By George Byron
PROFESSIONAL cage-fighting, labelled as the world’s most barbaric and brutal contact sport, hits Port Elizabeth for the first time next month and promoters are already building a special metal cage for the star-studded bill which will be staged at the Feather Market Centre.
Giving an indication of how ferocious the sport can be, a doctor and a team of paramedics will be in attendance at cage side in the event that any of the fighters sustain a serious injury.
“It is all systems go for what will be the first major mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament in Port Elizabeth,” promoter Chris Bright, who is also a top fighter, said.
Prime cage-side seats will cost R250 and Bright says fans will be treated to an all-action spectacle. He also predicted the white cage would look “awesome” under spotlights.
“MMA is the fastest-growing sport in the world and we intend getting PE into the mix.”
A capacity crowd is expected.
In the professional bouts, fighters battle it out for 15 minutes or until the first one drops inside the iron cage.
The referee is locked into the cage with them.
Broken bones and bloodshed do not necessarily end a fight, as fighters can tap out” on the floor, indicating that they throw in the towel, before the end of three five-minute rounds.
The fighters battle it out barefoot, wearing trunks. Protective gear consists of groin guards, mouth guards and mittens.
Despite the brutal nature of his sport, Bright believes mixed martial arts is safer than boxing and rugby.
“Our fighters have so many ways in which they can end a match that the losing fighter need not take a battering over a prolonged period. Plus our refs are specifically briefed never to compromise on fighter safety. Any reffing mistakes will be made on the side of caution.
“We prefer to avoid the name cage-fighting as its quite a negative term. Mixed martial arts is much better,” said Bright who is promoting the event with Steve Jefferson. “It’s the first time mixed martial arts has been held in a cage in PE.
“We have fighters participating from our local clubs PE Submission Fighting Academy and Evolution MMA.”
Amateurs on the bill are Sindile Malingela, Cameron Prichard, Raymond Botha from Knysna and Bradley Theron from Bloemfontein. There will also be entries from EFC Fighter Don Madge’s gym in Cape Town.
The Port Elizabeth event is called “Imagine FC” and is fashioned after Japanese-style mixed martial arts events where it’s about an art and respect.
“Our main aim is to showcase the sport in a positive light and bring a high-level show to the PE audience,” Bright said.
“We are also building a sevenmetre cage specifically for the event. We are bringing fighters from all over SA and will have seven amateur fights and one very exciting professional bout.
“The amateur matches are exciting in that they are slightly shorter. The fights are very fast paced and aggressive.
The main event is Port Elizabeth’s Jordan Machtle versus Chad Hepburn from Topgym in Cape Town.
“Jordan is my protege. He’s 19 and has cleaned up the local Jiujitsu and grappling circuit.
“He’s currently undefeated at amateur MMA with a 5-0 record and is fighting for an amateur belt in December in Johannesburg. Straight after that he will be making his professional debut with us.
“Chad is an MMA veteran with a career spanning almost 10 years. We’ve specifically selected fighters from gyms who conduct themselves professionally and they in turn produce fighters who are respectful of opponents and the sport.
“I’m confident that the matches we’ve chosen will also highlight the skill aspect of MMA.”
Tickets range from R250 for cage-side, R200 for on the terrace and R120 for general seating. Cage-side and terraced seats are limited.
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, November 24, 2012.