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1pm Update: ‘The Devil’ Stephen French removed from MMA London fight bill after Liverpool arrest


1pm Update

ANTI-gun campaigner and mixed martial arts fighter Stephen French who was arrested by armed police in Liverpool has been taken off the bill of a major fight night at London's Troxy venue.

Stephen French, 53, was due to perform as part of an MMA show on Saturday.

French, who has fought under his nickname ‘The Devil’ and as ‘The Fighting Preacher’, was removed from the line-up after being held by police probing a fracas in Water Street on Wednesday.

The Prenton-based head of the Increase the Peace campaign against violence was among three men arrested on suspicion of assault and possession of a firearm.

Fight organisers said he would not now be appearing at the event.

White Collar MMA spokesman Harry Shoebridge said: “As soon as we were informed of this news he was removed from the bill. We are actively seeking a replacement.”

French, a former world kickboxing champion, had been preparing for the fight for around nine weeks, making a number of trips to London to train.

Mr Shoebridge said: “I received a call from a trainer saying this man from Liverpool was available to fight and we added him to the bill.

“He has been training well in the gym and claimed he would bring a lot of fans with him, but to be honest he has not sold anything like the amount of tickets we would have expected.

“White Collar MMA has no connection with Stephen French and he will not be fighting with us in future. I am 80% sure we will have a replacement by Saturday."

French was arrested by armed police close to the Museum of Liverpool at the city’s waterfront.

Officers later recovered a gun from the Mersey.

The other men, a 41-year-old from Birkenhead and and 30-year-old from Thornton, were arrested elsewhere in Liverpool after the city centre Hilton hotel was cordoned off.

All three remained in police custody today.

Original story

AN ANTI-GUN campaigner and mixed martial arts fighter was one of three men arrested after armed police swooped on Liverpool’s exclusive Hilton hotel and waterfront museum.

Officers retrieved a gun from the River Mersey after arresting Stephen French, 53, and another man suspected of being involved in an earlier fracas in city centre Water Street yesterday.

French, whose biography, The Devil, charted his activities in Liverpool in the 1980s and 1990s, was arrested near the Museum of Liverpool while a 41-year-old from Birkenhead was detained in Duke Street.

French, who fought under the name The Devil and is now known as The Fighting Preacher, was due to take part in an MMA event at London's Troxy venue on Saturday evening.

A third man, 30, from Thornton, was arrested later in the day.

The drama started shortly after 1.15pm when officers were called to the Il Palazzo office complex, in Water Street.

The ECHO understands they were told a gun had been pulled during a meeting between a group of men.

One man suffered a head injury and was taken to hospital for treatment.

With police believing a man involved in the Water Street incident was inside the Hilton, the area around the hotel in Liverpool One was then cordoned off and the public advised to keep away from the scene until around 3.10pm.

But the focus of the police activity then switched to the waterfront, where witnesses reported seeing a man in a suit being held by officers. He was taken from the scene in a police van.

A section of the river behind the museum was then taped off and the gun recovered from the water.

Witnesses described police arresting a suited man who lay on the floor under the barrels of their guns while stunned passers-by took pictures with their cameras.

One man, who did not want to be named, said: “I came round the corner and people were there watching. They had a guy on the floor in a grey suit with a bald head and they were barking out all sorts of orders.

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