There were more than a few raised eyebrows in tellyland when SYFY announced that they would be screening BAMMA (that’s cage-fighting to you and me..) events live from February 2011, but after being billed as “the fastest growing sport in Britain”, it’s not difficult to see why the channel stretched its remit to accommodate Mixed Martial Arts. “BAMMA events are all about pushing limits, personal quests and overcoming barriers – all of which are themes that Syfy audiences enjoy,” said channel boss Jamie Morris and there were certainly some pushed limits in Manchester this weekend as Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley dispatched his Japanese challenger in the welter-weight main event. The Manchester Evening News Arena seemed to be filled with curious cage-fighting newbies and committed fans alike, and as the alcohol flowed and the bikinied birds posed, the atmosphere built nicely. Yet for the first time in the UK, it wasn’t just about the people in the stands, but the fans at home who were able to catch all the blood, sweat and tears from their armchairs without shelling out for a pay-per-view ticket.
Viewers in the MEN and the at home were treated to an exciting card, but the Paul Daley was definitely the man that the aficionados in the arena wanted to see – his fans had travelled from Nottingham in great number and by the time their boy entered the ring they were in full voice. Daley saw off his Japanese challenger in explosive fashion with the kind of swift left-hook and vicious ground assault that has made the former UFC man a BAMMA favourite. From this fleeting glimpse, his busy and aggressive style matched with the small bullet frame certainly reminded me of a young Mike Tyson.
If BAMMA’s profile as a sport is still on the way up, then one man who has already achieved his zenith is Alex Reid. By all accounts ‘The Reidinator’ was never the hottest property in cage-fighting (he hasn’t won a bout since 2005) yet the bit-part actor shot to fame by becoming involved with Katie Price in 2009. She was on the verge of dumping him before he won January 2010’s Celebrity Big Brother, but subsequently married him in a hasty Las Vegas ceremony, as such he now seems set to be used as the poster-boy for this growing discipline. He and his entourage had front row seats here and Reid could be heard urging on tubby former-UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez. I was nearly as impressed by his ability to ‘ground and pound’* as I was by Alex Reid’s ability to find himself a female companion who is the spitting image of his ex-wife..
BAMMA organisers are confident that this move to Syfy can open up the sport to a new audience (quite literally..) and anyone who saw Audley Harrison’s fight with David Haye at the tail-end of last year will have realised that Cage-Fighting’s most natural rival is experiencing something of a slump at the minute. Whether boxing is suffering a terminal decline is as yet unclear, but even the sport’s greatest advocates will agree that politics and cash have ruled it for many years now… a situation that often delays or blocks the fights that people want to see. No such fate has yet befallen BAMMA and in Paul Daley they have a exciting fighter to go with their new home on Syfy.
BAMMA 6 will be coming to SYFY Channel live from the London 02 Arena on Saturday 21st May
*A technique whereby one fighter wrestles his opponent to the floor, gets on top of him (or her!!) and beats him into submission..