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    Sports Features

    Dave Legeno
    Dave Legeno

    Dave is ready to rumble!

    Dunstable's Dave Legeno has gone from Hollywood hardman to cage fighter. He told Katherine Boyle all about his exciting and controversial sport.

    Some people get their kicks risking life and limb - it gets their hearts racing, the blood pumping and the adrenalin surging forth.

    For some it's a freefall parachuting, for others it's climbing mountains, but for Dunstable's Dave Legeno it's much more raw!

    Dave Legeno and Katherine Boyle
    Katherine Boyle interviews Dave Legeno!

    As "The Enforcer", the 42-year-old gets his kicks fighting for his life in a cage with thousands of people looking on, although he's probably done all the other stuff too in the course of his career as a Hollywood hardman!

    On 1 July, he takes on Mark "The Beast" Epstein in the Cage Rage event at Wembley Arena. Cage fighting is a side of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) which takes elements from martial arts like Thai Kickboxing, Brazilian Jui jutsu and Freestyle Wrestling and fuses them together to produce what is considered to be the most complete combat form.

    BBC Three Counties' Katherine Boyle spoke to Dave, to find out all about his exciting and controversial sport, and his rise from Dunstable to Hollywood!

    Have you always used your body in your career?

    Dave: I've worked as a bouncer, as a boxer and as a wrestler. I've always been into combat and then I got into films and played the hard man there so now I'm doing it for real! In the cage in Wembley Arena on 1 July I'm testing everything and validating myself as a fighter.

    How did you get involved in Cage Rage because it's quite controversial isn't it?

    Dave: I became aware of it through TV and at first I had my doubts about it and didn't realise what a noble sport it is. I thought it seemed so brutal but actually it's really all the Olympic combat sports combined in one go. That's all it is - there's a referee and it's very well regulated so there's nothing to worry about safety-wise, but it is the ultimate test when it comes to combat because you can do pretty much anything in the cage.

    I was fighting (boxing) in my 20s when I lived in the States and was involved in some form of combat until I was 30 - then I thought I'm too old so I'm going to quit. Then this came along and I wanted to be involved in what I think is the most fantastic sport ever, so about a year ago I went straight in at the top, I didn't want to do the prelims, and from then it's just moved on and I've loved every minute of it.

    It's portrayed as two men in a cage biting, punching, kicking, for hours with no rules whatsoever - is there any truth in that?

    Dave: No, not at all - we've got over 31 rules! Safety is of the utmost importance because we want to fight again and again! 

    There's a referee in there - you can't bite, you CAN kick, but not in the groin, you can't head butt and you can't eye gouge. The injuries are less than you get in a high class rugby match. 

    Also, in Cage Rage, it's restricted to three five minute rounds so it's stepped up in a level of endurance from boxing which are three minute rounds. But it can feel like five hours not five minutes, although sometimes they [the fights] can be over in seconds!

    But the camaraderie is great - you don't hate your opponent but when you're in the cage you'll do everything that you can to win, but there's so much respect.

    You respect your opponent because he can help you validate yourself - you need an opponent to show how tough you are.

    It's now growing in popularity and people are realising what a fantastically exciting sport it is! It's the best night out you'll ever have!

    Can people tell that it's real and not all for show like some fighting?

    Dave: Yes - this is hard, fast and real. This is a tough, tough sport, make no doubt about that at all! But surrounding all that we become characters because we want to entertain the crowd. So there's the excitement of the American wrestling plus the reality of boxing and all other forms of combat. It's like American wrestling with a real fight at the end! None of this is staged.

    Do you bring in any performance tips from your TV work?

    Dave: Definitely because I'm here to entertain. I may or may not be the best fighter in the world but I want to be the best entertainer so when you see my fights before and after you'll remember my entrance, AND the fight. When I've walked in there you'll know I've walked in there!     

    How do you prepare for something like this - do you train in a cage?

    Dave: Yeah we train in a cage. We try and replicate everything but there's nothing quite like the fight on the night. You get as close as you can [in training], there's a lot of road work, a lot of cardio and a lot of grappling on the ground - you've got to know how to defend yourself on the floor. It's a skill - it's definitely not a brawl!

    How do you prepare mentally?

    Dave: I know I'm going to walk out of that cage, I have no fear of losing either because as you struggle and fight and do your best you have no fear of losing. Just through walking in the cage you've won already. I know I'm physically prepared, I know it's safe, there's a referee there and it's not a free for all, so I have nothing to worry about as long as I entertain. In fact, I'm buzzing so much from my entrance that I get in there and suddenly think "Oh - there's a fight now!"

    What are the audiences like?

    Dave: Very gentlemanly - it's not that rowdy a crowd. They are enthusiasts who love the sport and appreciate the skill that goes into it. There's no animosity - it's a very noble sport.

    I was looking at your resume earlier on and you've done all sorts - Eastenders and The Bill on TV Snatch and Batman Begins in film. How did you get into fighting in films?

    Dave: I always wanted to be an actor so part of me is split between the artistic side and the physical side, but then physically I was just born as quite a healthy specimen!

    How would you describe yourself then?

    Dave: At the moment I'm a professional cage fighter and have been concentrating on it for the past six months or so but allied with that I've been filming "Outlaw", Nick Love's new film with Sean Bean and Bob Hoskins. I've just done "Elizabeth" with Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen and I'm out in "Stormbreaker" this year with Ewan McGregor so I'm fitting everything around it.

    But I've got to concentrate on the fighting at the moment to prove who's the best hard man for films is because I can do it for real! 

    What's this about you beating up Nana Moon?!

    Dave: Well - she'd been asking for it! Stuff happens! She thought she was tough, she found out I'm more than a match for her! No - I did EastEnders a couple of times, Minty was another character I fought. I played a character called Tudor who just bullied people unfortunately, but I just do what I'm paid for.

    Do you ever long for a more sensitive role?

    Dave: I played a homosexual bodyguard in "The Last Detective" and that was quite a pleasure to do something slightly different. I was a very camp bodyguard!

    How do you relax from all the hard stuff then?

    Dave: I play guitar, you'll find me at home strumming "Vincent" on the guitar. I also read a lot of poetry, and Shakespeare was my first love which was why I got into acting. A lot of the fighters are intelligent! 

    So your next opponent then - he has no chance of winning?!

    Dave: I'm realistic about everything, I'm not a fool. I look at the danger the same as everyone else and on paper this guy will probably be deemed to be better than me. But we're not fighting on paper and I've got a lot of experience outside this world that I will bring to it. It's going to be a fight - hard, fast and real brutal combat, with two skilled and highly trained athletes who really want to win. I'm getting excited just talking about it!

    last updated: 21/06/06
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