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Friday, February 06, 2015

No Holds Barred: John Perretti on the Life of Phyllis Lee 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with lifelong martial artist, former UFC and Battlecade Extreme Fighting matchmaker, TV commentator, and our senior correspondent, John Perretti.

Our main subject was a sad one, the passing of one of the true pioneers in the sport once known as no-holds-barred fighting (NHB) and now known as mixed martial arts, Phyllis Lee. But we also used this occasion to celebrate her remarkable life.

Coming from a background as a pro wrestler, Phyllis Lee was one of the first fight managers in the earliest days of MMA. All over the world, she was known as the First Lady of NHB. Besides getting fighters in North American organizations such as UFC and Battlecade Extreme Fighting, she had a particularly close relationship for many years with the Pancrase organization of Japan.

After a bout with pneumonia, Phyllis Lee passed away January 18, 2015, at age 76, while in her sleep and hospitalized. A memorial service was held January 31, at her church in West Unity, Ohio.

We spoke with John Perretti, who is now in Japan, by phone Monday (Sunday New York time).

He decried what he called attempts for the history of MMA to be "backfilled" by people who were "not there" in the 1990s and early 2000s when Phyllis Lee was particularly prominent in the sport. Calling Phyllis Lee "a great human being", he said she "has to be remembered for her devotion to, whatever, one almost-sport and two, three real sports. She did incredible things as a woman, and she did incredible things as an individual, and she was usually a joy to be with. And I'll miss her tremendously."

We discussed some of the highlights of her life, but also how some fighters whom she represented were accused of breaking their contracts with her. He said, "I don't understand why people did what they did to her."

We also discussed what he called a "unique time" in the formative days of modern MMA, why "the time was about camaraderie", some of our experiences involving the April 1996 arrests of eight participants at Battlecade Extreme Fighting 2 (including John Perretti) in Montreal, and much more.

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