Monday, February 5, 2007

A Sport Out on the Edge Takes Aim at the Mainstream

By Michael Weinreb

In the primal pursuit known as mixed martial arts, Renzo Gracie may be the closest thing to a philosopher one will find.

To Gracie, everything in life can be likened to a fight, which is why, if he had his way, there would be no rules, no restrictions and no holds barred. It would be two men going at each other with bare feet and bare knuckles.

But Gracie is also a realist. He is 40, and as one of the pioneers of the sport, he has watched mixed martial arts grow from an underground phenomenon condemned by critics like Senator John McCain to a potent moneymaker. And he recognizes that for it to reach an audience beyond its base of 18- to 34-year-old men, and for it to attract sponsors and more lucrative television deals, it must continue to make certain compromises.

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