Graham Turner has dedicated months of training to take his sport to the Max – with even the odd broken nose or black eye doing nothing to put him off.
Graham, 20, of Lanark, is one of the emerging talents of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) which is now recognised as one of the world’s most entertaining and dramatic combat sports.
Graham “After Burner” Turner as he is known will be pitting his skills against John Smith in the MAX Xtreme Fighting event, organised by renowned Cage Wars Productions, at Braehead Arena in Glasgow on March 15.
The sport, in which specially trained fighters compete in an octagonal ring using highly-evolved techniques known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), boasts A-list fans such as George Clooney, Cindy Crawford and Paris Hilton, as well as football stars Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher.
Graham, who is an apprentice butcher, said he was very excited about the upcoming event, the ninth in his three-year career.
He said: “I am really looking forward to Max Xtreme. I love MMA – I tend to go from work straight to the gym. I don’t see it as hard work – my aim is to become professional.”
Since the sport was first introduced in 1992, it has soared in popularity with clubs springing up across the whole UK and more than 5000 Xtreme Fighters training and competing regularly at different levels. More than 2500 fans are expected to attend the 12-bout event in Glasgow.
But these events are not without controversy – being branded as “human-cockfighting” by one MSP. But Graham said this criticism is unjustified and he had even managed to change the mind of girlfriend Sarah Lithgow, 18, a student.
He said: “When I first became involved in MMA Sarah was really worried. She had obviously read all the comments in the paper which rubbished MMA as some sort of legalised brawl. But I have spoken to her about it and she has been to see me compete and is now a lot happier with it.
“Negative comments are based on massive misconceptions. MMA is a highly-disciplined sport and people who say otherwise really need to be educated on what it takes to be involved in an event like this. Interest is undoubtedly soaring as it becomes more and more popular.”
Jonny Burrows, Cage Wars Productions spokesman, said the Braehead Arena spectacle is a clear demonstration of the increasing appeal of MAX Xtreme Fighting.
He said: “As the popularity of Xtreme Fighting grows, people are beginning to realise that the skill levels needed to compete are incredibly high and only serious and dedicated athletes can rise to the level needed to achieve success.
“For anyone who has not seen an Xtreme Fighting event they should come along to the Braehead Arena and see for themselves what makes this the fastest growing sport in the world. There is nothing in combat sports that can touch Xtreme Fighting for excitement and an adrenalin-fuelled night of sports entertainment.
“It is really catching on in Scotland and we look forward to a tremendous event at the Braehead Arena. We’ll have some well known fighters from abroad competing, as well as some up-and-coming homegrown talent such as Graham.”
MAX Xtreme fighting can trace its origins back to around 648 BC when Pankration, a form of unarmed hand-to-hand combat, was an event in the first Olympic Games.
Since then, it has been practiced in various forms in countries across the globe, culminating in the boom in popularity over the last 10-15 years into MMA as is it known today.