Friday, 3 September 2010

Fight Ikon 2

“Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value!”
-Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), Clueless

14th March 2010.

Old Skool hip-hop blasts out of the speakers as I walk into Ikon, Bolton's biggest club. It's sparsely populated at the moment, but that's because it's 3pm and today's event, Fight Ikon 2, has only just opened to the public. This afternoon I'll be watching 15 Mixed Martial Arts fights, and despite training for two years, it is the first time I've been to see this sport.

The bouts will take place in the octagonal cage that has been assembled in the middle of the dancefloor. A film crew from P4TV Sports Network is setting up their equipment around the cage. They are feeding footage to the overhead projector, which plays to two large screens on one wall of the club. There's a rumour in the growing crowd that Sky TV are broadcasting the event nationwide. A cameraman is stood on a small platform secured to a cage corner post, the belt around his waist latching him to the padded beam. He reaches down to take the camera from his colleague; the camera is already rolling and the projected images on the walls shake erratically before we see a high-angle shot of the cage's padded vinyl floor.

All thirty fighters line up, wearing board shorts and 8oz fingerless padded gloves, and enter through the cage door. Like in boxing, fighters are paired by weight category, and the men bring a range of weights to the fight card. They stand in rows, like a school photograph- only the subjects are older, and a lot meaner. The photographers are in the cage with them, snapping away.

A dance troupe of ring girls pose with the fighters, all bleach blonde and silicone but damned good-looking. The girls' fishnet tights match the pattern of the wire mesh making up the cage walls. The event organiser, suited and booted and mic in hand, welcomes us to Fight Ikon 2 and promises some spectacular fights. The show, he tells us, will be broadcast soon on LA Muscle TV - Channel 281 on SKY TV. Before the fights begin, though, he has entertainment of a different kind. After the fighters leave the cage, the troupe dance to Missy Elliot's Get Your Freak On. I'm not exactly sure what this has to do with MMA, but I'm not complaining.

It's my first attempt at “sports reporting”. As the event begins, the first thing I notice is that I shouldn't have brought a gummed notebook. I'm scribbling stuff down and tearing it off, stuffing A7 sheets into pockets in no discernable order. I note down to buy spiral-bound from now on. The second thing I notice- once the fights start- is that there's two areas I don't have enough experience of. I have a pretty good knowledge of the sport after 2 +1/2 years of training, but that isn't enough to produce an accurate write-up on an MMA bout. The second thing is this- I'm a blogger. I'm not a sports journalist. I'm not trained extensively to jot down facts quickly; I can't write in shorthand. Writers for publications like MMA Unlimited and Fighters Only probably have a journalism degree under their belt. It's probably a colored belt of some kind, as well- one that goes around a martial arts gi- knowledge of writing AND knowledge of a specialist subject would pretty much guarantee you work in niche journalism.

By the end of the first fight, I've given up trying to record fight details. (Searching online later, I find the info. The opening match was between featherweights Shay Walsh and Eamonn McNabb, Walsh winning the fight by TKO from Punches in 0:55 of Round 1. TKO is a Technical Knockout. If a fighter is TKO'd, he might still be pretty much conscious. Someone- a judge or referee- has stepped in and decided it isn't safe for the fighter to continue.)

As with some boxing events, the fights are broken into 5 rounds of five minutes each. The fighters start standing, they touch (8oz fingerless) gloves, then trade blows. For those who don't know, MMA is a blend of boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, Jujitsu, Brazilian Jujitsu and a range of wrestling styles- Greco-Roman, Pro, Submission and more. It isn't long before the fighters are on the ground, locking each other up in a variety of holds and occasionally breaking out to strike to the head or body. Where the opponents are allowed to land strikes depends on the rules, and the type of match they are fighting in. describes the rules thus:

“Professional MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is permitted both whilst standing and on the floor.

Japanese Hybrid MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is permitted but only with an open palm rather than with a closed fist. This term most commonly relates to fights from established Japanese promotions such as Pancrase™ and Rings™ in their early fights.

Semi-Professional MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is permitted whilst standing, but strikes to the head are not permitted whilst on the floor.

Amateur MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is not permitted, neither whilst standing nor on the floor (i.e. only body shots are permitted).”

My instructor is coaching Marcus Grosse, a heavyweight from Germany who has flown over for the event. After an impressive opening, his fight takes a turn for the worse when he's on the floor. He's caught with some heavy shots to the head and body, and the fight is stopped 4 minutes into the first round. His opponent, Bernat Pados from Denmark, wins by TKO (Ground n Pound).

Sam Hodgin, from Salford MMA, beats Nathan Dunne by unanimous decision. Hodgin is part of a team of fighters from Salford who came to my gym, Quannum Fitness, to spar with our team a week or so before the fight. Bravo, Sam.

Around half way through the night, my instructor's brother's fiance spots me from the other side of the club- she's in VIP as Ian (said brother) is commentating for P4TV. Simone (said fiance) gets me a wristband and I get to see the remainder of the show from some of the best seats in the house. Winner!

The event's official details page, featuring results of the fight, is here:

And the venue's page:

P4TV's page:

When I leave the club, I've got to sift through my pockets- I wrote down where I parked somewhere... So yeah, spiral-bound notebooks are the way forward. And so, obviously, is MMA.

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