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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Cage fighting event is condemned
By Jonathan Lessware
BBC Scotland news website

Cage fighters
Fighters competed at a recent 'Cage Wars' event in Belfast
Politicians, religious leaders and senior police officers have condemned the staging of Scotland's first major cage fighting event.

More than 4,000 people are expected to go to the event near Glasgow next month to watch contestants in a hybrid of boxing, wrestling and martial arts.

The Cage Wars event has been described as barbaric and unwelcome in an area plagued by violence.

Promoters denied it was violent and said it involved trained athletes.

In cage fighting events, contestants are allowed to punch, kick, wrestle, knee and elbow each other into submission.

It is based on the sport of mixed martial arts and its promoters said it was far safer than activities such as boxing and rugby.

Billboards in Glasgow have been advertising the fights, which allow children to attend accompanied by adults.

There is a fine line between what some people would describe as sport and others would describe as violence
Det Ch Supt John Carnochan

Det Ch Supt John Carnochan, head of the Violence Reduction Unit based at Strathclyde Police, told the BBC Scotland news website he had concerns about the event.

He said: "While I do not claim to have a clear understanding of what is involved in cage fighting, I do know there is a fine line between what some people would describe as sport and others would describe as violence.

"The idea that people are prepared to pay to see this kind of activity is concerning.

"More concerning is why any parent would take their child to witness such a thing."

Morag Mylne, the convener of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council, said: "From what I know about cage fighting, it does appear to be a fairly grotesque and unsporting spectacle."

A spokesman for Renfrewshire Council said the public entertainment licence for Braehead covered the cage fighting event.

'Social violence'

Glasgow list MSP Sandra White called on the Scottish Executive to look at the licensing laws for allowing cage fighting to be staged as "public entertainment".

"This is going back to the days of gladiators," she said. "I don't find it acceptable in this day and age and certainly don't see it as entertainment."

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman and Glasgow MSP Bill Aitken said the event was unwelcome in a city which is trying to reduce its level of violence.

"This is something Glasgow could do without," he said. "There's a difference between sport and brutality."

But Jonny Burrows, Cage Wars event producer, said those condemning the sport had no understanding of what was involved.

Fighting cage
Fighting takes place in an octagonal cage

"This is the oldest competitive sport in the world with an incredibly high safety record," he said.

"It also involves some of the most competitive athletes in the world.

"The guys who take part in this work very, very hard. They train as professional athletes.

"This is not some kind of street brawl. Fighters are able to submit like in Judo or the referee can step in."

Mr Burrows said linking sport with social violence was "tenuous in the least".

Tickets for the event - which is held in an 18ft octagonal cage - cost up to 45.

The events have time limited rounds, weight classes and rules that do not allow head butting, eye gouging and fish hooking.

Fighters also get to wear protective gloves.

A recent similar Ultimate Fighting Championship event in Manchester attracted a crowd of 14,000, including Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Girls Aloud.

In the US, cage fighting is a massive industry supporting an industry with an annual turnover of $5bn, and top fighters who earn $1m a fight.

It claims to have an audience of 300 million viewers in 130 countries.

Call to ban cage fighting event
29 Jun 06 |  London
Ultimate fighters find new venue
12 Aug 04 |  Hereford/Worcs

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