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					                    INSIDE TRACK     The Third Man in the Cage, David Jones

It seems every month new territories are explored or attendance records are broken as the global MMA revolution
gathers pace. Fans are also getting to see bigger fights as Zuffa gradually corals the top talent into one place. If there
was a pot-hole on the road of MMA’s inexorable rise it’s that increasingly shows are blighted by a questionable
refereeing decision or judges scorecard. Thankfully such occurrences are still rare but the few that happen are
capturing more column inches than some legitimate results from the same card. To get the inside track JOE caught
up with one the more qualified people to discuss what occurs in the cage. Having fought on the international MMA
circuit, coached at the Next Generation gym and become one of Ireland top MMA referees, David Jones understands
from all perspectives what is going on in a fight.

Having begun his martial arts training at the age of 6, David has trained in a wide variety of styles including Wado
Ryu Karate (2nd Dan black belt), Kenpo Karate, Aikido, Wing Chun and freestyle Kung Fu and “the odd bit of
Japanese Jiu Jitsu thrown in”. With a wealth of knowledge under his various martial arts belts David took inspiration
from one of the biggest names MMA has ever seen. “I saw the Rickson Gracie documentary ‘Choke’ and the first two
UFC’s right around the same time and said ‘I want to do that’”. And so his MMA career started as an outlet for his
body of martial arts work. It’s fair to say at this point in time MMA was still in its infancy; in the US the sport was
banned in 48 states and barely covered on PPV channels. It’s hard to imagine what the perception of MMA in Ireland
at this time would have been. Undeterred David managed to find some like-minded individuals in Ireland. “I met up
with John Kavanagh in 1998 and he set up a small training group split between De La Salle Churchtown, St Andrew’s
College where I work and a primary school in Rathfarnham.” With an eye on the future his motivations for trying
MMA were two-fold. “I got into MMA because 1) I liked the idea of it, and 2) I firmly believe no one should coach it
without having done it.”

“I fought 8 amateur fights, with a record of 4 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw and 1 No Contest. 3 were in the UK and 5 in the
US while I was training over there. I fought 7 professional fights, the first being on the first MMA show in the UK,
Cage Wars in Portsmouth.” David shared his debut card with Kimbo slayer Seth Petruzeli, training partner John
Kavanagh and UFC 2 semi-finalist Remco Pardoel, who would have featured in the early videos that inspired David to
try MMA. David’s biggest named opponent is a current UFC welterweight contender. “I fought Martin Kampmann on
the XFC 2 show in the UK in 2003, although I arrived having been told a cage was being used for that event, to find a
boxing ring set up. Martin was an excellent Thai boxer even back then. My best win was a 1 minute 53 second
submission on a days notice over Kenneth Rosfort-Nees at Cage Challenge 5 in Copenhagen in 2006.”

With little or no money to be made from MMA, David balanced his day job as a PE teacher with training and fighting
in his spare time. As the sport was relatively unknown in Ireland, frowns from the staff room were limited. “In the
early days of my teaching career I also worked on the door in Dublin so school was pretty open minded. MMA was in
its infancy in this country so people really had no clue what it was. There was supposed to be a show “Celtic Rage” in
City West Hotel maybe 10 years ago that was later called off after a Joe Duffy onslaught. I was down to fight, and
close to 100 staff had purchased tickets so they were actually very supportive. A lot more staff now watch the UFC as
the interest the sport has grown.”

After a series of injuries from a lifetime of martial arts and rugby David called a halt to fighting in 2006. Rather than
stopping his participation in MMA this merely reduced it. While fighting in the US in the early 2000’s David trained
out of the Next Generation fighting academy in Irvine, California where he met UFC, Pride, Shooto and Cage Rage
veteran Chris Brennan. During this time David lived at the gym as part of the training program for overseas fighters.
“After meeting Chris Brennan in 2000, I went home and set up Next Generation in Ireland in 2002. A few years later I
got asked to referee at the Ring of Truth in Ireland. I said yes and I am still refereeing.” To highlight how MMA has
grown in Ireland, “I think this year I will be involved in 15 shows by the end of the year. I used to maybe do 4 – 6
shows per year, so I guess it has more than doubled.”
                    INSIDE TRACK     The Third Man in the Cage, David Jones

Off the top of your head you could point your finger at Evan Dunham v Sean Sherk, Nam Phan v Leonard Garcia and
Riki Fukoda v Nick Ring as having had questionable judging decisions. David has simple but effective logic to how to
improve refereeing and judging in MMA. “I believe both refereeing and judging requires a certain level of
intelligence. You can develop your intelligence by acquiring the relevant skills and I believe that having fought and
coached gives the individual a clearer understanding of what is happening in front of them in the cage. I don’t agree
with fans being asked to judge and I don’t agree with judges having a casual attitude to the job like drinking alcohol
cage-side. The fighters have trained professionally, the very least they can expect is professional judging and
refereeing. The US Athletic Commissions appointment of judges is unfortunate at times. Fighters have been robbed
of rightful wins but I don’t see them (US Athletic Commissions) employing ex fighters anytime soon.”

If you’ve witnessed David in action as the third man in the cage you’ll have seen a consummate display of officiating.
On whether he feels added pressure as a result of poor decisions in the UFC, David is definitive; “I don’t feel
increasingly under the spotlight. It looks very simple to referee but it’s actually not. You have to detach yourself from
being a fan, a fighter, a coach and see the fight solely in the context of the rules. You must remain impartial and you
must put the fighters safety above all else while you are in the cage. I always say at rules meetings, ‘I am here to
protect you from yourself more than from your opponent’. True athletes don’t like to lose or tap out. It is my job to
make sure they don’t suffer any serious injury whilst attempting to compete. With regard judges, very simple in this
country, use only former fighters and/or coaches, and they should preferably not be associated with either fighter in
the cage.”

Exploring what David thought of the contentious 1st round of Edgar-Maynard we found a commitment to the cause.
“I scored the first round 10 – 8 Maynard. Normally I watch UFC’s twice, once as a fan and then I go through it and
watch it from a referees and judges perspective. (a little sad I know!)”

On the future for of MMA in Ireland David is cautiously optimistic. “There are too many shows! This year and next
will be make or break for a lot of shows. People are under the illusion that you can make a lot of money from
promoting. You can if you look long term and your business model is smart and adaptable to economic conditions.
You also have to have decent finance behind you to start with and be able to take a hit on the first few shows. It
helps if promoters seek advice from people who have been in the sport a long time and are motivated by the sport
not by the money making possibilities. There are also too few fighters. There is no money in MMA, so 99% of people
will have to have a day job to support their training. This affects the numbers going into the sport and the numbers
who will progress to the next level. If you don’t actually like fighting then MMA is not a place to make an easy pay
cheque.”

Leaving the final say to his views on the fighters, David feels the talent pool in Ireland is impressive. Using The
Ultimate Fighter show as a barometer, he feels we may have some genuine contenders for the title of TUF
champion; “I think Greg Loughran, Damian Rooney, Neil Seery, Ben Davis, Cathal Pendred, Owen Roddy amongst
others could all go on TUF and possibly win it. The biggest obstacle European fighters have to overcome is the
wrestling of the US fighters. High School sports in the US are light years ahead of us in Ireland. They have a
competitive culture already ingrained from an early age and the facilities and funding to match. Wrestling dictates
where the fight happens and it creates a work ethic the likes of which I have never seen in any other sport. The
problem with UFC contacts in Europe it is all about who you know not necessarily how good a fighter is. Hopefully
that changes next time the UFC come looking in Ireland.”

A big thanks to MMA Kaptured for providing pictures. Contact MMA Kaptured directly (Steve 086 387 4474) to
purchase any MMA event pictures or hire them for an upcoming event.

Fergus Ryan, May 2011

				
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