Fight the good fight: preacher who knows more than most about Bible-bashing

In the smoky blue light of a studio a semi-naked fighter steps towards the camera. With a pair of superman pants peeping out from above his shorts and a malevolent look in his eye, he proclaims: "I'm Jason Bad Ass Barrett and I'm the best at everything. I'm the son of God and the son of thunder. I'm super J."

To those not in the know, 31-year-old Bad Ass is a mixed martial artist who fights in the brutal world of Cage Rage, the UK's version of ultimate fighting, a violent and increasingly popular mixture of boxing and martial arts that the British Medical Association wants to see banned.

But what makes this particular fighter so unusual is that outside of the ring he is the Rev Jason Barrett, a fully ordained Pentecostal preacher.

This weekend Bad Ass will step into the ring at the Wembley Arena Cage Rage showdown and attempt to bring down his opponent with a barrage of kicks, punches and throws. But on Sunday, the British fighter will swap his greased-up torso and shorts for a cassock, dog collar and cross.

Bad Ass Barrett sees no problem with fighting in a ring one day and preaching the next. "My faith helps me to fight and fighting has helped my faith," he told The Independent. "I say preach what you practice: fighting has taught me not to show fear, and the Bible says 'Fear not, for I am with thee'."

Ultimate fighting, known in the UK as mixed martial arts (MMA), sees two men battle it out in an enclosed octagonal ring, protected only by a gumshield, a groin guard and a pair of shorts. Instead of boxing gloves, fighters wear padded fingerless gloves and virtually any form of attack is permissible apart from kneeing an opponent in the groin or stamping on his head.

Many within the medical profession say ultimate fighting is inherently dangerous but the swelling ranks of fans say the sport holds true to the spirit of competitive fighting, something which they say commercial boxing has lost.

Christian elders, including the bishop who ordained Mr Barrett and his mother, have been vocally sceptical at the compatibility of ultimate fighting and Christ's teachings of love and tolerance. But the Rev Barrett, who preaches at a church he set up eight years ago in Manchester's Moss Side, disagrees. "People have taken Christianity and packaged it until it's all nansy pansy and 'turn the other cheek'," he says. "It's not about getting bulldozed over; you've got to remember that the Crusaders were all Christian."

Knocking back isotonic health drinks alongside his fellow fighters in the lobby of a Wembley hotel, Bad Ass waxes lyrical about the mixed martial arts fraternity; a brotherhood of men who may fight tooth and claw in the ring but remain firm friends when the fight is over.

When Lee Doski, Barrett's opponent for today's big fight, walks into the bar, there is no gnashing of teeth or muttered abuse. On the contrary, Barrett stops the interview, leaps from his seat and bounds over to give his nemesis a bear hug.

"It's like Lord of the Rings, man," he explains. "It's the fellowship of the ring. You've got to respect anyone else that does it, because it's tough and they're going through the same process."

A lot of the world, it seems, shares his enthusiasm. Ratings on American pay-per-view channels for big matches are regularly higher than American football matches and major boxing bouts, while in Japan upwards of 30 million viewers sometimes tune in.

In Britain the sport's popularity is also increasing. Two weeks ago the US version of Cage Rage, the Ultimate Fighting Championships, managed to sell out the 20,000-seater O2 Arena and the UK is a regular date on the MMA world tours.

The astronomical viewing figures are down to its reputation as one of the world's most violent sports. As Cage Rage promoter Andy Geer explains: "The baddest man in the world is no longer the boxing champ, he's the mixed martial arts champ."

A recent fight in Liverpool resulted in one player having a dislocated and fractured jaw, several fractured ribs and concussion.

In the past two years alone the Rev Barrett has dislocated his arm and suffered an "exploded" eye socket after a punch shattered his cheek bone.

Such injuries are why the BMA wants to see ultimate fighting banned. "They just knock the stuffing out of each other until they can't get up," says Dr Peter Maguire of the BMA. "That's not a sport, that's a gladiator fight."

But according to Geer, a culture of submission ensures that fighters are not too proud to say when they cannot continue: "If you lock someone's joint to the point where it's going to snap, there really is no option but submission."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran