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Cage fighting prepares Fort Sill soldiers for combat

Fort Sill_Knock-outs, tap-outs, body slams.  It's not boxing, not pro wrestling--it's military training.

Soldiers got it on Thursday at day one of the Fort Sill Combatives Tournament.

It's aggressive and it's rough, but these fights give soldiers a chance to put their hand-to-hand combat training to the test.  Participants say it's fun, too--although that's easy to say when you're not the one getting an elbow to the face.

It's very similar to mixed-martial arts, which is the fastest growing sport in america.  The Fort Sill fighters have an eight-sided cage--just like the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

It's not about beating people up.  It's about being ready for hand-to-hand combat in war.

Some of the guys have gotten some experience fighting--but not in combat.

Lieutenant Jason Norwood has four victories in professional MMA fights.  He's only trained for a year, while stationed at Fort Sill.

"All the skills that I have learned, I've learned at the combative facility here on post," Norwood said.  "All my formal fight training has come from there."

It's paid off.  He's undefeated, and has his fifth pro fight on Sunday.

Most of the other soldiers only compete in this combatives tournament.

"Jiu-Jitsu was the thing of 10 years ago," said Sergeant First Class Kristopher Perkins, who trains some of the fighters.

"I believe Army Combatives is gonna be the next thing because it's a full spectrum."

There are strikes with fists, kicks, slams, and submission holds.

"These soldiers are training for combat so the cage is a laboratory," Perkins said.

Since they're not trying to injure their fellow soldiers, punches to the head are illegal.  But they are allowed to use an open hand to slap their opponents in the head.

"As far as actually hurting someone, if you look in the ring you'll see that they don't really hurt each other," said Sergeant First Class Andy Pierce, who trains and coaches Norwood.

"I just saw a couple of the guys who are friends, and he didn't strike the other guy. Even though he won, he chose not to strike his friend."

It's not just male soldiers.  There are female competitors--and they fight against men in their weight class.

"I think it's good training to have a co-ed tournament," Specialist Corry Robinson said.

She fought men today, and will fight Friday against another woman for the third place trophy in the finals of the flyweight division.

"In battle it's co-ed.  I'm not going to go just fight women, so it should be co-ed," Robinson said.

That's why they're doing this--to prepare for real combat.

"People have tried to make it a sport, but the idea of survival is always forefront in your mind," Norwood said.  "And that idea of survival is always forefront in your mind in battle."

On December 10, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will pay tribute to the troops by presenting UFC Fight Night: Fort Bragg at the military base in North Carolina.

Norwood hopes to fight on the undercard of the UFC show, which will broadcast for free on Spike TV.

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