Cage Dancer

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The line waiting for the symphony finds civilized people trying their hardest to show good manners.


It’s a well-dressed crowd, a shuffling queue of the elite you might find in cities around the world, where even a mugger receives a gracious thank you.


Compare them with another line, the one at the cage fight extravaganza “Rumble At The Roseland.”


Take away the saw-toothed mohawks and the neck tattoos; ignore the former boxers, brawlers and wrestlers and you find the same moms, dads, friends and fans you find going to The Schnitz for a show.


One minor difference is the weapons search at the Roseland.


Apparently emotions run high at a cage fight. A classical soloist can miss a note without fearing gunfire from the audience.


A cage fighter has the same protection…now.


The cage sat just inside the door at the top of the Roseland stairway, an 8-foot-high frame of padded steel pipe, walls of cyclone fencing and a locking gate. A hooded figure bounced in a distant corner, then bounded through the crowd and up the cage steps for his introduction.


This was my guy.


I found his dad and joined a group of spectators under the balcony. My friend’s son was a former high school wrestler.  He stepped into a cage in the middle of Portland and didn’t flinch. His opponent  looked 30 and strong. The match lasted less than two minutes.


I went to see the kid win, and he did.  I was free to leave, but didn’t. Maybe, I decided, I’d stay for a couple more matches.


I stayed for them all.


One match painted the entire evening. The first contestant quietly entered the cage, leaning on the ropes, one heavyweight waiting for another.


His opponent staged a production number. First, a personal rapper entered the cage to entertain the crowd. The fighter entered dancing, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound hoofer.


Then it started.


During the match, the dancer put on a show jabbing and blooding his opponent.  During the second round the bleeding opponent landed an accidental throat punch.  It brought the evening into focus.


The dancer went down, gripping his neck.


His opponent leaped on him, raining punches full force. The referee pushed the aggressor away with such force that the man flew back like a special effect for the Incredible Hulk.  Luckily the alert safety crew had unlocked the cage for him to fall out.


He had broken the rules.


Shivering and shaking and convulsing like he was dying, or getting his trachea adjusted, the dancer finally stood after a few moments and accepted defeat on the judge’s scorecard.


He lost his match and had what appeared to be a near-death experience, but did not lose his manners.


The two combatants embraced each other as if they’d just finished a game of horse shoes.


If we are ruled by laws, yet judged by our manners, the Mixed Martial Arts fighters have raised the bar.


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