Friday, 30 November 2012


Whatever the outcome at 11.05 p.m. on Saturday, 1st of December, history will be made on terrestrial television in the United Kingdom. For the first time in history, Channel 5 will broadcast a live Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event and- though it once seemed an overwhelming improbability- that event will be staged by a UK based organisation. The British Association of Mixed Martial Arts will stage their 11th (BAMMA 11) event at the Birmingham NIA and, in so doing, will steal a march on the monolithic Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) whose name has become synonymous with the sport. 

The arrival of BAMMA 11 live on Channel 5 is largely due to two key influencing factors: Firstly, that Channel 5 have hitherto repeated a BAMMA event, as well as broadcasting BAMMA 10 on one of their satellite channels, receiving both positive feedback and above average ratings relative to their investment.

The second factor can be summed up in two words- Alex Reid. The veteran English middleweight, among the pioneers of MMA in the UK and known for his grizzly battling style and iron jaw, became a household name shortly after his relationship with former glamour girl Katie Price (Jordan). Reid was thrust into British popular culture and embarked upon a tumultuous “celebrity”, reality show and acting career, with few except the hardcore of existing MMA fans being aware of his prior achievements other than that he was a “cage fighter”.

Saturday night, therefore, may not just be one which has the potential to propel MMA into the mainstream, but one in which Reid can demonstrate he still possesses the stamina, coordination, and indefatigability which once propelled him to the top of the British MMA pile. His forthcoming opponent, Sam Boo, is a reasonable middle-rung fighter against whom Reid should be able to gauge whether his infrequent cage appearances over the last few few years have too far blunted his talent at the age of 37.

The battle between Reid and Boo will be the first of two scheduled televised fights, and in addition to seeking refuge from his demons outside the arena, Reid will have a considerable amount of personal pride at stake. Boo last week released a series of photographs of him sparring with a transvestite in an attempt to goad “The Reidinator” over his alleged propensity for cross-dressing. Reid will know that, in the brutally masculine world of combat sports, “alternative” manifestations of gender and sexuality always make one a target. However, if he can muster as much as 75% of the intensity for which he was known, Boo will be made to regret his insults, and people watching the sport for the first time due to his celebrity will be treated to a great fight. 

A fine teaser though Reid Vs Boo represents, for the discerning MMA fan, there is no question that it is the main fight of the evening between Welsh Paratrooper, Jack Marshman, and French Kickboxer Xavier Foupa-Pokam, which will exhibit the sport at its purest. Marshman is a former army boxing champion with a single loss to his name- against the now UFC combatant, Tom Watson- who will look forward to an exciting stand-up exchange with the Muay Thai and Savate specialist. Foupa-Pokam (nickname "Professor X") will bring to the cage infinitely more experience than his young opponent, and the odds seem to suggest a technical striking match-up, with the veteran Frenchman prevailing by decision. However, Marshman has exhibited exceptional character against brutish opponents in the past and prevailed, and his last victory by submission seems to suggest a growing martial arts arsenal which, in combination with his heavy hands, cannot rule out the Tillery Combat product. 

The fights set for broadcast have been ingeniously selected to draw just enough attention from the wider public and provide the potential for the sort of fireworks which MMA can, at its best provide. The opportunity to make themselves household names cannot be lost on any of the fighters, nor can the possibility that either match may one say be considered the UK’s Griffin Vs Bonnar. Those who tune in may just witness a little piece of history.

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