Sydney has sampled the fastest-growing regulated sport in the world, writes Adrian Proszenko.
Australian martial arts legend Richard Norton came to the inescapable truth after years of being kicked and punched in the head by Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris: "Playing the bad guy always meant you got beat up and killed and never got the woman."
But the renowned actor, stuntman and bodyguard came to an even more chilling conclusion while commentating on one of the first official cage fights in the United States - somebody was going to die.
Hollywood is where Norton made his name. Hollywood would have you believe cage fighting is the equivalent of human cockfighting. Like the time when Mad Max walks into the Thunderdome arena. Two men enter. One man leaves.
But Norton's initial fears have been put to rest. Having watched the sport of mixed martial arts evolve from a lawless bloodfest into a regulated sport - the fastest-growing in the world - Norton is now an unabashed fan of cage matches.
"I'm pleased to say I have been proved wrong," he said. "When you look at the overall record, the injury rate is incredibly low.
"If it was seen to be out of control, with no professionalism in the way it's run and the way the fight is conducted, I don't think it would have spread the way it has."
Norton, fight choreographer for another George Miller film, Justice League Of America, was a ringside guest at Friday night's Cage Fighting Championship at Luna Park. What he saw was a far cry from the sport in the early 1990s. Back then there were practically no rules, no weight limits, no time limits. Fighters came out bare-fisted, free to stomp and kick the groin - free to do pretty much whatever they pleased. But the introduction of rules, regulations and professional referees has helped clean up the image of cage fighting. And in the US the punters have responded with their feet.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the second biggest-grossing pay-per-view event on television. And, while the sport has evolved from its barbaric origins, there's enough contact, blood and violence to ensure it's not everyone's cup of chai.
"You always get a small contingent, rednecks or whatever you want to call them, that want to see a lot of violence," CFC director Luke Pezzutti said.
"It's not about that. You want to watch a good fight, all three facets of the fight game - the striking, the wrestling and on the ground."
At the CFC event in Sydney the card girls had an easy night, with only two of the nine bouts lasting more than one round. Most were over within about 60 seconds as the combatants unleashed a combination of jujitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kickboxing and wrestling on each other.
The fights took a familiar pattern - within a few seconds the match would degenerate into a Greco-Roman-style wrestle on the ground, with enough grapple tackles to make even Craig Bellamy wince.
Perhaps the fourth bout of the card provided the best insight into cage fighting. Nick Pudney was literally on top of opponent Alex Shevtsov, punching him to the ground and declaring to the crowd: "I'm going to f--k him up!"
Seconds later Pudney's arm was at right angles after Shevtsov pinned him and dislocated it.
Earlier, Jai Bradney unleashed a dozen snapping cobra-like blows on Rob Hill in the opening fight. After the referee mercifully ended proceedings, Bradney grabbed the MC's microphone and yelled: "To my girlfriend, happy Valentine's Day - you're getting some tonight!"
Cage fighting isn't for the squeamish. As Norton put it, the cage has a "primeval allure" to it.
"It doesn't change what goes on in the ring but there's a perception it's more gutsy, brutal and earthy."
It begs the question - why would you climb in? What would motivate someone like Andy Kappas, a part-time fireman, to jump into the arena for the first time on Friday night? Is he crazy?
"I look at at people who get into a formula one car and go 300km/h as crazy," Kappas said, laughing.
"It is contact sport, but so are sports like rugby league … why not?"
The feature event involved Hector Lombard. This guy is the real deal. Lombard came to Sydney to represent Cuba in judo at the 2000 Olympics, fell in love with a local and officially became an Aussie citizen three weeks ago.
He also fell in love with mixed martial arts the first time he saw it on television and decided to make a go of it.
After winning all but two of his 19 pro fights the 29-year-old is now set to sign up to the lucrative UFC league, where stars have a cult following and can earn up to $1 million in sponsorships and prizemoney.
"I would like to be UFC world champion, train in America to get a contract there," he said. "If you don't make money, it don't make sense."