Updates on cage fighters, fallout from the wolf kill, news of the 99 percent and swimming in the big water.

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Punching Through: Cage fighters find beauty in the beatings

Feb. 19

JEFF BOURGEOIS has taken some time off from cage fighting — at least the punching and kicking part. It just takes too much time to train enough to fight at the level he wants, he said. Instead, he’s been focusing on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a grappling sport. In July, he took third place in two international tournaments.

But he’s staying close to the cage in other ways, by acting as a cornerman for his friend, Jeff “Hellbound” Hougland.

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Andy Paves, meanwhile, is about to start working on his dissertation for a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, focusing on mental health among Filipinos.

Last summer, he had two pro fights, winning both by unanimous decision. The first, he said, was a “war of attrition.”

It took a couple of weeks to fully recover. The second one was more one-sided.

He decided to sit out the rest of the year to catch up on dissertation work — speaking of which, he’s looking to talk to people of Filipino descent between the ages of 18 and 29.

— Maureen O’Hagan

Beastly Acts: A once radical Mitch Friedman now collaborates for a wilder Northwest

March 11

OVER THE YEARS, the once-radical conservationist Mitch Friedman has sat in old-growth trees, stood toe-to-toe with loggers and developers, and seen emotions grow red hot over environmental battles of all stripes.

But nothing really prepared him for the ferocity of reaction to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to shoot from helicopters most members of Washington’s Wedge Pack of wolves in late September — especially given that most of it came from people normally on his side.

“I thought people felt strongly about trees,” says Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest in Bellingham.

Friedman’s group this past summer found itself stuck in the middle between Stevens County ranchers, wolf-protection advocates and state wildlife officials after Wedge Pack wolves kept preying on cattle from the Diamond M Ranch north of Kettle Falls.

Conservation Northwest, after consulting with national wolf experts, reluctantly signed on to the state’s decision to kill the wolves, in exchange for promises from the state and ranching organizations that early mistakes in the process would not be repeated.

The controversial decision surprised some people, but not those who have observed Friedman’s role in other conservation battles. It actually was in keeping with his ethic: sometimes, short steps backward are required to wind up at the desired finish point, in this case a healthy population of recovered wolves in Washington’s Cascade and Olympic mountains. But it created a furor among other conservationists, who accused Friedman of “selling out.”

Friedman admits the choice was risky. But once it became clear the state was moving toward killing the pack, Conservation Northwest decided that maintaining an open dialogue between all parties was more critical than crying foul. Critics, meanwhile, called the acquiescence to helicopter shootings a terrible precedent.

Only time will tell who’s right. In the short term, the battle over Washington’s 12 wolf packs moves to the Legislature, where activists and ranchers both will seek changes in laws about how they’re managed.

Friedman expects to be an active participant in Olympia.

Bottom line, he says: “I tend to do what I think is right.”

— Ron Judd

The 99 Percent: Occupy movement strikes a chord in Seattle

May 6

SOME OF THE most moving stories of the 99 Percent/Occupy movement came not from activists on the front lines, but from everyday people just trying to get by who found common cause with the demonstrators they saw protesting against corporate greed on the evening news.

Barbara Strindberg and her partner, Linnea Skoglund, who live in Ballard, are among this latter group. They liked the movement’s call for economic fairness. Strindberg recently quit her job to help care for Skoglund, whose multiple sclerosis has hindered her mobility. The decision strained the couple’s finances, a big issue given Skoglund’s medical needs. When we visited them last spring, they were fighting with health-care providers to secure costly equipment that would help Skoglund get around more freely. Their perseverance paid off. A few months ago, with the help of Medicare, Skoglund got a motorized wheelchair, which allows her to do things like go grocery shopping on her own. “I’m burning rubber in Ballard,” a happy Skoglund joked recently.

— Tyrone Beason

Diving In: Pushing past his lifelong fear, writer learns to swim

July 15

ONE OF THE reasons I chronicled my struggle to learn how to swim was to show how conquering a long-held fear, in my case a fear of being submerged in water, can open up new possibilities, and in my case, save my life. But even though I’d learned some confidence-boosting skills at the Green Lake Community Center pool, I still didn’t have the courage to swim in a lake or ocean or venture into any water that was more than chin-deep.

This fall I toppled both of those mental barriers. I swam in the sea for the first time in my life, and a few weeks later, after several nervous false-starts, I finally swam across the 12-foot-deep end of the Green Lake pool and back.

— Tyrone Beason

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