John McCain Breaks Up a Fight

The senator says extreme fighting should be banned. You got a problem with that? Eddie Goldman does.

In Markunas' eyes, there's no point. He calls himself a "reality fighter." That doesn't mean he's out on the street with knives and guns, but simply that he likes to get down on the ground and roll around with his opponent--grappling, they call it. He's competed in his sport, but never in front of a crowd of thousands. The adrenaline rush would have been incredible, he supposes, still down in the dumps almost a week later.

The show's organizers are miffed, too.
Promoter Tom Gaffney says he thinks McCain presumed to speak for the people. But, he says, "You don't sell out a show of 2,600 people as fast as we did . . . if people don't want the event."

As for McCain's point that extreme fighting is "repugnant," Gaffney jabs, "That's his opinion, what's repulsive. I may think pornography's repulsive, but other people still want to see it, and they see it. That's censorship. I don't care about what McCain thinks. I don't care about what anybody thinks. I care about what I think. If it's legal, I can do it."

Whether extreme fighting remains legal in Arizona remains to be seen. The state boxing commission has already canceled a professional extreme-fighting event scheduled for February 15 at Phoenix Civic Plaza, but no definitive statement regarding the sport's future in the state has been made.

In the meantime, Lyman Markunas will continue to practice. And Walt Sweet will continue to coach. "It's not a malicious thing," Sweet says during Markunas' Wednesday-evening training session, raising his voice to be heard over the sounds of 300 pounds of flesh smashing into a mat, as Markunas slams his partner, Jason Wright, to the ground. "It's just that they love it so much."

The bottom line, Sweet says, is that last month's cage fight got too much publicity. It was better before people in Phoenix knew that Mark Kerr and Kevin Jackson--two UFC champions--live in the Valley, before people knew Arizona has, in fact, become a haven for extreme fighting. Sweet drops his voice.

"By the way," he says, "we've been doing this in Arizona for the last three years."

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