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."

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
peopleFilm star says he is 'not interested in making money anymore'
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballAccording to revelations from Sergio Aguero's new biography
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Life and Style
Meow! ... Again, Kim Kardashian goes for a sexy Halloween costume, wrapping her body with a latex catsuit and high heeled knee boots
fashionFrom Heidi Klum to Kim Kardashian
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
Life and Style
tech

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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker