WHEN the call went out ‘Fighters Wanted’, Gavin Neaverson knew he had to respond.
Cagefighting is unlikely to find approval as an employment choice among the nation’s careers advisers but for martial arts fan Gavin it’s the ultimate challenge.
The 30-year-old Rastrick man is a semi-professional cagefighter and has four bouts under his belt. Though he lost all four he is undeterred and is determined to succeed in a fast-growing sport which relies on physical force, strength and speed.
Gavin, a former pupil at Hipperholme and Lightcliffe High School, said: “For years I did Thai boxing and ju jitsu and I have always believed in keeping fit but this is taking it to another level. I wish I had started 10 years ago because it is very competitive.
“People have the wrong idea about cagefighting - there are a lot of rules, doctors and paramedics are at every bout and I have every confidence that it is safe.”
Cagefighting is a combination of judo, boxing, wrestling and other martial arts and combatants compete in an intimidating 18ft cage.
Fighters compete bare foot and don’t wear helmets or gloves - just knuckle protectors. Most kinds of physical force are permitted and most bouts last a matter of seconds.
Gavin’s first fight was the Battle of the Brawlers in Maidstone last November and more recently he has competed in the fights promoted by Mark Spencer in Leeds.
“It is nerve-wracking waiting for the fight to start. The crowd is psyched up and shouting but it is not all about aggression. There is a high level of skill involved,” said Gavin.
Last month Gavin fought in the Martial Arts Xtreme Cage Fighting show in Pudsey against Pate Fawcett from the Team Fulinkazan gym in Bradford. He started well but lost by submission. Now he is in training for his next bout in the Max 8 event on July 30 in Pudsey.
So far, apart from a black eye, he has managed to avoid injury and says that bruises and aching limbs are usually the worse side-effects suffered by fighters.
“I think my mum probably worries about me doing it but my brother Cameron has been to watch me and really enjoys it,” said Gavin.
“Outside the ring all the fighters get on well. You can be in the ring one minute trying to beat someone and having a drink and a laugh with them outside the ring the next minute. There’s nothing personal in it, it’s all about the contest and respect for each other.”
Gavin trains every day and plans to keep cagefighting for as long as he can. “I’m taking it one step at a time and seeing how it goes. At the moment I am just concentrating on my next fight.”
Mark Spencer, who has been fighting for 11 years, is convinced it is safer than boxing.
“The reason why it’s held in a cage is for safety. I have fought in boxing rings before and fallen from the ropes and been hurt. Cagefighting is a full contact sport and there are lots of rules to ensure the safety of the combatants.
“In a mixed martial arts competition combatants have the option of taking the fight to the floor and of quitting without shame.”
Cagefighting, which has developed from the American ‘ultimate fighting’ which has become popular over the last decade, is completely legal but has no regulator in the UK.
People holding cagefighting events have to apply for a general indoor sports licence from the local authority.