Let’s talk about Chester’s Fight Club – yes, really.
It’s no secret Chester is thriving. Within the space of a month, the market has announced extended opening hours on Saturday nights (bring on more time for pizza and beer!) and the new Northgate Development is now underway.
But, there’s still so much here than meets the eye, and we’ve come to realise that the people of Chester don’t always know what’s going on behind closed doors.
It’s common knowledge that the first rule of fight club is, do not talk about fight club. But, for Chester, it’s time to talk about our very own fighting squad; MMA (that’s mixed martial arts, if you don’t know), and to say good luck to everyone who’s taking part to raise money for an event held by Cancer Research UK’s biggest fundraising supporter (in the UK).
Only two guys to a fight
Meet Gus and Paul, two thirty-somethings who are both fans of MMA. They’re about to embark on a free eight-week training course in MMA (the rules are simple) to do their part to ‘knock out’ cancer for good.
What is MMA?
Mixed martial arts is a full-contact sport using a series of fighting disciplines such as karate, jiu-jitsu, grappling, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, sumo – you get the bloody picture. It became a fully-fledged sport in 1993, organised by the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), where a single-night tournament was held to seek the ‘Ultimate Fighting Champion’.
Headquartered in Las Vegas, the UFC is the largest promoter of mixed martial arts in the world and as a sport, it’s starting to make headway over here in the UK (we had to wait until 2002 for the first UFC fight in England). On average, two UFC fights are held here annually compared to a sizable 39 fights each year in the US (2018).
However, for the first time in Chester, this year Ultra MMA, the UK’s biggest fundraising supporter for Cancer Research UK, is holding a charity event at Chester Racecourse. In November, the people of Chester have the chance to use their fighting strength in what Ultra MMA has said is now, ‘the fastest growing sport in the UK’.
Since the MMA women’s division was introduced in 2013, and with a number of weight classes announced by 2014; MMA has hit a few milestones, to say the least, and has become an accessible sport for both professional and amateur fighters.
So far, our source tells us that over 140 people have signed up to take part in Chester’s charity MMA event (Ultra MMA is running in over 50 cities across the UK) including Gus and Paul, who are recording their training and experience leading up to the fight on their UFC podcast, The Bloody Good Show.
“Conceive, believe, achieve…”Michael Bisping
After hours of chatting about the latest fight card (the list of the fights taking place), it was then that best mates Gus and Paul (who both met at Aberystwyth Uni and moved to live in Chester a few years after graduating) soon realised that instead of just talking about the UFC down the pub, they could record their thoughts on a podcast.
In early 2019, The Bloody Good Show was born and it became the start of their bid to help raise awareness about MMA as a sport; a podcast for the fans, by the fans. Produced in a makeshift studio, Paul got them set up and running by investing in some audio equipment.
“Every time we met up, we’d ask each other ‘did you see the fight the other night?’, and we soon realised that we could talk for hours and hours about the UFC; upcoming fighters and what we think will happen during the next fight,” says Paul, whose day-day involves working full-time at local escape room, Breakout Chester, as a game developer and shift manager.
Created to educate and help listeners understand exactly what the sport means, The Bloody Good Show is something to listen to if you’re a new fan of MMA, or if you’ve been following it for years. It’s a place to hear about the UFC directly from the fans’ point of view.
“We want to help the UFC make sense for people who have watched it, tried to pick it up and figure out what’s going on – we’re that stepping stone,” says Gus, whose full-time day-to-day involves working in fashion, running his own business selling shoes to independent retailers across the UK.
Paul: “For us it’s not about recreating ‘match of the day’ and commenting about the result of the fight. The Bloody Good Show is a passion project between the two of us where we record what we can, when we can, and actually it’s quite fun!”
I am comfortable in the uncomfortableConnor McGregor
The first episode of The Bloody Good Show went live in February 2019 (Paul doesn’t hold back from saying how TERRIBLE the first one is – we’ll let you form your own opinion) which got a grand total of four downloads. Since then, the total number of listens has seriously picked up; well over 1,000 downloads and they’ve even gone global, with The Bloody Good Show listed as one of Azerbaijan’s top 10 podcasts.
Paul: “Obviously we’d love to have more listeners, but the main thing for us is to help educate and create more awareness about the UFC so it’s accessible.”
“We aren’t making it to be content creator millionaires. We’re doing it purely because we’re fans, we know we don’t know everything about the fights but like other guys, we’re simply chatting about how the fight went and offering our opinions to build the UK MMA community.” Gus adds.
With the UK presence of MMA fan podcasts currently limited compared to the awareness of professional MMA podcasts such as Unfiltered, and Manchester’s own Michael Bisping’s ‘Believe You Me’ podcast (behind the scenes of a UFC champion); Gus and Paul have taken to Twitter to get involved with the MMA conversation worldwide.
Using the hashtag #MMAtwitter, the two have steadily built up a rapport with MMA fans globally. If you’re curious, take a look at Pinstripe MMA (Paul) and Casual Gus on Twitter (the name speaks for itself, and is coined from the term used towards the ‘non-committal’ fair-weather fan of sports) to see what they’ve got to say about the latest card.
Gus: “First of all we recorded for one to two hours and then Paul would go away and edit it. But, we soon realised how time-consuming this was and it almost sounded unnatural, so we changed the format to record it naturally, just like we would chat as mates and it worked!”
The UFC holds fights every weekend or bi-weekly, so the Bloody Good Show has a lot to cover as fights run throughout the year, unlike football or rugby where you have to wait for the new league.
Paul: “There’s usually something to talk about each week, and obviously, life gets in the way so we try and record when we can. Gus is often away on the road for work, so recently we’ve tried recording via Skype so we can keep up the regularity.”
Although, with Gus on the road, it’s not just their full-time commitments which have affected how often they can record. Earlier this year, less than two weeks before a fight, BT Sport announced that they were going to start charging customers pay per view (PPV) for every main UFC card.
“There was outrage amongst fans. BT Sport have been showing free UFC fights for years. People have threatened to cancel their subscription altogether!” says Paul.
“For the main fight card we now have to pay £20-25 for seven fights, on top of our BT sport subscription. But, the difference is we’re watching the fight at 3am, compared to America, who also pay for it, but they’re watching it at a sociable time,” adds Gus.
In true The Bloody Good Show style, Paul set up a petition titled (wait for it), ‘Stop BTSports charging PPV for UFC in the UK!!’ which has received over 1,500 signatures – and it’s not stopping there.
Paul: “The idea of it wasn’t necessarily to gain loads of attention but to get a collection of people who share the same point of view, and are annoyed by this sudden pricing change, who now have to pay for a product that they’re already paying for.
“It’s a given for America, a bit like boxing, where most fight cards are PPV in the UK and US, but it’s never been like that for us in the UK with the UFC as it’s a growing sport here.”
Gus: “If anything, this is proof that MMA is growing in the UK because BT Sport has seen it as an opportunity to make money.”
Paul: “On the plus side, at least it’s bringing the community together for people to have their say. Some have even flat out cancelled their BT Sport subscriptions.”
If you’re interested, there’s still (just about!) time to sign up to Chester’s Ultra MMA, with the fight night running on the 24th November. If throwing a punch isn’t for you, watch all participating fighters in the octagon at the glamorous black tie event held at Chester Racecourse. Standing tickets are available, or if you’re feeling fancy, book a VIP table which comes with waitress service. Don’t forget, it’s all for charity!
With less than a week to go, along with recording their podcast, Gus and Paul are already hitting the gym to get ready for their official Ultra MMA training, which starts in less than a week.
Good luck to everyone fighting to raise money for Cancer Research UK. To keep up with how Gus and Paul get on (will they end up fighting each other?) listen to The Bloody Good show, which you can download from your usual streaming service.
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