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Cover Story

Caged Rage Page 4

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

By Geoff Griffin
Posted // November 28,2007 -

It’s Almost Like Being in Rome
Art form or pure sport, MMA is governed by the Pete Suazo Utah Athletic Commission (PSUAC), a state government agency with which all fighters, promoters and referees must register. PSUAC requires that promoters have a physician (who conducts pre- and post-fight check-ups), EMTs and an ambulance on hand at all fights. PSUAC also sends out several inspectors to events to make sure fighters are taken care of and paid immediately after each match. Promoters pay a fee to PSUAC based on the size of the audience ($200-$500 in most cases), but the agency is largely funded by the state.

The current PSUAC chairman is Alan Dayton, once a member of ex-Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman’s administration and now a powerful legislative lobbyist for companies such as Intermountain Healthcare. He was appointed by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. a year ago. At a recent MMA event, he says he came into the job with no prior knowledge of the sport.

“It’s an acquired taste,” Dayton says. “It’s violent but, arguably, not any more violent than football or hockey.”

Dayton’s committee also oversees boxing and is looking at regulating what is known as “white-collar boxing,” a form of fighting that has recently become popular in Utah County where people who simply use boxing as a form of training get together to test their skills against one another in events where no money changes hands.

“We’ve been trying to apply boxing rules to this sport (MMA), and it really doesn’t work,” Dayton says. “We’re working on separating the rules. Each sport needs to have its own unique set of rules.”

src=data/449BBE6E-021E-D69E-7A3370304BA7D31B/userData/Image/071129/wrastling.jpgThe differences between boxing and MMA have been magnified on a national level as the rise of MMA has been blamed in part for a decline in the popularity of boxing. Although one could argue professional boxing had enough of its own internal problems to cause a downfall, some boxing purists view MMA as glorified bar-fighting that can’t hold a candle to “the sweet science.”

In Utah, the sibling sports seem to have a fairly collegial relationship, with both sides recognizing, as PSUAC secretary Bill Colbert says, “it’s in everyone’s interest that both sports do well.”

The mutual respect is strong enough that Stidham and boxing promoter Bill Oleson even try to stay out of each others’ way when scheduling events.

“Let’s face it: [MMA] has caught on big time,” Oleson says. “They’re doing everything right. Everyone has to benefit. I want [Stidham] to do well.”

For his part, Stidham says, “I’m a boxing fan. We did spring from that well. I don’t know if one sport is successful without the other.”

Rick Montoya, president of the Utah chapter of USA Boxing, which runs amateur programs and promotes the sport among youth, says, “MMA was a shot in the arm for contact sports no matter how you look at it.” This is partly because boxing has received more acceptance in “mainstream society” and looks downright civil compared to MMA.

The equanimity between the two sides may also be because both sports seek different audiences.

“At an MMA event, you’ll see a lot of people in their 20s and early 30s who are very energetic and make a lot of noise,” Colbert says. “At a standard boxing event, you’ll see a totally different crowd. Boxing crowds are older, more ethnically diverse and more working-class. Most people I see at MMA events, very few of them would go to a pro-boxing event.”

The boxing community also seems to take the view that, while MMA is certainly here to stay, boxing has already taken the new sport’s best shot and is still standing. “Sooner or later, it isn’t going to be as new,” Montoya says. MMA will eventually reach a plateau where it will have to face many of the same issues boxing has.

“There’s always going to be boxing,” Montoya says. “It’s been around since the Roman days, for crying out loud!”

Some segments of society need an outlet for aggression and a larger segment will want to vicariously blow off steam by watching the first group. As America learned during Prohibition, some people are going to engage in certain activities regardless of their legality, so MMA promoters, fighters and fans argue it’s better simply to go legal and make sure the taboo behavior is well regulated. If people are going to fight anyway, why not do it under controlled conditions and let them earn some money while they’re at it?

EMT Jef Jones, who regularly works at the fights, says, “This is stuff that’s left over from caveman days. It’s just humanity’s outlet for brutality, but for some reason we’re drawn to it.”

MMA is undeniably brutal, but it’s an unvarnished brutality that doesn’t make any excuses for what it is. While many forms of media glorify savagery by not showing its consequences, the results of MMA blows are crystal clear to anyone watching a fight. In a society that can’t seem to get enough glamorized violence, MMA can at least make the argument that it’s honest.


The Ultimate Combat Experience championships will be held on Saturday, Dec. 1, at EnergySolutions Arena, beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased through Utah fighter Jeremy Horn of Elite Performance Gym, who has fought in Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view events against world champions, will appear in the card’s main event.

Weekly Ultimate Combat Experience fights are held Saturday nights at Elevate at The Hotel, 155 W. 200 South. For more information, visit Taped shows featuring the fights can be seen on Park City Television at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays or anytime on Comcast On Demand.

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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.