Lyle Steffens is a city of Tucson firefighter and a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. Steffens, who holds the light heavyweight title for Full Moon Fighting and has a professional record of 4-1, will be fighting Rich Hale for the Rage in the Cage (RITC) interim light heavyweight belt on Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Desert Diamond Casino, at Interstate 19 and Pima Mine Road. Steffens graduated from the UA in 2005 with a finance degree, after wrestling and playing football at Canyon del Oro High School. Doors open for Rage in the Cage at 7 p.m., and the fights start at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are on sale at the Desert Diamond box office and through Ticketmaster for $25 to $100. The Weekly spoke to Steffens via e-mail.

Can you describe mixed martial arts and Rage in the Cage?

MMA is a combat sport that combines the elements from traditional combat sports such as boxing, muay Thai, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo and more. The sport of MMA is meant to resemble the purest form of hand-to-hand combat. ... There are actually a very specific set of rules that are governed by athletic commissions. Rage in the Cage is a local MMA promotion that holds MMA events. As the name implies, the matches are contested inside of a cage. It is actually a well-made and padded cage which offers the best protection for the fighters. The cage simply keeps the contestants from falling out like they do when fighting inside of a ring, and is needed due to the grappling aspect of the sport.

When did you start training in mixed martial arts? Why were you initially interested in fighting?

I began training in MMA in 1999 while I was a junior in high school. I was introduced to professional fighters Don Frye and Doug Murphy, who got me started. After a few years of wrestling, I thought that it would be great to learn how to fight from real professional fighters. I had always been athletic, and thought that this just might be a good fit for me.

How has MMA changed since you started training?

When I began training and even competing, MMA was an obscure sport that was usually unheard of or just misunderstood. The sport was enduring a lot of scrutiny at the time and was actually in danger of being banned, not just on cable networks, but everywhere. Much of the original scrutiny stemmed from the brutal version of the sport that initially debuted in America. The original rules allowed moves such as head-butts, groin strikes and spine strikes. This detracted from the sport and brought enough bad attention to force MMA to go through major growing pains. Changes to the sport have now made it widely sanctioned and recognized worldwide.

What do you know about your opponent, Richard Hale?

He will be a very tough opponent. He's the current RITC heavyweight champion and is dropping down to light heavyweight for the first time to fight me. He seems to be a fairly well-rounded fighter, but the biggest obstacles are his height and reach advantage, as he will tower over me at 6 foot 5. It will be very interesting to see how we each try to implement our own strategies.

When was the last time you fought in Tucson?

My last fight here in my hometown was on Dec. 7, 2002. It will be good to compete in front of a hometown crowd again!

What's the difference between the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and fights like RITC?

RITC is its own promotion, and it holds local events under the watchful eye of the Arizona Boxing Commission. It is a great place for amateurs to get their foot in the door, and often draws professional fighters from across the nation. The events are videotaped, but they are not on the scale of a promotion such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which sells millions of pay-per-views and demands primetime television slots for reruns. At any given RITC event, you can expect to see some young fighters with heart who are just getting started, and also some seasoned pros who can compete with the best of them.

Are there any other good fights on the card?

Definitely. One of my training partners, Eddie Arizmendi, will be defending his middleweight title as the co-main event, and some of my other teammates will be fighting in amateur matches.

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