West Leeds to host cagefighting tournament

It's been described by some as the human form of cockfighting – a fierce sport that sees its fair share of bloodied noses and aching limbs.

Now two former champion cagefighters are bringing their passion for pugilism and martial arts to Pudsey.

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The town's Bien-Venue nightclub will be transformed into a massive MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) arena, with an 18ft octagonal cage as the gladiatorial centrepiece.

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The tournament is the brainchild of Mark Spencer and Pete McFadden, both professional cagefighters.

Mark, 31, has been fighting for 11 years, starting out in martial arts and moving up to cagefighting.

He has previously fought for a world title and has competed in Japan, America and Italy.

"It's the ultimate sport and without a doubt it's growing in Leeds," he said. "It's a combination of all the Olympic sports like judo, boxing and wrestling. The 18ft cage looks impressive and intimidating, but the reason why it's held in a cage is for safety. I have fought in rings before and fallen from the ropes and been hurt. A boxing ring is not a suitable environment to participate in MMA, it is a full contact sport, there are a lot of rules to ensure the safety of the combatants."

Mr Spencer puts the sport's popularity down to the age-old pub question of who would win in a fight between a boxer and a wrestler.

But he rejects the 'human cockfighting' tag, and believes it's safer – and less bloody – than boxing.

"Obviously it's a fast-paced and action-packed sport with very fit athletes, but this is the safest way of testing which technique works best," he said.

"If I was to compete against an excellent boxer in a boxing match, I would probably be getting punched and find it hard to defend myself, but in a mixed martial arts competition I have the option of taking the fight to the floor. You have to train to fight as well...up to four hours a day. Fighters have the option to quit without shame."

Cagefighters are allowed to use any kind of physical force against their opponents except eye gouging, "fish hooking" or attacking the genital area. They are also permitted to choke their opponent into submission.

The upcoming Pudsey event – billed as "family oriented" – will feature 14 cagefighters taking part in matches of two bouts of either four or five minutes.

Cagefighting – which has developed from the American 'ultimate fighting' popularised in the past decade – is completely legal but it has no regulator in the UK. People holding cagefighting events have to apply for a general indoor sports licence from the local authority, the same as a boxing or wrestling match.

There are thought to be seven cagefighting clubs in Leeds and the city's own Carl Meson is considered to be one of the sport's up-and-coming stars.

Fighters are placed two at a time into the 18ft octagonal mesh cage with the same floor size as a boxing ring.

The Pudsey tournament is on Saturday, February 12, between 4 and 8pm. Visit www.mma-max.com for details and tickets.

Catherine Hinchliffe of Ward Hadaway

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