And so it is with arm-wrestling — he tried to make his system as serious as possible for those interested in getting seeded for the national championships, which will be held in November at the Arizona State Fair.

"But most people take it tongue in cheek," he said.

Still, arm-wrestling has its adherents, those who look longingly to Europe, where it's a much more organized sport, or who see it as the next showy attraction, something like mixed martial arts.

"We're going to bring legitimacy to the sport," promised Bill Collins, who co-founded the Ultimate Armwrestling League four years ago. "We're going to bring arm-wrestling to a whole 'nother level."

Collins, who lives in Los Banos, Calif., is also president of the U.S. Armwrestling Federation, which sends a national team to the world championships every year. Underscoring the pressures of arm-wrestling competition on the international stage, the world federation adopted an anti-doping code in 2005 that follows the World Anti-Doping Agency standards that govern other sports.

Collins says he is working with a network — he declined to name it — trying to get a TV series made about his sport, something that would help turn its competitors into pro wrestling-style celebrities and adding more pre- and postmatch trash-talk.

That's what his beloved sport needs, Collins concedes: to grow beyond its current appeal.

"It doesn't have a fan base like the NFL," he said. "And unless you're an arm-wrestler, it's boring as hell."

jean.marbella@baltsun.com

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