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The Lonestar Beatdown in Houston PHOTO BY DAVE MANN They want L, spread the word that Jesus never Quit, not even on the cross, that he went +1-tiel 1Vr%1I CHECK out Frank’s clothing line at r TV star in a blood sport. Even those who hadn’t, who respected his skills and his moxie, surely still worried about his age and the possibility that he might get hurt. Frank wasn’t worried. He’d been training in martial arts for 20 years. He’d been a karate black belt since he was 12 and had run his own karate school since he was 18. Besides, he had a higher power on his side. “Man, I pray every day,” he tells me. “I wouldn’t be in the ring if it wasn’t for God.” Frank turned to God when his older brother Eric died in 2001. The cage has become Frank’s ministry. For him, MMA isn’t just a way to achieve second-act glory; it’s his path for singing the glory of God. Mixed martial arts is his missionary work, his choir solo, his David. In 2008, Frank and Patrick Hutton, Christian cage fighters, started a clothing line called “Jesus Didn’t Tap.” They want to spread the word that Jesus never quit, not even on the cross, that he went all the way to the final bell. “What I’m doing is taking that violence that’s in the MMA game and putting it right back to what Jesus has suffered,” Frank says. “All Jesus said was, ‘You know what? I forgive you for your sins.’ So really, the blood, the broken bones, the sweat, the tears mean nothing in the cage because look what Jesus endured for all of us.” Frank is not alone. These days many churches are using mixed martial arts to broaden their ministries, seeing the ultraviolent sport as a way to tap into a stubbornly secular market: the angry, aggressive teenage male. Pastors are talking about Jesus’ fighting spirit, his indomitable will rather than his all-consuming love or unbending mercy. There’s a small church-MMA academy in Nashville whose motto is “Where Feet, Fist, and Faith Collide.” WHEN JASON DAVID FRANK makes his way to the ring for the headlining match, the crowd erupts in cheers as if he’d never fallen out of the spotlight. They are here to watch him win one for the Lord. Dozens of people in the audience wear “Jesus Didn’t Tap” T-shirts, buttons and hats, some covered in Bible verses about striking down one’s enemies and grinding them into dust, and other more modern sentiments like “Jesus Loves Me and My New Tattoos,” “Fear Me in My Physical Form” and “Putting the Jew Back in Jiu-Jitsu.” For months, Frank’s been doing nothing but training for this moment. Here he is, walking toward the cage for the main event, and there are 2,000 people howling for him, all those cheering fans, the flashing cameras, the friends and family members in the crowd, the screaming girls, two documentary camera crews and hundreds of kids in “Jesus Didn’t Tap” attire. “All these people were wearing my shirts, and I’m trying to stay focused,” Frank says later. “But all of a sudden, you walk out and you see someone you know and you start to lose your edge a little. You start to get nervous. You realize that they’re all there for you.” One person is here to beat him into the mat: opponent Jonathan Mack, or “Mack Truck.” \(“I never fought a man who fought a dinosaur,” he tells reporters 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG