Mean Mike Green is raising his daughter the only way he knows how -- to kick your ass

Mean Mike Green is raising his daughter the only way he knows how -- to kick your ass
Kholood Eid
Madeline Green. For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.

The locker room of the South Broadway Athletic Club is all chisel and bruise. A dozen amateur mixed-martial-arts fighters cram the space with hulking, battle-scarred bodies; some perform pre-fight rituals while others ice the pulp left on their faces from the evening's earlier cage matches. The sweaty smell of testosterone wafts through the air as the gladiators unleash profanity-laced battle cries while marching out toward the red-lit stage.

Lost in the shadows of these towering men is a little girl. She's twelve years old, but with her slight, 74-pound body frame, she appears even younger as she gazes up — way up — to the faces of the men around her. Her oversize T-shirt spills out of her baggy jeans, and a tangle of auburn hair hangs from an Adidas ski cap. To the casual onlooker she looks perfectly innocent — shy, even — prompting the question: What's a sweet kid like her doing in a locker room full of wild fighting men?

Ask any of those men, and they'll tell you one of St. Louis' well-kept secrets: The little girl is perhaps the toughest brawler in the building.

For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.
Kholood Eid
For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.
For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.
Kholood Eid
For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.

She is Madeline Green, daughter of legendary scrapper "Mean" Mike Green, one of the steeliest men in the sport and a participant in Missouri's first officially sanctioned amateur MMA fight in 2002. Later this evening he will enter the cage for the show's headline match in front of a loyal fan club that follows him everywhere. Plucked out of obscurity a decade ago by a promoter with an eye for talent, Green, who grew up an untamed street fighter, has since worked to slay his childhood demons and repair a wounded soul.

Now 37, the bulk of Green's cage career is behind him. And in the not-too-distant future, he will pass on his legacy to his young daughter, who helped put him on the path to redemption. Raised by Green the only way he knew how, Madeline is now considered one of the top MMA prospects of the region and a poster child for the growing movement of MMA training for kids.

At a recent regional jiu-jitsu tournament Madeline was given the opportunity to fight boys. She made one of them cry and defeated another who outweighed her by at least twenty pounds. Last year she won every karate match she entered, against girls and boys. In a couple of weeks she will compete in the North American Grappling Association's first tournament in the St. Louis area, and, in April, she'll enter the cage for her first kickboxing match at an otherwise adult show. The event is expected to draw about 1,000 fans.

"I'm putting my signature on her now," says Tony Biondo, a ringside announcer for the professional promoter Strikeforce. "Here's this little girl who looks like she can audition for Pippi Longstocking and choking boys bigger than she is.

"When I go across the country, I tell people they need to see this young girl in the Midwest named Maddy Green, who kicks the shit out of the pads. She was born for this sport."

Twenty-five years ago, Mike Green peered into the future and didn't see much. He was just another angry kid trying to survive the rough-and-tumble streets of Carondelet, the southernmost tip of south city. Here, near a plot of land known as the Irish Patch, working-class teenagers roamed the blocks, and character was earned with fists.

"South Broadway was known for being a place nobody wanted to come down to," recalls Eddie Tucker, who's run Tuckers Bar & Grill since 1988. "It was rough. We had to break up four or five fights a night in the bar."

Undersized and unskilled in sports, young Green was an easy target for bullies. They'd taunt him about just about anything: for the large red birthmark on his arm, for his puny frame, for being sheltered by overprotective grandparents. (Green's mother had abandoned the family early on, and his father, who worked at a local plastic factory, was rarely around.)

"I was always the little guy being tested," recalls Green, his face decorated with scabby remnants of a long career in the cage. "I always had to prove somethin'. People didn't think I was about nothin' and wanted to try me."

So Green learned to defend himself, and that meant fighting. At first, he took his share of pummelings but eventually began proving he could hang with bigger scrappers. Before long he earned a reputation as the guy who'd never decline a street fight. "He'd fight damn near anybody," says fellow MMA fighter Timmy Connors, who runs the House of Hard Knocks gym in Mehlville. "You put your hands up, he said, 'Yeah.'"

[Editor's Note: A correction was made concerning this paragraph. Please see the end of article.] After graduating from Mehlville High School, Green spent a few years driving a dump truck. But his anger continued to fester, and he sought emotional escape by fighting in parking lots after dark. He recalls once causing an opponent's bone to rip out of the skin.

Thanks to his street rep, he was able to land a few security gigs at local bars. One evening in 1999, while working at the since-shuttered Lucky's on Laclede's Landing, there was a scuffle at the door. Green entered the fracas with a front kick to the chest of an unruly patron, leaving him splayed across the hood of a car.

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