Take a look through the television guides these days and you will see MMA on mainstream TV, not just the flagship events but local shows too, something many of us thought we would never see especially with the attitude of the media back in the day but as Bob Dylan prophesised “the times, they are a changing”
Our story begins not too many years ago in the ancient borough of Pontefract when a wise young man with a full head of hair decided to organise an MMA show to try to highlight a fledgling new sport but was not really available outside of the big smoke and certainly nothing like it around us. Our hero and his partner had indeed frequented these things in the borough of London and were such fun, a really good test of your all round martial artistry.
We had introduced this style of fighting as an after Taekwondo class activity and the guys seemed to really like it. We had no mats and didn’t know what we were doing but it was fun and double legging someone onto a hardwood floor just seemed so right.
Our hero approached various fighters that were prepared to compete in this new and exciting format and was met with a lot of enthusiasm, it all looked very promising.
The local rugby club was to be hired to showcase this event, talks had gone well and an agreement reached, the ring had been measured and all extra seating was sorted so a date was set. Was all set to be the first MMA show in God’s own county of Yorkshire then everyone’s favourite 2 things got involved; the media and the church. The countdown to destruction had begun.
First of all, a TV show named Calendar interviewed our hero at his place of work and were thoroughly excited about the new venture, the TV employees asked if they could have tickets to the show for a little publicity so was agreed.
The very same evening the interview with the hero of the piece was actually on Calendar but had been edited so it sounded a LOT different to what had actually been said. Add to this that the TV show had researchers up in the old town of Pontefract showing UFC 1 to old ladies who were out shopping because it was pension day; the old ladies verily agreed that this type of fighting was indeed barbaric and would not be going to the rugby club to partake in the fight night.
Calendar invited noted pacifist Brendan Ingle to comment, he was outraged that guys were actually trying to hit each other. This was around the time that Paul Ingle was put into a coma from a beating received in a boxing match. He received severe brain and head injuries in a 12 round title defence. “You do know what irony is, don’t you Baldrick?” “Yes, it’s like tinny or coppery but iron instead”
To quote a scientific formula of the time, one heavily edited interview + one disgruntled boxing coach + countless outraged old ladies = not looking good for yours truly.
All the offended people immediately flocked to church for a good cleansing and upon hearing that such sorcery and brutality was due to take place in his parish, the priest started proceedings to have our hero removed from his parish (I swear that the local church wanted to get me thrown out of the parish, they actually thought they had the power to get me to move house!) At one point I swear I could see the dim glow of torches as the flock went for their pitchforks.
The might of the church came down upon the rugby club who then had a change of heart; they sent a letter to our hero explaining that they would have to retract their offer as “they didn’t want rugby being associated with a violent sport”. Seriously!
Everywhere our hero went the common people did ask of the show and were disappointed to find out that it wouldn’t be happening just yet. Even the wonderful serving girls of Greggs, where our hero would procure provisions, were looking forward to a night out at the rugby club. The bad publicity had actually attracted more people than it had detracted, I guess they didn’t realise the mentality of the population of the mighty borough of Pontefract. This is a town that Shakespeare wrote of in Richard III because unfortunately King Richard II had met his fate in Pontefract; some say in the castle, some say on a night out but never the less we celebrate regicide. Bloody Pomfret as Shakey called it.
Alas there was nowhere else to go. The Council wouldn’t allow sporting contests in its facilities so couldn’t get an entertainment licence, even though I had seen Giant Haystacks wrestling at the Town Hall previously.
And so, faithful readers, that was the end of the first attempt to organise a legal MMA show in Pontefract. We would have to take our new found sport underground for a while so watch out for more devilishly entertaining tales coming to these pages.