Monday, February 21, 2011

Has MMA Gotten Soft?

Back at it's inception in '93, the UFC was about determining two things:  What is the best fighting style, and who is the best fighter, in the world. Is Muay Thai better than Jiu-jitsu?  Is Judo dominant over boxing?  Is "bone breaking" really a fighting style?  How does high levels of martial arts training stack up against the real world application of Pit Fighting (ala, Tank Abbott.)

Whether you look at Vale Tudo, Shooto, or the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it was a no holds barred/ minimal rules fighting competition.  Fighters of one style faced fighters of another. It was considered barbarism, not even allowed on pay per view. It wasn't until 1995 that Rick Blume, president and CEO of "Battlecade" coined the term "mixed martial arts", in turn helping to make the sport more socially acceptable.

It is my personal belief that mixed martial arts is no longer "mixed."  I believe that it has become a style all its own.  Sure, there are schools that teach Karate, Muay Thai and Jiu-jitsu.  But we now have schools that teach MMA, specifically combining different elements of different fighting styles for a synergistic effect.

While perusing one of my favorite MMA sites, , I landed on this old school gem that many of you have probably seen:

Video After The Jump...

Watching the video of  the indomitable Don Frye and 7'2" Takayama for the umpteenth time, I can't help but ponder:

Has MMA gotten soft?

As the sport has evolved, fighters (and their fighting styles) have changed.  People are getting smarter about their training and fighting.  I know that when I first got serious about my training, the first thing my instructor told me was that "you have to make the other person remember pain as quickly as possible."  UFC commentator Joe Rogan has also said on numerous occasions that the point of martial arts is to inflict as much damage while receiving as little as possible.

Now, we have guys like Georges St. Pierre, John Fitch, and Jake Sheilds (to name a few), who are incredibly effective and succesful at what they do.  These fighters, however, are being more frequently criticized for putting on "boring" fights.  People are saying that fighters are becoming less likely to lay it all on the line

What does this say about us, as the fans?

What is it that we are really looking for?  Do we want a Frye-like, brutal, "I'm tougher than you" slugfest?  Or do we (as a whole) prefer the educated and intelligent implementation of a game plan.  I would like to say that we appreciate all aspects of MMA (although we all love a great KO)  but the outpouring of criticism for recent lackluster UFC events leads me to believe otherwise.

I ask: can't we have a place for both?

If interest in the sport declines because fighters are becoming smarter/ safer (and by safer, I don't mean hesitating to commit, Thales Leites style) doesn't that substantiate what antagonistic politicians have said: It's a barbaric sport and the equivalent of "human cock fighting?"  "Despite the public outcry from the citizens, I won't allow it in the state I represent?"

I guess what i'm getting at is this:

In the current state, we have our warriors (Wandy Silva), and we have our tacticians (GSP.)  But as the sport changes, maybe we, as fans, should change, too.

-Never "Boo" a fighter.  Unless you have stepped in to a ring or cage yourself, you have no idea what they are going through.

-Remember that they are people just like you and I.  They are subject to the same follies, mistakes, and humanisms.  Don't expect something superhuman out of someone that puts their pants on one leg at a time (just like you.)

-Just enjoy the sport.

They say that when you stop learning and evolving, you start dying.  If we, as the fans of MMA, stop learning, then the sport itself will die because of us.

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