MTV has become more and more synonymous with “reality” programming. January 9 will see it premiere “Caged,” a docu-series about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in northwest Louisiana which was shot largely in Minden.
Featuring many local places and residents, the show is the first major television series set almost entirely in Minden. Many of the show’s main subjects are from Minden, including Daniel Payne who is known as “Golden Boy” on the show.
“After three years of working on this, I never really thought anything would come of it,” Payne said. “Now I actually still won’t believe it until it comes on MTV. I still won’t believe it up until that moment.”
He and others initially went through a casting process. A course of interviews, filming of fights for a “pitch” to be shown to producers and filming of a pilot all led to the show being picked up for production.
Then Payne and the others had to go through another casting process for the new producers from MTV, but Payne said his casting was inevitable.
“I’m so weird, and the curly bangs and everything, there’s no way they’d cast somebody else other than me,” he joked.
Payne said he felt awkward in front of the camera at first, but eventually got comfortable. He hopes viewers will stick with the show past the first few episodes, because he feels he was able to be more of himself later.
For Payne, MMA wasn’t such an odd choice. While in high school, he participated in a more traditional sport.
“In high school, I started with boxing,” he said. “It was the City of Minden Boxing Club. That was for two or three years and then I graduated and went to Tech.”
Payne then shifted to MMA around four years ago. He started when he wanted to lose weight.
“I didn’t really train or anything for a couple of years and got that extra freshman 50,” Payne said. “So then, two or three years after I was in college, I started driving all the way to Bossier from Tech for MMA.”
Gaining mainstream popularity as a sport with “Caged” on MTV and the Ultimate Fighting Competition (UFC) on FOX, MMA combines kickboxing with grappling similar to wrestling.
Fighters can be taken out of the three-round matches by being placed in a submission hold, as well as the more familiar knock out.
Few make their entire living from the sport, but the amateur fighters of “Caged” would like to see that change.
Payne chose MMA over traditional boxing because of its greater challenge and recent rise in popularity.
“Boxing has kind of died out,” said Payne. “Obviously it’s still going, but I didn’t see much future in it.
“I had done boxing and I loved it in high school, I still love it,” he continued, “but I just saw more to learn (with MMA) … more aspects of the fight game which is definitely what I love to do.”
Payne and others from Minden would drive to Bossier to train and spar with other fighters. He said that despite his tall frame and long reach, his traditional boxing training did not allow him to even come close to the kickboxing styles of his opponents.
A different approach was required to overcome his reach and balance issues.
“The school that I started with, Mr. Albert Cole,” Payne said. “He had grown up his whole life with Tae Kwan Do … so initially I blended that in with my more western style because Tae Kwan Do doesn’t have as many punches. They use their hands more for blocking and balance.”
An early match offered a challenge which forced Payne to focus more on his ground work.
“It was in Ruston,” he said. “It was, I think, my fifth fight. I went crazy for about 30 seconds, which I don’t normally do, and I hit him on a hard part of his head. I hit him at a weird angle and broke my hand.”
Payne won the match by split decision, completing almost all three rounds with the broken hand.
Afterward, he said he began to focus on grappling techniques, ultimately developing a more balanced style.
He offered advice for those looking to get into MMA. While it is possible to just jump into a match without any prior training, Payne said prospective fighters should train with a gym and work their way up through the ranks before stepping into the ring.
“Let your trainer decide when you are ready,” he said. “The initial decision on when you should start to compete should be up to him. He is the best person to know if you are ready or not.”
MMA requires a strong dedication to training. Payne trains every day for months when building up to competition. He particularly believes in the importance of endurance.
“Whatever activity you can think of I’ll do it,” Payne said. “If you can do everything that anybody ever gets tired doing, it’s going to help with MMA.
“All of us Minden guys used to meet up at the Minden Rec Center and go swim in that inside pool. We’d not just swim, like freestyle and butterfly, but also do kicks in the water, do knees, just whatever we could come up with,” he said.
Stretching is also important, according to Payne. Flexibility is important and he said he stretches before and after every activity.
“It’s a lot to deal with,” he said, “but we love doing it and it’s worth it in the end.”
“Caged” official premiere time is 9 p.m. Monday, January 9. A sneak peek showing of the first episode airs Thursday just after 11 p.m. following the “Jersey Shore” premiere.
Payne said producers realized they should have the earlier showing because the actual premiere conflicts with the BCS National Championship.
SNEAK PEEK: A sneak peek showing of the first episode of “Caged” will be Thursday just after 11 p.m., following the “Jersey Shore” premiere on MTV.