BUFORD, GA. -- Can a man without fists or feet enter the ring as a mixed martial arts fighter?
This is the question posed by Kyle Maynard, a 21-year-old from Georgia who was born without arms below the elbows or legs below the knees, a condition called congenital amputation.
After notching a formidable reputation as a high school wrestler -- winning 35 matches at the varsity level and placing in the top 10 in the state tournament -- he wants to compete in mixed martial arts, the extreme combat sport that involves clinching, pinning, punching, pummeling, chopping and dropkicking.
Getting a license, however, is no simple feat.
The Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission voted to deny Maynard a license to compete in an amateur fight in September, citing safety concerns.
"The fights are brutal," said J.J. Biello, chairman of the commission, who is paralyzed from the neck down. "I feel for the fellow, but I've also seen fighters carried off to ambulances on stretchers. In all good conscience, I don't think Kyle can defend himself."
Maynard plans to appeal the decision.
If he wins, he could become the nation's first severely disabled mixed martial arts fighter. If he loses, he plans to sue the commission, alleging discrimination.
"I can defend myself," he said in an interview. "I'm not going to get smashed against a cage or get my head stomped. People who are opposed don't understand the rules, and they don't understand my capabilities."
Maynard would not be the first disabled fighter to compete in mixed martial arts, a sport popularized in recent years by the television series "Ultimate Fighter."
In June, a Canadian, Baxter Humby, who is missing one arm below the elbow, fought in California after persuading the state's commission, which initially denied his request, that he could offset attacks.
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