The New York Times - among the very first national media to cover MMA without reference to "human cockfighting" - looks at the MMA themed 'Caged' on MTv.
Every town has a scene, a subculture, a place where young people go to escape. In Minden, La., a city of about 13,000 some 30 miles east of Shreveport, it’s mixed martial arts, a sport that attracts young men with hopes of punching and kicking and wrestling their way through their opponents, and hopefully their problems.
Their fights, and their struggles, are captured on “Caged,” which begins on Monday night on MTV and is the latest entry in that channel’s effort to document the lives of young people, often digging and seeking them out in places others don’t.
That was certainly the case with “Jersey Shore,” which was something new: a full-bore excavation of a youth subculture not often seen on television. It was entertainment and also anthropology.
“I’m an average dude, I’m not super smart, I don’t have talents,” says Matt, the most natural fighter of those featured on “Caged.” Lean and sinewy and with a direct, semi-warm affect, he focuses on fighting as an escape from mediocrity and from a difficult home situation. His father abandoned the family, his mother drinks, and his sister is a stripper.
He’s fighting for redemption of a sort, as is Wes, who insists: “I love to punch people. I love to get hit.” He juxtaposes his hard upbringing with that of the pretty boy Daniel, who comes from the family that founded Minden and is blessed with money, local respect and good hair. “I’m from the sticks,” Wes says, part complaint and part boast. When he needs to lose weight quickly before a fight, he buys a sauna suit from Walmart and sits in a car in sunlight. He has a baby with Red, his on-and-off girlfriend, whom he either wants to marry or abandon altogether, depending on the day.
In its early episodes “Caged” emphasizes the fights, the brief bursts of machismo and fury inside the cage that these men hope to dominate. But the show spends as much time on the personal lives of its protagonists, an acknowledgment that viewers will relate to the characters for how they behave and interact, not for what they do. The cage is just the milieu.
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Pro MMA Now's Josh Cross interviews Matt "Danger" Schnell, star of MTV’s Caged.
Josh Cross: Can you talk a little bit about how you became introduced to MMA and what led you to focus on this sport rather than something else?
Matt Schnell: Sure. I’ve played sports my whole life. I love to compete and I wrestled a little bit, played some football, and ran track in high school. Then after high school I was just kind of looking for a way to stay in shape and still compete and so I started training mixed martial arts. The first day I went into the gym I fell in love immediately. I got beat up a little bit, learned some stuff and just couldn’t stop from there. I’ve been training ever since.
JC: How did you end up being a cast member on the show?
MS: I really just lucked out. They happened to be looking for amateur mixed martial artists that were around my age, and that looked exactly like me very close to my hometown. They had a casting call here in Bossier City, Louisiana, which is 10 minutes away from where I live, so me and my best friend just went over and tried out together. They liked us, and we were excited about it, but we didn’t really know what to expect at first. It’s been a long process and in our wildest dreams I don’t think we would have realized that it would have come to this and that we would actually be on TV. It’s been a blessing, and nothing more than that.
JC: What do you hope that people take away from the show about you once it begins airing?
MS: When we started filming the show we started realizing that this was going to be a very public and national thing. Honestly, all I care about is to be well respected and I want to fight. That’s my goal and that’s my dream. I want to be in the UFC one day. My only concern is that people don’t think that I’m not capable of fighting, that I’m not very good or something like that. I would like to be recognized as somebody who one day will be competing at a high level in this sport. That’s my goal and that’s why I decided to do this show. I don’t care what people think of me as a person or anything of that nature. I know who I am. My family and my friends love me, and moving forward I just want to be respected.
JC: Looking at your career as a whole, do you have any goals or specific things you want to accomplish moving forward?
MS: Well there are individual goals I have. I want to get my purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That’s important. I’ve had my blue belt now for about two years. You’ve got to take it step by step though. Obviously I don’t think I’ll be in the UFC tomorrow or anything like that, but I’d like to win my first few fights and go undefeated up until I do get in the UFC. So I do have small individual goals that I have set aside for myself and I look forward to completing those goals.
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