One of the faces in the crowd that night was Randy Greenman, a well-known promoter of professional MMA fights in Illinois, where the sport was legal. (At the time, MMA was outlawed in Missouri.) Impressed by the young man's prowess, Greenman, who is now deceased, convinced Green to enter one of his upcoming matches. Green lost that fight but responded by entering another match, defeating his opponent with a first-round chokehold.

"He was just a street brawler who brought a south-side nastiness to the contest," recalls Biondo, the ringside announcer.

After winning a few more fights in Illinois, Green's fan base grew. At the time, promoters were lobbying the Missouri's Office of Athletics for the right to stage amateur MMA matches. In 2002, local promoter Jesse Finney called on Green for the state's first fight, scheduled as part of a kickboxing show. Finney, who runs Shamrock Promotions, knew Green had a reputation for being crazy. "He was always getting into trouble. He was never the most skilled in the world, but he was a natural-born fighter," says Finney. He christened his recruit with the nickname "Mean" Mike Green.

Next month Madeline (with trainer Sid Gee) will step into a cage in front of 1,000 fans. For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.
Kholood Eid
Next month Madeline (with trainer Sid Gee) will step into a cage in front of 1,000 fans. For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.
"She's the first person who told me they loved me and meant it unconditionally," says Green of Madeline. For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.
Kholood Eid
"She's the first person who told me they loved me and meant it unconditionally," says Green of Madeline. For more images, visit MMA for Kids: A Family Story.

As Green continued fighting, he continued to succeed, winning most of his bouts and succumbing to a knockout just once. "There ain't too many people who could say they whipped me," says Green, showing a smile that exposes a front tooth permanently blackened from a particularly devastating blow.

"He's one of the top ten toughest fighters I've ever seen," says Brad Wick, director of the Combat Sports Commission, which sanctions fights in Missouri.

But despite the early accomplishments, Green still felt lost in the world, never able to overcome the psychological wounds of a mother who abandoned him — never finding a way to accept himself. "It drove me crazy," he concedes now. "I was mad at her. It pissed me off for a long time."

Rage boiled from within, and any faith he had in society had long been discarded. He hung out with drug addicts, disrespected his neighbors and continued to brawl in the streets when someone rubbed him the wrong way. "There'd be days we'd just ride through the county looking for fights," he says. He amassed a hefty arrest record for assault and was put on probation twice, he says. He grew depressed and, at times, overcome by hate.

"If there was a point to life, I didn't know what it was," he says.

Then, along came Madeline.


They call her "Maddy the Madness." There she is, in the home video her father proudly displays on his digital camera, clad in a black bandana and karate gi, circling her opponent on the mat.

The video, captured during last year's annual Veterans Memorial jiu-jitsu Tournament in Belleville, shows the Madness, then eleven, squaring off against her male opponent, who was at least twenty pounds heavier. (Earlier in the day she'd defeated another boy and made him cry.) Even on the tiny screen, it's clear: Her husky challenger has a smirk on his face. Who is this little girl, and is she serious about fighting me?

Soon, however, that smirk dissolves as the Madness pounces, gripping the boy's neck with a chokehold and hooking her leg around his back. The boy, suddenly worried, digs his fingers into his attacker's arm, desperate to loosen her death grip. But all he can do is stumble. Soon, the Madness uses the boy's momentum to heave him to the ground, digging her elbow into his chest. He is finished. After a final gasp, he taps his hand on her back, signaling submission. The Madness is the victor.

At four feet, six inches, Madeline is one of the smallest children in her sixth-grade class; some call her "Munchkin." But she can probably take down any guy her size in St. Louis.

"Maddy is the top MMA prospect in the Midwest right now — the best I've ever seen," says her karate coach, Sid Gee, an eighth-degree Hall of Fame black belt who served as an assistant coach in Chuck Norris' old World Combat League.

Mixed martial arts, which combines an assortment of fighting elements, such as wrestling, jiu-jitsu, karate and kickboxing, has come a long way in its short history. A decade ago, when the sport was in its infancy, participants consisted largely of street brawlers; those who were trained as kids usually specialized in only one of the various fighting skills.

But over the last few years, as cage fighting has become more mainstream, there has been a national effort to train young children in all MMA skills, in preparation for fight careers. As more kids have shown interest, youth classes have cropped up around the country, offering children a medley of martial-arts skills.

Insiders say Madeline is the surest bet out there. Think of a miniature Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby — only with four fighting skills instead of one.

"For her age, she's the most talented fighter I've ever seen, and that's for guys and girls," says one of Madeline's coaches, Brittany Anic, who's ranked No. 4 in the world in her amateur MMA weight class and will soon turn pro. (Maddy is often referred to as "the next Brittany.")

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