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UH-OH .. I'M AN OCTAGONNER; UNCAGED TEEN FIGHT CHAMP GIVES RECORD MAN A DOING Scotland leads the way in mixed martial arts with top young talent and 11,000 set to attend the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Glasgow.


THE sound of the bolt sliding shut on the door of a cagefighting Octagon has to be the most terrifying in sport.

For the two warriors squaring up to each other in the 30ft arena, it signals their moment of destiny.

There are rules and a referee but these gladiators are allowed to do just about anything to win and, as 11,000 fans will find out when the Ultimate Fighting Championship visits Glasgow, it can be brutal.

Mixed martial arts is becoming a force in sport and Scotland is at the centre of the revolution, with talented fighters Stevie Ray, Joanne Calderwood and Rob Whiteford are all itching to make their mark on home turf in July.

Stevie, from Fife, made his UFC debut in Poland after taking the fight with just two weeks' notice.

Despite shedding 30lb to make the weight limit, the former council worker smashed his opponent with a barrage of left hands at the start of the second round, crowning off one of the most impressive debuts seen in the Octagon.

The 25-year-old said: "I fight for my country and I loved going out to the Scottish theme in Poland.

"I'm getting better every fight and my UFC debut felt like every other fight I've had. I felt a bit nervous but it's all about controlling those nerves and producing the goods.

"I've trained with UFC fighters for long enough and know I'm every bit as good if not better.

"I'd love to put on an amazing performance in Glasgow for my fans and change my life."

Stevie wouldn't have made his mark on the sport without clubs such as Team Unity Fight Team who train at the Underdog Combat Centre, in Kirkcaldy, where he now helps coach youngsters.

The MMA centre, based at Fitness Factor gym, is run by the Clark family - Dave, Darren and Steve - who are all high level in BJJ - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - and churn out UFC stars of the future.

Many of their members have won medals in the UK, Portugal, France and Brazil.

Darren said: "BJJ techniques are central to the majority of the UFC fighters - whenever they end up on the ground in the cage they will be trying moves we teach at the club.

"BJJ is all about technique over power which is why smaller guys and girls are good at it because they can't rely on strength to beat people or get out of trouble.

"Jiu Jitsu is about respecting yourself and others, leaving your ego behind and trying to be your best at everything."

As well as fight-coaching for kids and adults, Underdog organise fight nights, with their Art of Combat event at Dunfermline's Alhambra Theatre on Saturday.

They have lined up 15 threeround fights featuring first-timers to the toughest warriors. The beauty of the sport is it pits different styles against each other - a Thai boxer may take on a BJJ expert.

Darren added: "We're very careful with our matchmaking and ensure there are never any uneven contests.

"With the UFC heading Scotland's way and the likes of Stevie doing so well, it's a really good chance to see the future stars.

Many observers believe the UFC has eclipsed boxing as it is regarded as more honest, with top fighters forbidden from avoiding each other.

It's one of the main reasons the UFC's Glasgow show is on the tips of everyone's lips.

Darren said: "The UFC is the top of Everest for MMA fighters and we're looking forward to seeing them. It should be a special night." ? FOR more information on Art of Combat in Dunfermline visit its Facebook page.


GETTING WIRED IN Our man James has his face fed through the cage by champ Euan

BIG HIT James with fighters

FLOORED James has another bout

SPARRING PARTNERS Ross Cleave and Valentine Duke, right.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 23, 2015
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