Paul Lazenby and Bringing the MMA to Vancouver
PL: The two styles that I focus on now are pankration and muay thai kick boxing. Pankration is the original name for mixed martial arts, the name under which it was contested in the ancient Greek olympics. That's the style that my trainer Chris Franco teaches. I combine that with muay thai training, which I also do with Chris, and that's Thai style kick boxing which, in addition to punches and kicks, also involves the elbows, knees, and standing throws.
WD: What styles of fighting are within pankration?
PL: The word pankration loosely translates as all powers which basically means that you use every weapon at your body's disposal. Pankration fighters in the old days were allowed to do pretty much what we're allowed to do in MMA today: punch, kick, elbow, knee, take-downs, and grappling techniques on the ground.
MMA or pankration, has kind of become a style in and of itself. In the old days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) one guy would stick to the rules of karate, one guy would stick to the rules of boxing, one guy would stick to the rules of wrestling, but that style versus style stuff has kind of fallen by the way side. Everybody is now a true mixed martial artist, they mix techniques from all of the martial arts together, to one style that's kind of a stand alone.
WD: Right now, who would you most like to fight... besides Aleks Paunovic?
PL: That wouldn't be a fight, that'd be an ass whooping! Aleks is a wimp (laughs).
Who'd I like to fight? That's easy. Shortly after I won the NFC (National Fighting Championship) mixed martial arts championship I found out that the knee pain that I'd been suffering from for the past few years was due to having no ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in the knee at all. I'd had no idea.
So I scheduled knee surgery, and about a month before the surgery I went to another NFC event and a guy named Dominic “the Nightmare” Richard knocked his opponent out in six seconds and then grabbed the microphone and called me out. It made me seethe.
I couldn't fight this guy because I had to get this surgery and it would be a year turn around time afterwards. I've been sitting on that for a few years and I'm getting to the point where I think my next fight will probably be my last, so if I've got to pick one guy to fight it would be Dominic. I want to put that one to bed. He might knock me out, I might knock him out, but we've got to settle that.
WD: What do you think of the bid to include the MMA in Vancouver?
PL: I've been at the forefront of that fight actually. I was one of the delegation who spoke to City Council when they were considering banning it in 2007. Unfortunately they'd made up their minds before we even got there. And ever since the ban was enacted I've been fighting to get it brought back.
I'm a huge proponent of having MMA brought back to Vancouver, especially considering the fact that the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) have displayed a strong interest in holding events here.
In Montreal they've set the precedent for what the UFC can do for a major Canadian city. They make roughly 50 million dollars long term, every time UFC comes to town. Nobody needs to tell them that Vancouver needs money, with all the money they're spending on the Olympics, so to turn down a cash cow like this with all the facts being in on how relatively safe MMA is as a combat sport, it would be unconscionable and I can't see city council under the mounting pressure doing anything but approving it, and doing that soon.
WD: Could you please elaborate on the safety of the sport in comparison to other contact sports.
PL: Absolutely. MMA gets a bad rap because when it was first introduced to North America it was marketed as a blood sport and it had far fewer rules than it does today. In it's current incarnation as a sport that's sanctioned by athletic commissions, and with a very ridged rule structure, it's safer than a lot of the other major sports out there.
A couple of years ago Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine held a study that concluded that it was more than twice as safe as professional boxing and that the injury rates, while roughly equivalent, showed that most of MMA injuries were hand injuries and most boxing injuries were brain injuries.
And the fatality rates speak for themselves. I'm a big fan of boxing, but the boxing fatality rates are astronomical, and in MMA sanctioned competitions I believe there have been two or three in the last decade. MMA is safer than horse racing, car racing, football, and boxing. As contact sports go, it's one of the safest sports out there.