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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent