Editorial by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
became the first person in the UK to engage in what could be considered NHB
The U.K. MMA scene has arguably been
around since 1996 when Lee Hasdell became the first person in the UK to engage
in what could be considered NHB competition. From there he entered the
Shootfighting world of Japan and became the first British fighter on the
Japanese hybrid circuit – during the 6 years spent under Japanese
contract, he also managed to organise, promote and compete in his own Shoot/NHB
events in the UK, and thus the scene here was kick-started.
Fast forward to 2007 and Lee Hasdell
is once again about to step into the cage, the sport having evolved to the
point of near global recognition, similar rules and network of fighters and
teams that makes training at the highest level possible.
The MMA scene here is in a
precarious situation. On the one hand, you have the UFC taking a serious
footing and they are doing an excellent job of promoting the sport of “Ultimate
Fighting” to the mass mainstream media. They are selling out huge venues and
bringing a lot of attention to game.
Then you have the home-grown
promotions such as Cage Rage, Cage Warriors, FX3, Ultimate Warrior Challenge,
Intense Fighting, UK-1 and Angrrr Management. These promotions have been around
for a while, gamely plugging away, building fighters, their brand and their own
Finally, the National Fighting Arts
Commission (NFAC) is looking to tie all of the rules and regulations into a
solid concrete tablet for the promotions to adhere to, protecting the fighters
involved from unnecessary harm. It will be a long slog to get everyone in
agreement, but it’s a task they are undertaking with gusto.
Sounds simple right? Well, things
aren’t always how they appear… on these shores MMA still has an image problem;
one we all know well, one of brutal violence, no rules and thugs. Many councils
refuse to grant licences for the events, the national press jumps all over it
with a sledgehammer of ignorance and new promotions are springing up all the
time looking to “cash-in” on the wave of interest being generated as the sport
Now get this, the latest “cash-in”
on the sport’s tentative growth spurt comes in the way of the new “Cage Boxing”
extravaganza – an event put on by the Cage Fight Series who are newcomers
to the sport, clearly looking to capitalise on the Cage Fighting appearance but
without the skills involved. Sensationalist? You betcha…
Four-ounce gloves for the male
competitors, boxing rules, a cage, flash knockouts and standing 10 counts… yup,
with those ingredients we are quite possibly looking at one of the most dangerous
events the U.K. scene has ever witnessed.
Cage Kickboxing has been featured on
MMA cards for many years. Indeed, we have had Cage Boxing matches before; the
key difference is that they have all been undertaken with the regulatory
equipment, not four-ounce MMA gloves. The potential for cuts and serious trauma
is more prevalent with the small gloves as is the reduced effect of a
traditional boxing guard – the fingerless, thumbless, four-ounce gloves
can easily penetrate a traditional boxing defense.
If there was ever a case for an
event to not take place, this is it. General reaction so far has been mixed.
The people involved in the sport on a whole are against the event, but there
are those new to the sport that are fascinated with the idea of seeing brutal
And who will they get to compete in
this event? Established MMA fighters will steer clear of the event; it’s not
their sport. Ditto for the boxers. So what does that leave? Upstarts in either
sport, most likely. Oh, and wannabe tough-guys! So that means that “Cage
Boxing” will basically be the first and closest thing to a Toughman contest we
are likely to have. And if precautions are not taken, we could very well start
to see the undoing of all the good work since 1996.
Boxing in the U.K. is on the decline
and the people involved in the U.K. boxing scene would love nothing more then
to have the opportunity of souring MMA in the public eye. They are well
connected and very powerful. Boxing and MMA are two different sports, and
granted MMA uses techniques from boxing, but will never be classed as boxing.
In summary, Cage Boxing blurs the
lines of our beloved sport with all the negative perceptions of its detractors
and should not be allowed to move ahead. When Lee Hasdell steps into the cage
against Mario Sperry at Cage Rage 22, he does so with all the pride of having
helped build the sport in the U.K. in a positive way. If the “Cage Boxing”
event goes on, will they have same level of respect if the worst happens at