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Please cage him in

FRIDAY, OCT. 3, 2008

Lingo happily enters MMA world

Here’s a guess: The next time her husband can’t sleep, Tina Lingo’s advice will be, “Take a pill.”

Instead, because of a bout of insomnia a little more than a week ago, Ty Lingo will climb inside an octagon of chain link tonight for a bout of ultimate cage fighting – punches, kicks, throws, guillotine chokes, crucifix neck cranks and other legal atrocities.

He’s looking on the positive side.

“Very few of these things get out of the first round,” he said.

No statistics available on rookies getting out in one piece.

And in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, Lingo – 38 years old, married, father of four and the wrestling coach at Lewis and Clark High School – is very much a rookie, which he hopes will not be too apparent in his debut on a cage fighting card at The Knitting Factory, though he knows that might not be the worst of it. He sent an e-mail to 40 of his closest friends, inviting “anyone who cares to see an old man get his ass kicked.”

How many of them will take him up on it is uncertain. Surely there are some of his coaching colleagues who see this as going over to the dark side. The few-blows-barred mayhem of MMA is a rude departure from the more classical skills Lingo imparts to his LC wrestlers on winter afternoons – though not necessarily from its distant roots. Remember, the wrestlers of ancient China wore horned helmets to gore their opponents 4,000 years ago.

“Maybe I’m just one of those guys who was born in the wrong era,” Lingo admitted. “I should have been around back in the times of the gladiators.”

Or maybe it’s a midlife crisis 10 years early?

Lingo, a Ferris graduate, had his 20th high school reunion over the summer. At the golf tournament, he started talking with classmate Jeff Robinson, the 13-year NFL veteran who came out of retirement to be a long snapper with Seattle last year, and then re-retired.

“Two weeks later, he re-ups with the Seahawks,” Lingo said. “I thought, we’re not too old to be doing stuff. We get stuck in our ruts, watching other people live their dreams and our time keeps passing us by. I think I still have something in the tank.”

A good friend, Mark Sivanish, had started working out at the Spokane Boxing Club as a “change of pace” from the Versaclimber-and-barbells gyms. Lingo learned that an MMA gym – the Hit Pit – operated in the basement and tagged along, his interest piqued by the wall-to-wall UFC matches on Spike TV every Saturday.

Unable to sleep one night a few days later, Lingo got on his computer, found Northwest Fighting’s Web site and sent in his information as a wannabe fighter. Back came a response that he’d been booked on a Nov. 1 card at the East Central Community Center.

“That would give me about six weeks of training,” he said. “But the next day, the promoter calls to say he had this big one scheduled at The Knitting Factory and one of the 130-pound class fighters had been hurt, and would I be willing to fill in?”

That left eight days to get ready. He’d done no cardio work, received no instruction, done no sparring.

“I’ll do it,” Lingo replied.

This bit of temporary insanity – OK, maybe it’s not temporary – did not exactly thrill Tina Lingo.

“Quite honestly, she didn’t speak to me for five or six days,” Lingo confessed. “She’ll actually be out of town for it – her flight gets back Friday night. My friends say they’ll push me out to the airport in a wheelchair to pick her up.”

Sociologists professional and amateur have eagerly gnawed on MMA’s surging popularity, especially among the young, and what that appeal says about a bloodlust culture bored – or indifferent – to the traditional combat sports. Oh, and politicians, too – John McCain branded it “human cockfighting” about 10 years ago. But UFC’s rules and medical requirements helped it gain sanctioning in more than 20 states.

Lingo, who still “rolls around on the mats” with his LC wrestlers, acknowledged MMA’s brutality, but also noted what he sees as a general mutual respect among participants willing to step in the ring and risk this kind of punishment.

“I don’t think it’s just a bunch of thugs in there,” he said. “The owner of the gym I went to told me that a lot of the tough guys off the street, the supposed bad asses, don’t last.”

But will Lingo?

He attended two classes at the Hit Pit and felt a little demoralized after the second, struggling to “retrain his brain” from the wrestling instinct to get off your back if taken down.

“This is the opposite – you have to fight off your back,” he said.

And he knows it’s a bit ridiculous to think he’s in good enough shape on short notice like this.

“I don’t want to be an insult to the sport,” he said.

So why the rush?

Well, because of the rush.

“It’s the big stage,” he laughed. “Quite frankly, the fight at the community center they’ll probably just roll out the mats and tape off some boundaries. This one has the lights, the cage, the people, the music cranking.

“I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

Or in head-to-toe icepacks. And he may need that sleeping pill after all.


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