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Cover Story

Caged Rage Page 2

Pent-up Utah machismo meets its match in Mixed Martial Arts fighting.

By Geoff Griffin
Posted // November 28,2007 -

Captain Moroni Leads the Way
While members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worship the man who counseled, “Love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek,” one of the heroes of the Book of Mormon is Captain Moroni, who wrote to an opponent: “I will arm my women and my children, and I will come against you … and it shall be blood for blood, yea, life for life; and I will give you battle even until you are destroyed from off the face of the earth.” (Alma 54:12)

In these latter days, as the LDS Church became fully engaged in sending missionaries worldwide to preach a message of peace, West Jordan boxer Gene Fullmer became a full-fledged Mormon celebrity after defeating Sugar Ray Robinson to win the world middleweight title in 1957. “Fight clubs” only began springing up throughout Utah County in the late 1990s. Today, 60,000 or so of the faithful gather in Provo at BYU’s LaVell Edwards’ Stadium on Saturdays every fall to watch men in armor run into each other at high speed.

This history of violence among the LDS faithful might help explain MMA’s surprising success locally.

The U.S. Army is a prominent sponsor of local MMA events—a banner listing the address of the recruiting station is prominently displayed at Salt Lake City fights. Army Captain Chris McGrail says he has been stationed in a variety of places around the country but has yet to see the passion for MMA that he’s found in Utah.

“I was surprised to see it be such a big sport in Utah,” he says while attending a recent fight card, “because Utah’s known for being pretty conservative in other areas.”

Stidham, who also runs the Ultimate Combat Training Center, can draw crowds in the thousands (about 30 percent of them women) when he holds quarterly championship events at venues such as the E Center or EnergySolutions Arena. He also puts on weekly Saturday night fight cards at a downtown club where, for some LDS fighters, the sinful atmosphere is of greater concern than the possibility of getting beaten to a pulp.

src=data/449BBE6E-021E-D69E-7A3370304BA7D31B/userData/Image/071129/gerrit_gwendolyn_greer.jpgSuch was the case for Gerrit Greer when he appeared on a recent fight card. A carpenter from Provo and devout member of the LDS Church, Greer stood out because he didn’t have any tattoos, and because his wife Gwendolyn, then seven months pregnant with the couple’s third child, was acting as his corner person between rounds.

“I was mostly worried about her being in that crowd, not having someone with her,” Greer says, sporting a golf-ball sized bruise on his brow from his first fight.

A former wrestler at Utah Valley State College, Greer says he had been training and wanted to have a goal to shoot for—goal-setting being something members of the LDS Church are strongly encouraged to do. He and Gwendolyn enjoy watching UFC fighting on TV, and she says she was only “slightly concerned” when he told her he wanted to fight. She even brags about him to her friends in nursing school. However, the bragging now stops at the chapel doors on Sunday.

“When you say ‘cage fight,’ there’s a stigma attached. You certainly get raised eyebrows,” Gerrit says. Still, he points out, “A lot of LDS kids have a lot of aggression they need an outlet for,” and fighting in a controlled and regulated environment might be a more constructive way to deal with that aggression than sex, drugs and rock & roll.

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Posted // March 8,2008 at 08:38 hey why don’t you write an article that actually has important information in it? like where the fights are held, how you can get tickets etc. every article in the city weekly turns into a pointless religious argument of non-mormons against mormons.


Posted // December 5,2007 at 10:10 Oh, I see. So, because your kid is hyper, it’s okay for him, as a Mormon, to hang out in bars and clubs? Based on my experience with Mormons, that makes perfect sense. Your rules only apply when they’re convenient.nnAnd, because your kid is hyper, you figure that JC would enjoy that he (your Mormon kid) hangs out in bars beating other people up? That makes sense, too. Obviously, Jesus was a violent dude, and this is exactly how he would like for you folks, his chosen people, to honor and represent him.nnThere’s loads of hyper people that don’t feel the need to beat the shit out of others. This is not football. This is a sport designed for the sole purpose of hurting a person before they do the same to you. It is pure violence, and nothing more. nnWhile you folks (Mormons) continue to proclaim that you’re the chosen ones, and continue to look down upon others for living differently than you, I’ll continue to point out your rampant hypocrisy.


Posted // December 5,2007 at 08:38 As a mother to a fighter and an active mormon too-- I will add that my son has been hyperactive since tiny. This is a good outlet for him physically. Behind the media hype there is much respect shown between contestants and fighting is much more conservative than it used to be so that they don’t KILL each other. There is a mental toughness associated with the sport that spills into other areas of life.nnTo confused and not so confused All are hypocrites so get off your high horses


Posted // December 4,2007 at 08:23 As a devout LDS member I am very surprised at the ignorance some people have about the LDS faith and the Book Of Mormon. It does not come to me as a surprise that the quote from the Book of Mormon about Captain Moroni is taken out of context to be used to cause contriversy about Mormon’s fighting in the MMA. Captain Moroni’s quote was meant to inforce that he would protect his people from their enemies and preserve their lands and familes. His people were under attack for their beliefs. So it is the same today, when some people do not believe what someone else believes they twist turths to be used for their advantage to ridicule or degrade that person or group of people. nnThe MMA is a sport just like wrestling or football where the particiipants have to train and use self dicipline to excell in their sport. We as a society live for sports of all kinds; such as golf, fishing, tennis, gymnastics, the Olympics and the Superbowl, just to mention a few. Not ALL Mormon males have pinned up aggression, but atleat there are organized sports of all kinds that anyone with aggression OR NOT can participate in for fun and satisfaction, and we as a society enjoy watching them. I am sure that Confused enjoys watching football and other sports as well as participating in them. So don’t be so quick to judge, lest ye also be judged.


Posted // December 3,2007 at 06:28 I wonder if the LDS fighters figure they’re doing something that Christ would approve of. Aren’t the faithful supposed to live as Christ would have them live? Was Christ a pugilist, or was he a peace monger? nnConsidering the long list of restrictions that most LDS faithful live by, I understand male Mormon aggression. Personally, I think JC would prefer that his followers sit down over a few beers (forbidden to Mormons) and converse with each other peacefully, rather than enter a cage and beat the living shit out of each other (okay with Mormons).nnFurthermore, it seems very contradictory for supposedly faithful LDS members to enter-and possibly profit from- establishmets (bars and clubs) that are railed against by The Church. This is yet another example of local religious hypocrisy.