'Back street' cage fighting safety warning by Welsh doctors' leader David Bailey

A doctors' leader has warned of the dangers of "backstreet" cage fighting clubs which have grown in popularity in Newport and the Gwent valleys.

Cage fighting, said to be the world's fastest growing sport, is legal but unregulated in the UK.

Dr David Bailey, chairman of the British Medical Association's Welsh GPs' committee, said many clubs lacked safety equipment and insurance.

There are also fears over insufficient training at some clubs.

Cage fighting, which has been dubbed "human cockfighting", originated in the US in the early 1990s and is officially known as mixed martial arts (MMA) because it combines boxing, wrestling and martial arts.

Dr Bailey told BBC Wales he was concerned about the risks involved in an unregulated sport.

He said: "You're taking safety in your own hands in a big way just by taking part because, at the end of the day, the guy on the other side just wants to knock you out and that's a fairly significant safety risk.

"But, clearly, if you're doing that without any sort of safety protection and back-up from the outside then that risk is just going to be multiplied."

There is no central register for the number of cage fighting clubs in Wales and the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts does not know how many there are across the country.

People within the sport estimate there are about 50 clubs across Wales, with between 20 and 30 in Newport and its nearby valleys.

The Falcons Club in Blaenau Gwent is a professional club that has been teaching MMA for 20 years, and says its members train for months ahead of a match, which is in contrast to fighters belonging to smaller, "backstreet" clubs.

These fighters are paid £50 to enter professional fights with no professional training.

Cage fighter Ed Ferris, from Newport, said there were significant problems with the sport being unregulated.

"You do get a lot of people who've done a little bit of training in one style, bit of training in another, and then they can, basically, open their own clubs because of its non-regulation," he added.

'New and exciting'

"I'd say it's dangerous because there are a lot of shows going on at the moment where, basically, people go on the show with almost little to no experience and get a semi-professional fight.

"Not only is it dangerous, ultimately it would hurt the sport if that person would go on and have an injury and that's something that probably could, and will, happen in MMA."

Another fighter, Cory Hanson, said cage fighting offered something "new and exciting".

He added: "You've got your kicks, you've got your elbows, your knees, it's so much more versatile. I think it's more appealing to people nowadays."

Cage fighting tournaments are held regularly across Wales and attract thousands of fans.

Newport council has advertised cage fights, like The Art of War and Ready to Rage on its website.

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