the floor, a seething mass of limbs.

Zikic gets on top and sits on Dace's chest. His meaty thighs tighten around his opponent's neck. Dace turns purple. He is choking. His feet flail desperately. Veins stand out on his forehead and his eyes bulge.

The audience cheers.

Zikic draws back his right arm and brings a determined fist down on the larger man's face. A second punch comes almost immediately, then a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth. Dace's arms provide futile cover and he closes his eyes.

The crowd is on its feet. This is what they came to see. Spectators at the back are standing on chairs. One woman has removed her high heels before clambering up.

"Finish him! F***ing finish him!" shouts her companion.

After two minutes and 21 seconds it's over. Dace signals to the referee that he can't take any more.

Both men are helped to their feet. Zikic goes home with a trophy and a cheque for pounds 2,000. Dace staggers from the ring, his scarlet face hideously puffed.

Total fighting arrived only recently in the UK but already has thousands of fans.

Supporters say it's an "art form" which encompasses all the skills of boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling, Thai boxing and jujitsu.

CRITICS condemn it as glamorised brawling, a bestial ritual, a human cockfight. Some say it has already led to several deaths abroad.

The British Medical Association wants the "sport" banned, and leading neurologists warn that fighters risk severe brain damage.

Retired boxing champion Sir Henry Cooper has described it as "barbaric, undisciplined and frightening".

Yet 500 people are streaming into the Sanctuary leisure centre in Milton Keynes at 4pm on a Sunday to witness several bouts of total fighting. Most of the women are dressed up for a night out.

Inside, where the lights are low, there is an army of beefy bouncers in tuxedos. An ambulance crew hovers in a doorway. A doctor attends with his case.

"You don't want to see anyone get really badly hurt," says Mark Kineally, from Bristol.

"But you like to see a bit of blood. I saw one of these things in the States where a guy was taken off half-conscious. It gives you a real buzz to witness something like that."

At the side, stalls sell videos of earlier fights, pounds 15 a throw. Three bars ensure the beer flows freely.

The action starts at 5pm, with some female kickboxers warming things up.

For nearly four hours the fights get progressively more brutal, the fighters more gladiatorial.

Five of tonight's contests are total fighting. The most stomach-churning incident comes when Londoner Lee Murray floors the Mancunian Michael Tomlinson and bends one arm around his back.

The audience goes wild as he increases the pressure. He bends the arm back on itself. Everyone waits for the crack.

This time, Tomlinson, a 20-year-old Salford University undergraduates, submits. Afterwards he apologises for spoiling our fun.

"That was the chicken-wing," he says. "Natural submission hold. I have a very high pain threshold but I couldn't bear it any longer. It was going to come away from the socket."

Tomlinson, like all tonight's fighters bar the winner, takes home pounds 75. He turned professional a year ago, trains six days a week and has made just pounds 150 to date.

But that's not the point," he says quickly. "I'm here to learn and to give the audience a good time.

"I started off as a kick-boxer but I was never going to make it big in that field. I'm just too small.

I DON'T care what the critics say. The boxers who condemn us are just afraid of their own futures.

"I defy any boxer to do this. He wouldn't stand a chance."

Wayne Hood, from Basingstoke, Hants, explains why this spectacle fascinates him: "The problem with boxing, right, is that it has lots of rules. There's none of that with this stuff. It's like a scrap, innit? No rules. No complications. Just raw fighting. I think it's fantastic."

Beside him is Annie Rolfe, 21, a pretty blonde in a cream leather jacket. She's one of perhaps 100 women here tonight. everyone makes out," says Annie, 21. "It's just a good fun night out."

decade ago in Japan, then spread to Brazil, Russia and the USA

belt in a martial art or be a recognised champion in a combat sport.

event is Lee Hasdell, a 16-stone martial arts champ with a shaved head and a slick suit. He calls himself the UK Totalfight Maestro.

It is Lee who drew up the British rules for the sport and he is determined to turn it into a commercial business.

He's a quietly spoken man, a third-dan black belt in jujitsu and kick boxing, and an Olympic boxing coach, who does yoga and reads Eastern philosophy.

"We have very strict rules," says Lee. "Fighters are highly trained and procedures are in place to make sure nothing goes too far. Yes, there's always the danger of serious injury, but I don't think it's an excessive risk."

Lee's efforts for the sport to join the mainstream have not been without difficulty. Before tonight there have been just two professional fight nights in Britain, both in Milton Keynes, the only local authority so far prepared to license total fighting.

EVEN this fight ran into trouble, and the venue was changed three days before the event after a school connected to the first leisure centre complained.

"They didn't want to be associated with us," says Lee, who wants to offer pay-per-view fights on the internet.

"I can understand that, but this was never supposed to be family entertainment. This is strictly over-18s." For some of tonight's audience, however, the action is not X-rated enough. One Liverpudlian quips that he's seen better in the taxi rank of the Adelphi on a Saturday night - without paying pounds 20 for the privilege.

Only time will tell whether Britain will grow to embrace total fighting as a spectacle.

The cleaner who comes in to move away the chairs and sweep up the beer glasses has his own prediction.

"Madness," he says, shaking his head. "Sheer madness. It's only a matter of time before someone gets killed."

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