Bear Wrestling: The Next Ultimate Fighting Craze?

Dateline: 10/20/99

Southern California is up in arms over the latest in no-holds-barred fighting competition:  man versus beast. In this case, it was 291-pound professional bodyguard Dominic Menaldi against 801-pound (yes, that's eight-hundred) grizzly bear Dakota. Not quite Royce Gracie versus Tank Abbott; more like that big sumo guy from UFC 1. You get the picture.

The Sunday night match at Inglewood, California's Hollywood Park Casino almost didn't happen, as Dakota initially refused to enter the ring. "He was frightened by rap music from the wedding next door," said Menaldi after the bout. After an hour of coaxing, prodding, and bribing, with the final offering 30 pounds of raw chicken, Dakota finally calmed down enough to enter the ring and "Get ready to rumble!".

The match, according to most onlookers, was a draw. The 35-year old Menaldi emerged from the ring with cuts and slashes from Dakota's claws, while Dakota moseyed back into his cage without a scratch. All's well that end's well, right?

Uh, no. The match has caused a huge controversy in Orange County, with several animal rights groups asking the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office to file charges against Menaldi, the Hollywood Park Casino, and Randy Miller, Dakota's owner, who rented the bear to Menaldi through his company Predators in Action. Miller's company provides exotic animals (lions, tigers, bears, oh my!) for movies, television shows, and magic acts. Miller later said that he thought of the whole event as a staged show, rather than a real wrestling match. Professional wrestling as a staged show? Naawww...

So, will bear wrestling be the next extreme fighting sport, pushing out other UFC-lite promotions like Kage Kombat or Neutral Grounds? Not likely, after viewing the uproar this event has caused. But in case you feel the need to go one-one-one with a bear in that octagon, check out the following links first.

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