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Caged (ATOM study guide)

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    Caged follows a year in the lives of three cage fighters and a coach in Sydney’s western suburbs and regional New South Wales. Some carry the hopes of their communities and families on their shoulders; others might have followed a life of crime if not for the discipline of the contest – but all of them are passionate about battling the media’s portrayal of cage-fighting as an ultra-violent free-for-all.

    In Hobbys Yards, regional New South Wales, we meet 36-year-old Claire Todd working up a sweat, punching a boxing bag in a dusty shed. Destined for life as a racing horse breeder – Claire runs a stud with her aging father John – she now wants to become a professional cage fighter. Claire’s coach Ian Pollet has enrolled her in Brace, Australia’s biggest MMA tournament and a steppingstone for many of the country’s elite fighters. Both her coach and her dad (who doesn’t like her fighting at all) praise her for her dedication. But as the year progresses, her determination will put her in mortal danger.

    At Woonona Beach, Fari Salievski gets ready for his daily dip in the ocean. ‘Looking after the yin and yang,’ he says. A martial arts instructor and mentor to many young fighters, Fari leads a busy life. He’s trained more Brace champions then anyone else in Australia. With a successful group of martial arts gym franchises to his name, he’s an immigrant son made good. Close to retiring, his goals are now directly aligned with those of his young pupils Martin Nguyen and Ali Cevik.

    Martin Nguyen is a 26-year old car mechanic from Narellan Vale, New South Wales. A father of two young kids with a third on the way, Martin won the Brace featherweight title in 2013 and earned a contract with One Championship, a huge Asian promotion. Now he needs to win his fights at that level and prove that he is worthy. He fights to secure his family’s financial future. ‘I am not doing this for fun,’ he says. ‘Sacrifice it all now, live a quiet life later.’ As Fari’s golden boy, Martin starts the year with an undefeated record.

    His teammate Ali Cevik is a 23-year-old fighter of Turkish heritage from Liverpool in western Sydney. In his daytime job, he alternates between welding, concreting and other trades. We first see Ali while attempting to cut six kilos of body weight in a matter of hours by dehydrating himself in extremely hot salt-water baths; he is doing so to qualify as a lightweight. He too is competing at Brace. Ali is super talented, but his love of food and his discipline issues make him his own worst enemy. ‘If I hadn’t found my love for this sport, I reckon I’d be in jail right now,’ he says. His goal is to reach the UFC, the American top MMA league, by age twenty-five.

    Curriculum links
    Caged can be studied in relation to Year 10–12 Health and Physical Education, and English.

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