The UFC – the huge American promotional company behind the world’s biggest mixed martial arts tournaments – gets a bum rap. After all, the idea of two young guys entering an octagonal cage with only one leaving victorious recalls the age of the gladiators; reporters on a Fox Sports panel once described it as “barbaric” and “repulsive”. So when we met Anthony Perosh, one of Sydney’s most successful UFC fighters – and the bloke whose bloodied face prompted those remarks after a 2010 loss – we were taken aback.
He is six-foot-three, 100kg and known as the “hippo” because he sits on opponents until they submit, but far from the thug you might expect, Perosh is quietly spoken and serious. And his UFC story has humble beginnings. “At 22, I started a Bachelor of Applied Science, needed a job and I thought, ‘I’ll become a bouncer, I’m tall,’” says Perosh. “I figured I better learn something, so I found this new thing called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).” He soon picked up MMA, which combines BJJ’s groundwork with the standing, striking techniques of kickboxing. “The rest, I guess, is history.”
At 39, and with six UFC fights under his belt, Perosh has watched the UFC become the world’s fastest growing sport and seen Sydney jump on the bandwagon: local competition Cage Fighting Championship (CFC) always draws crowds, and since its 2010 debut here, the UFC has sold out Acer Arena twice and almost 15,000 attended March’s contest to watch Perosh beat Canada’s Nick “the quiet assassin” Penner.
And it’s not just a spectator’s sport: Perosh says more and more Sydneysiders are stepping into the cage.
He runs his two gyms in Concord and Liverpool with fellow UFC alumnus Elvis Sinosic and says 90 per cent of his 450 students are just there for the exercise. And it’s not just the boys. “I have a 51kg female brown belt in BJJ and she runs rings around the guys her weight and they’re tapping [surrendering] left, right and centre.”
Time Out was surprised to find Tariq Al Jabry at the gym too, a 27-year-old biochemist who’s been training for two months and hopes to compete by the year’s end. “BJJ is like science,” he says. “Like a Rubik’s Cube: complicated and there’s lots of tricks and different moves you can do.” He trains six days a week and says, “If I’m not in the lab, training or reading a science journal, I’m watching a UFC fight.”
But what’s the appeal? For bookbinder Luke Standing, another 27-year-old Perosh recruit who’s won three bouts, it’s the rawness. “It’s just the two of you, no one else to help you and it doesn’t get more real than that.”
Perosh has some words of advice for those wanting to give BJJ and MMA a try. “Find a school with a good instructor, then just start training. In order to compete you have to want it. You’re gonna have so many ups and downs and you need to want it badly – train your butt off and learn from your mistakes.” And Perosh, who lost his first two UFC bouts in 2006 and wasn’t invited back until 2010, adds: “You’ll have to tap a thousand times. You have to learn to love failure because that’s the only way to learn.”
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Dislocated both kneecaps
Lower back bulge
16cm tear in his quadricep,
Dislocated both AC joints
Ongoing tendinitis in both elbows
Looks like the cage is the safest place to be...
UFC No Nos
Grabbing the trachea
And timidity – that’s right, you can’t just try and out run them, you have to man up!
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