By Day He's a Mild-Mannered Civil Servant Who Specialises in Anger Management by Night, He's a No-Holds-Barred Combatant Who Gets into a Cage for Bloody and Brutal Fighting ; No Holds Barred: James Mair in His Title-Winning Fight
Byline: Maureen culley
JUST in the door from another day at the office, James Mair looks everyinch the professional person. In his smart suit, crisp shirt and tie, he exudesa businesslike air that befits his role as a civil servant with the ScottishExecutive. But when his nine-to-five demands are met, a surprising side to themild-mannered government worker is revealed.
For 28-year-old James is fast becoming a top name in a sport branded 'barbaric'by politicians, senior police officers and religious leaders - he is a cagefighter. The James Mair who by day trains government staff in customer servicetechniques is also James 'Nightmare' Mair, British Middleweight Champion in thecontroversial sport that mixes martial arts, boxing and wrestling.
It pits two opponents against each other in an octagonal cage that gives themno corner in which to hide as they wage a brutal and bloody battle of punching,kicking, kneeing, grappling and elbowing each other to the finish. And it is inthe centre of this cage that father-of-one James, who has spent eight yearsworking in human resources, becomes another man altogether.
Watching him in action as he overpowers his adversary, throwing him face downon the floor and using his legs to lock him down, the transformation is clear.Pumping veins stand out white against the blood red of his temples as he rainspunch after punch on his foe's head, imbuing each brutal blow with everythinghe has.
The roaring of the raucous crowd seems to spur him on - even the 'come on,sweetheart' chirped repeatedly by his excited auntie who cheers his every move- until the referee steps in to declare him the winner.
He has only been cage-fighting for just over a year, victorious in his firstamateur contest in July 2006, but he is now a professional and a champion inthe field known as ultimate fighting, cage combat or mixed martial arts.
He has his long-term sights set on the U.S., where the sport began in the early1990s and has since achieved such a following that it has overtaken boxing andwrestling as a spectator sport, setting record figures for pay-per-view TVevents. In the U.S., it is a booming industry with an annual turnover of$5billion and top fighters who earn $1million a fight.
Now cage-fighting has crossed the Atlantic to this country, where it isrocketing in popularity but also raising the hackles of its detractors, who sayit is nothing more than a violent spectacle that harks back to the gruesomedays of gladiators in ancient Rome. But 6ft James, weighing in at 13st 7lb, isadamant that the sport is one of the most skilled in existence.
'It's raw,' he admits, at his home in Dalkeith, Midlothian. 'That's the bestword to describe it - raw. It's a full-contact, combat sport. There's noholding back. If you're taking part, you know the rules, you know the risks. Weknow the danger. We train for every dangerous scenario. We learn how to defendand how to endure blows.
'There are things you cannot do - you can't eye gouge, you can't bite, youcan't spike someone with your elbow on the back of the neck and you can't groinstrike. It is controlled.
'You have to be an intelligent fighter - the best fighters are intelligent.It's a discipline that requires competitors to be highly skilled. If some guyoff the street fancied his chances, he wouldn't last five seconds.' James, theson of driving instructor Jake and shopworker Christina, was nine when he tookup karate. At 14, he moved on to tae kwon do, winning a black belt and theScottish championship two years later.
IGOT into Thai boxing when I was 18,' he says. 'It was more raw, bringing inelbows and knees, and I liked the full contact. It was tougher. When I wasabout 20, I put martial arts aside and concentrated on my fitness in general,taking up boxing when I was 25 as part of my workout regime.
'I only got into mixed martial arts last year. I'd been following it for awhile on TV and then heard there was a club in Edinburgh. …