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By Alis Lewis
Cage fighting Cambridge University students are hoping to challenge their Oxford counterparts in the first step towards a Varsity match.
However, members of the Cambridge University Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Society – or cage fighting club – have already run into a problem: they do not yet have a counterpart at Oxford.
The society has announced its aim to set up an annual match between Oxford and Cambridge, bidding for the sport to gain the coveted Varsity Blue title.
MMA, which combines martial arts including Thai boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, takes place inside a cage for the competitors’ safety due to the vigorous nature of the fighting.
According to Luke “Bigslow” Barnatt, an undefeated professional MMA fighter who coaches the Cambridge team, it is “the most complex and challenging combat sport on the planet”.
He added that Cambridge were vying for Blues status because “MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world, and universities should be a part of this growth”.
Mathias Lidgren, President and founder of the Cambridge MMA club, said: “I am currently in the process of trying to find people from Oxford University involved in MMA.”
However, Helen Hanstock, Oxford University Sports Federation (OUSF) President, said: “We have not been approached by anyone interested in setting up a MMA or cage fighting club to date.”
Hanstock added: “It is not likely that MMA will become sufficiently established in Oxford to become a Blues sport in the near future, and any application from a prospective club would be treated with caution by the Sports Federation and Sports Safety Officer.”
The long process of attaining Blues status begins with the establishment of a university club with OUSF. An application for Half or Full Blue Status must then be made to the Blues committee. Clubs must play Varsity Matches for at least three consecutive years to be eligible.
Clubs must also be affiliated to a National Governing Body of the sport, but there is no such body for governing MMA yet.
Furthermore, OUSF looks for a substantial degree of student interest, including inter-collegiate competition and adequate available facilities and coaching.
It is then up to the committee to decide whether the sport is deserving of Blues status and define the criteria for how awards may be given out each year.