Cage fighting crowd bays for blood

Andrew Beverage (left) and Luke Morris battle it out during the Underground MMA Cage Fighting tournament at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday night.
Andrew Beverage (left) and Luke Morris battle it out during the Underground MMA Cage Fighting tournament at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday night. DAVID NIELSEN

CAGE FIGHTING certainly isn't for the faint of heart, but for all the fracas in the lead-up to Saturday night’s event, it actually wasn’t too bad.

There were guillotines, spinning back-fists, anacondas and rear-naked choke holds.

There were brawlers, boxers, wrestlers, super-heavyweights, sumos and women fighters.

But when all was said and done – when nine fights had been completed - the injury toll read: one broken nose and one cut above the eye.

There were no broken bones, no king-hits, no knockouts and only two of the eighteen fighters spilt blood.

Australia’s premier MMA referee, Cameron Quinn, was in attendance and quick to stop a bout when a fighter was unable to defend or improve position – not that the crowd was pleased with it.

The 700 punters – a full-house – who packed Lismore Workers were kept at fever-pitch throughout the event, many of them fitting the mould of steely-eyed, blood-thirsty fight-mongers.

If there is any criticism of the sport, it could well be a product of the attitudes of the fans rather than the fighters or promoters.

The message from the organising body in the lead-up to the event was that although the sport seems barbaric at a glance, if you look closer these are skilled, technical athletes doing more than belting each other till one lay lifeless.

Much of the crowd missed that message.

While the fighters entered the steel cage with the poise and focus of an Olympic diver on the platform, those sitting in the safety of the crowd felt compelled to shriek murderous chants.

“Rip his head off” and “kill him,” came in chorus.

From women too.

But by all reports there was no ugly aftermath to the event – a compliment to the crowd considering the way they were whipped into a fistic frenzy and then released onto the streets.

You really do have to tip your hat to the fighters, as repulsive as the thud of knuckle on skull can be, there is no doubt that it takes a mountain of courage to do what they do.

Before the start of every bout there is an eerie moment where each fighter stands still at the foot of the stairs that lead into the cage.

In between the music-accompanied shadow boxing that marks a fighter’s entry to the arena and his ascent to the cage, he must pause, collect his thoughts and say goodbye to his trainer and team.

It seems a lonely place, for the fighter knows that once he climbs four stairs there is no more help.

Once inside the cage, the door is locked and there is no way out.

Five fighters from the Northern Rivers gave the locals a hero to cheer for, unfortunately only one finished victorious.

After the event, promoter Shane Balmer let slip a hint to the future of MMA in the Northern Rivers.

“See ya next time,” he said.

As wild as the whole concept may be, the fans voted with their wallets and feet and if Workers won’t have the MMA back, surely someone else will.

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