The Extreme Fighting match in Kahnawake has erupted into a political brouhaha that has increased tensions between the Mohawk Nation and Quebec. Atone point, Premier Lucien Bouchard even said he was worried about the possibility of another Oka Crisis.

The “no-holds-barred” contest held April 26 put a dozen martial artists from around the world in an octagon-shaped cage to battle it out for a reported $50,000 in prizes. The only rules: no eye-gouging and no biting. There were no rounds and the matches were over only when a fighter could no longer defend himself.

The event drew 4,000 spectators to Kahnawake’s sold-out arena, about half paying $20 for standing-room-only spots.
The bouts were free of the carnage expected by the Quebec government, which predicted a “human cockfight.” The lack of blood and gore was largely due to the fact that fighters wore lightly padded 5.6-ounce gloves. One Kahnawake resident commented, “I’ve been in worse fights with my sister!”

But that didn’t stop Quebec from declaring the event illegal and trying to stop world-wide broadcast of the event on pay- per-view. The day after the fight, Kahnawake Peacekeepers and the SQ arrested some of the fighters in Montreal just as they were about to fly home.

Quebec’s actions angered many Kahnawake residents. Grand Chief Joe Norton said he wouldn’t renew a policing agreement Mohawks signed last fall with Quebec and Ottawa. Norton was also angered by the arrests made by his own police department and fired police chief Joseph Montour.

Fight organizer Mike Thomas, a Tae Kwon Do master in Kahnawake, was also defiant, promising another “extreme combat” match this summer.

The first fight, a lightweight bout, went on for a gruelling 20 minutes before the referee declared a draw. The fight went quickly to the ground and the crowd was treated to a series of joint-locks, holds and dramatic reversals as the two exhausted fighters proved unable to finish off their opponent. They spent most of the match lying on their backs trying to twist off each other’s ankles and occasionally kickingtheir opponent’s face.

Cree kickboxer Melvin “The Mule” Murray of Vancouver was also scheduled to compete in the lightweight category, but he didn’t attend due to an injury while winning the World Wrestling Kickboxing Council lightweight title in Australia.

The next three fights were very different. All of them were over in under a minute and saw experienced ground-fighters dominate their opponents with skilled throws, holds and chokes. Noteworthy among them was Lightweight Extreme Fighting Champion Ralph “The Pitbull” Gracie, who held on to his title by skillfully reversing an attempted takedown by Sambo fighter Steve Nelson of Texas early in the fight. The referee stopped the fight at 44 seconds after Gracie landed on Nelson’s back and started punching the back of his head.

After the first few fights, the mostly male audience was introduced to the Penthouse Pets (Penthouse Magazine sponsored the event). The “pets” sashayed around the ring clad in the latest swimsuit fashions. The audience was, shall we say, appreciative.

The fifth fight saw crowd-favourite Jean Riviere of Montreal, 250 lbs., matched against Denilson Maia, 205 lbs., a Brazilian who at 19 is the youngest fighter to ever compete in Extreme Fighting.

Early in the bout, Maia won The Nation’s award for most unusual combat move. He jumped on Riviere’s back and held on tight deliveringa punishing succession of punches and headbutts to the back of his surprised opponent’s head. Ouch!

Maia, a practitioner of the obscure discipline of Luta Livre, also proved to be an inventive fighter on the ground, several times getting out of clinches when the crowd thought he was finished. But in the end, the heavier Riviere prevailed with a reverse choke as the crowd chanted “Ti-Jean.”

The sixth fight was the most brutal, pitting 232-lb. Marcus “Conan” Silveira, another member of the famed Grade jiujitsu clan, against Carl Riggs, 218 lbs., who practices Hawaiian freestyle.

The fighters, competing for the heavyweight title, started out cautiously. They circled each other slowly at a safe distance, throwing the occasional quick punch or low kick. The audience expected it would quickly go to the ground, the area of expertise for both fighters.

But this isn’t what happened, proving the old fight adage – always expect the unexpected. After a minute or so, Conan saw an opening in Riggs’ guard and moved in, unleashing an awesome fury of jabs, hooks and uppercuts that left Riggs stunned and helpless. I counted at least 18 strikes in the space of about 4 seconds!

The ref stepped in and Riggs was last seen getting his jaw examined by a doctor.