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SKYDOME BRAWL BLAMED ON BLUES THUGS.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE BY TOM WELLS

A RIOT at a brutal ultimate fighting contest may have been masterminded by Birmingham City soccer hooligans.

Last week, police were called to Coventry's Skydome Arena after thugs hurled chairs, tables and bottles at each other as a brawl broke out between fans.

More than 100 spectators were involved in the incident and two arrests were made.

Now sources say that members of the notorious Blues' hooligan gang, the Zulu Army, may have been at the forefront of the trouble.

The riot - similar to an infamous ruck at the NEC in 1994 involving fans of Brummie boxer Robert McCracken - began just seconds after local fighter Barrington Patterson lost to a French rival.

The pair had been brought together by organisers of ultimate fighting - a barbaric new sport which many say should be banned in Britain.

Ultimate fighting combines boxing, kick-boxing, judo and Greco-Roman wrestling and is hugely popular in America Almost 3,000 fans had packed the Skydome last Saturday night, paying up to pounds 20 a ticket to watch Patterson top the bill. It was the first time an ultimate fighting event had been held in the city.

Patterson, Birmingham-born but now living in Coventry, has made a hugely successful living out of fighting.

Weighing 17 stone, the 37 year-old has enjoyed a varied career as a kick-boxer and cage-fighter.

But after he lost his fight, Patterson's fans erupted in fury.

A source close to Patterson said: 'Barrington lives in Coventry now, but he comes from Birmingham and has a loyal following there.

'There were whispers a few days beforehand that a crowd of Zulus would be at the Skydome to support him, and some people made a conscious decision to stay away because of that.

'There were around 100 Birmingham lads there and they had got more and more rowdy as the night went on. 'Within seconds of the fight ending, they just went mad. They were fighting with anyone who wasn't with them. A lot of people were just trying to get away.

'It was crazy. They were just running around wrecking the place. I have never seen anything like it. I tried to get away and ended up getting attacked.

'The football season is over now, so I suppose they have to go somewhere else to cause trouble. They probably would have gone crazy even if Barrington had won.'

Skydome bosses were remaining tight-lipped last night over the future of ultimate fighting at the Arena.

Police said they had planned a response to any potential trouble at the venue. They added that two people had been arrested for disorder and said investigations were continuing.

l In 1994 more than 300 fans of Brummie boxer Robert McCracken rioted at Birmingham's NEC. The fighting disrupted Nigel Benn's world title fight and the NEC has not staged a boxing match since

CAPTION(S):

FIGHT NIGHT: ultimate fighting champ Barrington Patterson and (above) the Skydome in Coventry. (Below) the infamous ruck at the NEC in 1994 involving fans of Brummie boxer Robert McCracken
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 29, 2005
Words:508
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