View Full Version : Cage Gladiators

06-08-2009, 08:46 PM
:) http://www.mmahitpit.com/news/savouringeachmomentcagegladiatorsxiireview (you can see a sample of my photographs through the linkey-doo)

Savouring Each Moment: Cage Gladiators XII Review
08 Jun 2009

By David Duff

Speaking in a voice of Authority, UFC Referee and former Fighter, Marc Goddard made explicit what he would and would not tolerate in his Cage, to Fighter and Corner men alike. In a crystal clear manner He left nothing open to interpretation…

Over a year after I first set foot in the Liverpool Olympia complex with no expectation, or particular want to return, I found myself standing in a packed Restaurant inside the Olympia Complex. Present was The Co-Owner of Cage Gladiators, Mr Emile Coleman, and Business Partner Chris Zorba; The back stage running team; Referee Leon Roberts; A full compliment of Medics, and a vast number of corner men surrounding their prized fighters from gymnasiums up and down the country. All attention was focused on Fighter turned UFC Referee, Marc Goddard. For the first time since attending Cage Gladiators, I had finally made it to the auditorium in time for the Pre-Event Pep Talk, at which the rule book was brought out and thumbed through with one hand, whilst being nailed onto the faces of all those who would take part in the competition with the other. You always hear the bigger promotions just prior to their main events, grab the nearest Referee and have him remind the fighters that they received their instructions in the locker-room before the show, and you are always left wondering if this actually happened in the case of veterans who have stood on the brink so often. By now they must have understood the rules of the game enough not to be told.

Well, it’s no lie; it happens. Marc Goddard spoke with the authority of a Military Commander whose Troops were being briefed for the first time. This was no light hearted reminder. This was enforcement of the Rules. It was fresh. After we were all dismissed, I made contact with Emile who hobbled towards me on crutches. Apparently he had undergone some type of knee surgery. I didn’t envy the night load of work ahead of him, considering the hassle of getting from a-b and how essential for someone in his position it would be. “It’s killing me” he said deadpan, then burst into laughter and hobbled onwards.

If there is one luxury that makes my skin tingle with anticipation, it is the hour before the action begins. I have the delightful property of being able to move and go anywhere, courtesy of the backstage pass that Emile handed to me over twelve months ago and said I could subsequently hold onto. The Olympia begins more or less empty; with the house lights on full; both lighting rigs on the ground, and no music. It begins when a voice shouts out repetitively about coloured wristbands for those selected to represent the fighter and care for them between rounds of action. It begins with the clatter of the bar staff moving boxes of alcohol and cups around their stalls. It begins with the flitter of the entrance ramp beacons that begin their sporadic flash and movement, and over the course of the hour come into alignment to help reinforce the atmosphere of mystique. You can feel the fears of the fighters as they pass by with their training equipment. You can feel the hopes of the crowds as they begin to trickle in and find their seating section. You can see the frustration of the bar staff who go from zero to 60 quicker then any Motor the industry has to offer. If you are in my unique position, you have freedom, and you can bounce from one perspective to the next, watching and waiting. You see what they see, and you feel how they do. It can be rather intense. (After the event, I can’t speak about it clearly until I’ve slept on it, and I’m prone to staring out my hotel window for an hour whilst the memories and experiences swirl and float in a disconnected sense around my head.) When you think you have understood all there is, you notice something else; perhaps the graphics on the big screen, or you become aware and subsequently moved by a piece of music you didn’t realize was ringing out, despite the intensity of the volume, until you start humming along to the melody.

But that’s only the half of it. As the lighting rigs raise heavenward; the lights dim; the atmosphere is filled with strobes, flashing, spinning, between jets of dry ice that shoot up like fissures in the south pacific. The busy workmen who are still running up and down burst out of the froth, their faces a mask of intent, worry, or urgency, and then like a ghost they step back and get swallowed whole by the sprays.

The runners are sorting out the provisions of gloves, endless lists of who-occupies-which- dressing-room; who-has-what-pair-of-gloves; who-still-needs-water; who-is-not-yet-present- on-site, and where, oh where, is the nearest toilet for the corner men? In the midst of it all is the Chief Medical Officer, who I happen to know works at a nearby Hospital. He is calm, relaxed, and sitting in his little room right by the backstage entrance. Meanwhile Emile Coleman has propped himself atop of the entrance ramp and is chattering into his headphones to the lighting board on the lower balcony. There are always last moment changes; last moment puzzles to sort out, though with Coleman’s wealth of experience, there is nothing that he hasn’t seen before and little left to faze him. Along from him Stands Holly who has just emerged with the newest Ring Girl, both are dressed up to the nines carrying the boards with the Round Numbers; confirming and reconfirming to each other, when to go; how to walk; what to wiggle. If you look out of the Gorilla Position and down the ramp you will see Leon Roberts sitting on the steps to a corner position soaking up the growing expectation, and ready to receive the fighters directly before battle. In a flurry of handshakes and shoulder slaps, ready to shed his heavy black leather coat; Marc Goddard will be putting on his gloves ready to officiate the combat

All the above continues first in succession, and then simultaneously. It speeds faster and faster, rising higher and higher in volume and pitch, until the call is given, and the Announcer who has been reciting the details of the Gladiators over and over under his breath, steps out into the spotlight and the roar of the crowd. From the Poster on the Wall, I was excited to see all the names of the small stable of fighters that I remembered from the previous year of events; Mark Glover; Harvey Harra and Paul Sass for the Title. When I was kindly provided a copy of the card by the runners, I discovered that injury and illness had replaced most of the fighters that I knew. One such was Paul Sass who I have come to admire profoundly over the past events in seeing him rise through the ranks of the unbeaten soldier to arrive at the gates of a Title Belt. I found him in the crowd and spent a while talking to him. His knee had forced him from the competition. But the title was waiting for him as soon as he had learned the latest techniques of how best to…well triangle his way to Victory of course! It was also a joy to see Fighter Jay Gladden in amongst the crowd. The fact these guys remember who I am from one event to the next; over a space of a month or two, really helps make the event become alive to me. I feel like I am not just an ornamental part of the action; I am not just a Closed Circuit Television. I am someone who can be approached, someone who can be talked to. I am present when they come to that moment where they step off the plank and find out whether they can swim or not. I am present when bedraggled they struggle back to safety whether they have won, or been defeated.

Each Event, I have pushed myself closer to the action for coverage. At first, I stood in the crowd and I watched as a spectator; enthralled by the majesty of the sport; soaking up the energy of the combatants like a mop head. Then I decided that, in my own small way, I had to bring others into this unique space, so I talked to people in-the-know. I used my camera to talk to people from Fighters, to Referees, to visiting celebrities, to the management. I wrote about my heart warming experiences, and the reciprocation that I attained from all backstage; The Medics and the runners, who I must frustrate and annoy by asking questions, and talking to them when they are trying to work; the ring girl, who will dance and smile at me whenever I glance in her direction. Right up to Emile Coleman, who will nod, or wave from his key position at the top of the Entrance Ramp.

There were no forms to fill in for this pleasure. There was no medical examination. There were no harsh words. No rules to follow. There was nothing expected in return. There was no price to pay. There was just openness; honesty. There was just helpfulness, and friendly faces. I write purely out of Gratitude. At the time I was invited, I had no plans to be a freelance writer for MMAHitPit either. All Emile Coleman had was a few videos filled with luke warm comments at best, and criticisms of his promotion at worst. So this is not an institutional piece of sugary propaganda, it is a sincere reflection of my spontaneous thanks to Emile for the experiences.

Long may they continue!

I decided I would be a shade braver for this event, and would make full and unequivocal use of my “access all areas” pass to check out the balconies, and to film footage from a different angle. I spent my time doing this for the first few matches of the card. These bouts were focused on the lower weight categories, and as you would expect from lightweights, the action was so very quick. Without exception all the bouts on the card resulted in finishes, there was no men left standing for a decision. In fact the first bouts all ended within the first frame, or very close to the beginning of the second. The night was pretty much a mixed bag for the fight teams I support. Team Kaobon went 2-2, Team Next Generation went 1-1 their loss I believe coming in the vacant British bantamweight title which acted as the main event. It was in fact the third Championship Event on the eleven match card, which also saw Rob Sinclair successfully defend his title. Ashleigh Grimshaw, an extremely intelligent and cerebral fighter, captured the vacant British featherweight title, after an extremely strange manoeuvre which was a cross between a combination of flying triangle, judo throw and some lightning quick scramble that dashed the dreams of little Vaughn Harvey against the rocks so fast and hard we were all left gasping at the submission.

Among other highlights of the card was the match between Aaron Wilkinson and Luke Smith, and the abruptly brutal knock out of Sean Jones (A Team Kaobon fighter making his debut against Ashley Pollard who had two losses on his record) He was the second Kaobon Member to be pushed out of the nearest fire exit and whisked away to hospital, just to be on the safe side. The other member was Kev Axeworthy who battled Alex Makhonin to the death just before the interval. Alright, so it wasn’t technically speaking to the death, but it was a grudge match spawned from a previous fight that Kev had been winning when he lost due to a cut. This was his retribution. Whereas the Lightweights tend to move quick, the reason I get interested in the Cage Gladiator selected Heavy weights is because they basically stand and trade until someone ends up prone and lifeless on the canvass. It had to be fight of the night. Kev Axeworthy might have lost, (incidentally, he might too have broken his arm) but there was no loss of respect for the guy who went down in a blaze of glory after giving it all he had. He certainly redeemed any sportsmanship lost over his reaction to the cut loss which was a cause for concern at a previous event. Leon Roberts was quick to point out that as Cage Gladiator progressed as a promotion using the same small pool of fighters, the battles became more intense as speed and technique became more honed between the fighters and their opponents. Its certainly true that the increasing quality of matches has been on the definite rise.

A good night was had by all, I believe. Throughout it all, Simone the ring girl danced the night away backstage whilst waiting to parade her numbered board and got chosen to present the championship belt in the main event. Terry Etim did much the same in the Co-main event….without so much dancing I hasten to add…

A selection of video from the event