Cage Fighting: Caged Celtic battlers go to war with USA
Often labelled as the fastest growing sport in the world, mixed martial arts (MMA) competition returns to Belfast on Saturday, as the Cage Wars promotion holds its 'Celtic Rage' event at the Kings Hall.
Not to be confused with the megabucks Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) organisation that packed out the Odyssey Arena in June, Cage Wars considers itself not in direct competition with UFC, but as a breeding ground for the future stars of the sport.
As such, the company has recently established links with other European promoters, to create G4 Productions, an alliance through which it is hoped the sport can continue to prosper.
"G4 are now becoming recognised on the world stage," said Cage Wars spokesman Johnny Burrows. "This highlights the athletic abilities of our sportsmen, and the hospitality we show all our international visitors. "
As a sport, MMA is still much misunderstood. Its detractors point to the fact that the British Medical Association has recently called for it to be banned, but it should be noted that the BMA are at least consistent in their stance, since they have long-campaigned for similar restrictions on boxing.
MMA fighters come from varying combat backgrounds, such as jujitsu, amateur wrestling, and kickboxing. Bouts take place in an octagonal cage - to remove the possibility that fighters may fall through the ropes of a boxing-style ring - and last for three five-minute rounds. Bouts can be won by submission, knockout, referee's stoppage, or judges' decision. The sport also has stringent rules, which mean that aside from the obvious no biting, eye-gouging, or groin strikes, the fighters are protected more than is publicly perceived.
That is demonstrated in the fact that there has never been a death, or even a serious injury, in the organised history of the MMA. American fighter Don Frye has cited his schedule as a professional wrestler as more gruelling, and painful.
"Ours is a sport that has been sensationalised in a way that has not been productive, and we hope through this event there will be a greater appreciation of what is involved," he says.
Subtitled 'Northern Ireland vs The USA', the event begins at 7.30pm on Saturday, with tickets on sale through Ticketmaster. Information can also be found at www.cagewars.co.uk.