Sport on TV: When all the world's a cage and infighting is all the rage

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The Independent Online

It began with some glamorous American women in figure-hugging clothing, then some welding. It wasn't a promising start. Would Cage Fighting Women (BBC4, Thursday) be another 'Flashdance', but with bandages instead of leggings, striking a blow for the downtrodden girls of the foundry and factory? Fortunately, there was no Eighties schmaltz. It was Jeff, husband and trainer of Lisa, building her a cage.

"Some people buy 'em diamond necklaces, things like that. I've got 'er a cage," he said, admiring "the gates big enough to get the paramedics in". How very thoughtful. Was that the only way out?

Lisa became a Mixed Martial Artist after she was attacked in Leeds Market aged 16. "That's what I'm doing, fighting back really." Her husband of 14 years seemed the ideal choice to nurture her hatred of men, for Jeff was as unpleasant as you can get. In fact they weren't on speaking terms at the start of the programme. Not that that stopped his endless tirade of racist bile and general lunacy.

In start contrast to this David Peace-like slice of Yorkshire life was Lisa's sparring partner, Rosi from Manchester. She had studied maths at Cambridge and completed a PhD in theoretical computer science. But she had had enough of thinking and just wanted to use her fists. She once played piano at the Albert Hall, but "maths and music didn't try out enough different parts of me". And playing piano with boxing gloves on isn't easy.

Like Lisa, Rosi was caught up in a love-hate relationship with Carl, her coach, who had also been her partner. Then Jeff enlisted Carl's help to revive Lisa's flagging fortunes. She duly won the world flyweight title in the US, pummelling three local girls in one evening, and ran to kiss Carl before remembering that she had better give Jeff a peck on the cheek too.

The Yanks just didn't know what to make of her. The referee told the ladies "no putting a finger into any orifice" but Lisa was punching new holes in her opponents. "Two hot women fighting, you know there's nothing better," opined one redneck. "It's kinda addicting," his friend contributed to the debate.

Both women's other halves were also MMA fighters, and it seemed they were goading the girls into fulfilling their own fantasies. Passions were running so high, and their little world was so pregnant with the potential for bizarre romantic clinches, that a fitting climax would have been for Jeff and Carl to beat each other up while the ladies looked on and sipped tea.

Jeff's a confused man, though you probably wouldn't tell him. "We probably won't get Sportswoman of the Year, but we deserve it," he said, forgetting who wears the Lycra shorts in his household. "It's the best feeling ever, the biggest buzz you can get," said Lisa. What a feeling, indeed.

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