Here's a story from the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, SD....
Legal form of aggression a regular event in Sioux Falls
One of the most recent entertainment trends in Sioux Falls features men and women purposefully beating up on each other.
Whether in a steel pen for the Reality Cage Fighting sect or inside the boxing ring at Dakota Championship Fighting, local tough men and tough women are drawing crowds by, basically, pounding on each other.
At a recent Reality Cage Fighting event at the Oaks Hotel & Convention Center, a host of fighters faced off for a $500 prize awarded to the lightweight champion. The undefeated and undersized Josh Rave - who is the toast of the reality-fighting community - walked away with the cash after punching and grappling his opponents in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
And at last week's Dakota Fighting Championships, a hundred or so people gathered to witness a handful of fights that included Rave's female equivalent, Shayna Beaszler, maintain her undefeated record.
The next scheduled Reality Cage Fighting event is Feb. 27 at the Oaks Hotel.
Dakota Fighting Championships will reconvene March 5 at the Holiday Inn City Centre.
To say there's a buzz around the community for these grassroots fight clubs is giving them too much credit. But for a subset of society that takes pride in brawling, these organizations are giving legitimacy to a practice that normally would land the aggressors with assault charges, or in the hospital.
"The type of person who fights in this, they're going to fight if it's in a bar or an alley," says Heath Lacy, a fighter and co-promoter of Dakota Champion Fighting. "Doing it this way, you have judges. You have refs. We have an EMT on site at all times."
Despite statements of the sport's safety, such fighting events can turn tragic. Among the more noteworthy, fighter Douglas Dedge died during a No Holds Barred match in the late 1990s. Arizona Sen. John McCain once called the practice "human cockfighting."
Fighters for factions sign liability waivers, and promoters say they don't allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol to fight.
Talk to any fight promoter, trainer - and some fighters - and nearly every answer to any question will somehow mention these fight clubs are "safe."
They say they're safe because the opponents are closely monitored by an in-the-ring referee who will stop any fight that gets too out of hand. They're safe because trained medical personnel always are on site. And, if nothing else, they're safer than brawling in some alley.
"I'm a big guy on safety," says Omaha Zephier, promoter of Reality Cage Fighting. "There are a lot of events out there that let it go further than it should go."
Even the audience - which can get a bit rowdy from the natural mixture of alcohol and testosterone - is safe thanks to the swarms of security guards and police officers who quickly quell any audience skirmishes.
These fights are built around safety because they have to be. Lacy says injured participants mean less fights for the public. And if anyone ever died while fighting, the city probably would shut down these exhibitions.
But safety doesn't make these things popular.
For either faction, it doesn't take long to figure out there's a blood lust in the audience.
At Reality Cage Fighting, audience members screamed out for a combatant to knee his opponent. At the Dakota Fighting Championships, the crowd rose to cheers when fighters drew blood. And when "gladiator" matches pitted people wearing protective head and chest gear, there was a noticeable groan of displeasure from the crowd.
Though promoters protest billing their events as "bloody," the evidence is stained on the ring mat, dried on the skin of the fighters or announced by emcees who ask the crowd things such as "You want to see some blood tonight?" before a match. Naturally, the response is "yes."
"People think it's an unskilled brawl and bloody mess, but it's a chess match," Beaszler says.
Though both fight clubs welcome the average tough guy off the street - it's not uncommon for a man with jeans to enter the ring - a great number of the fighters are skilled athletes who train for optimal performance.
Lacy, who just started fighting seriously a few months ago, trains six nights a week. A former reality fighter turned promoter, Zephier has a bevy of fighters he works out.
"In the beginning, we got guys who pretty much just wanted to come in there (and fight)," Zephier says. "Now we're getting guys from Minnesota, Sioux City and Fargo. They're trained guys that fight in this kind of event all over the world.
"We've got guys who jump in off the street, and you never see them again. And we've got guys that come back and take it on a more serious level."
Part of the desire to become "serious" has to do with improving the fighting craft. It's also a response to the prizes awarded to winners.
In the Reality Cage Fighting, $500 goes to people who win their weight classes - light-, middle- and heavyweights. For Dakota Championship Fighting, each entrant gets paid. The winner of a bout earns $50 while the loser walks away with $25. In May, Dakota Fighting will award cash and prizes to winners of weight classes.
"Everyone here is an athlete. That's why we pay them," Lacy says.
While it's difficult to argue that a guy or girl who can sustain three rounds of beating without seeking medical attention isn't an athlete, some of the combatants are purely bruisers. Some are bar-fight regulars. Others measure themselves by the assault charges levied against them.
"I think all of us are kind of known for being in a few fights," Lacy says with a grin.
One of those guys is Jason Kuil.
The 26-year-old Hawarden, Iowa, resident says he's always had the reputation of a fighter and has "a lot of assault charges."
Sitting on a metal chair following his victory at Dakota Fighting Championships, Kuil is stained with dried blood and marked with a smile.
He just triumphed in his first reality fight over a boxer who looked to have the upper hand until Kuil went ballistic in the final round to win the match.
The short, stocky Kuil signed up because it "sounded like fun." Now, he's found the same rush he used to get from street fighting, minus the legal hassles.
"Yeah, there are 90-year-old ladies who don't like this," Lacy says. "But these guys who fight, when they're on the street, there's no one there to save them."