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The BBC's Heather Bryan
"The promoters say they recognise the BMA's concern"
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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 10:50 GMT
Doctors demand 'total fighting' ban
Total fighting
Opponents can kick and choke each other
A new violent combat sport in which participants punch, kick and choke their opponents into submission is facing calls for an all-out ban.

Total fighting - a martial art which has arrived recently in the UK - has been dubbed the human equivalent of cockfighting.

Its rules permit any assault except eye-gouging, biting, striking to the groin or throat, or bending back the fingers.

After huge success in Japan and the US, the sport is growing in popularity in Britain.

Total fighter Ian Freeman
Ian Freeman: "Total fighting is a thrill"
Some 2,000 fans are expected to witness eight of the UK's 30 professional total fighters in action on 12 March in Milton Keynes, with more events expected to follow.

However, the sport's lack of regulation has prompted demands from medical experts and politicians to impose restrictions.

The British Medical Associations science and ethics advisor Dr Bill O'Neill says lack of regulation exposes participants to serious injury.

"There is no evidence of any independent regulation of this activity," he said. "Any rules that exist appear to have been drawn up either by the promoters or the participants.

'Brain damage'

"There is clearly an intention to inflict injury on one's opponent in total fighting and that includes serious and significant brain damage."

The sport has also been criticised by former British heavyweight boxing champion Sir Henry Cooper and boxing promoter Frank Warren.

Labour MP for Dartford Dr Howard Stoate is to put down an early day motion to mobilise opposition to the sport.

He said: "My main worry is someone is going to get very severely injured by this sport because of its lack of regulation."

The BMA's Bill O'Neill
Bill O'Neill wants sport banned
Unlike professional boxing, fighters do not have to be registered and knockouts and serious injuries are not tracked.

Currently, any restrictions on the sport are a matter for local authorities.

But Lee Hasdell, the promoter of the Milton Keynes event, insists the sport is adequately controlled.

Mr Hasdell, a three-times British kick boxing champion, insists that doctors and paramedics are always at the ringside.

He says he would welcome the idea of greater regulation but don't want to see the rules changed.

And he warns that restrictions could push the sport underground.

Fighter Ian Freeman also defends the sport.

'Test of skill'

"It is a thrill," he said. "It is an exciting sport and it is a test of skill. I would like to class myself as a gentleman, I have got nothing to prove to anyone else.

"If I ever have a fight in the street it would be too soon. I like to keep it in the ring and that's the way I want it to be - against a guy with the same skills as myself.

"We have a fight, we see who's the better fighter and we shake hands afterwards."

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