MEET Ben Pepper.
He studies Sports Science and Medicine at the University of Queensland.
And he is a fighter – Mixed Martial Arts style.
Mr Pepper, 22, originally of Lismore, is one of a growing band of martial artists who have taken to the hybrid sport.
He started taekwondo at eight, boxed in his early teens, then practised kickboxing, Muay Thai and ground wrestling before taking up the newest style – MMA.
On March 27 he will enter the cage as part of Tapout’s Underground MMA fight night.
The event, to be held at the Lismore Workers Club, has raised much ire in the region since The Northern Star announced it last Wednesday.
One Workers Club member, Lismore councillor Simon Clough, has handed in his membership in protest, accusing the community-based club of allowing the use of its premises to ‘encourage the blood sport’.
Mr Pepper, like many supporters of the sport, believes MMA is unjustly frowned upon.
And like the other supporters, he uses rival mainstream sports as a yardstick for his own.
“I can’t believe some people are pro-boxing but think MMA is more malicious,” Mr Pepper said.
“People need to be better informed.”
Mr Pepper points out that in his sport, if either fighter suffers concussion the fight is stopped.
“In boxing, as long as you can stand up within 10 seconds of getting knocked over, you can fight on with concussion,” he said.
And while the four-ounce gloves used in MMA may be viewed as insufficient protection from flying knuckles, Mr Pepper believes he is better served in the ring than a veteran boxer.
“The 12-ounce gloves worn in boxing promote long-term injury,” he said.
“While they make it harder to open a cut, they also allow boxers to take much more of a battering.”
Mr Pepper was the operator of Rings Gym in Lismore until last year when he sold his interest to move to Brisbane and study.
He hopes that his studies will help him to further understand the mechanics of the body as he looks to forge a career in the fight game.
The 12-ounce gloves used in boxing are softer, but ultimately can cause more damage than the light gloves used in MMA.
MMA bouts are much shorter, comprising three, five-minute rounds compared with boxing’s 12, three-minute rounds.