Let me begin this post by expressing my strong discomfort with war, conflict, and “problem management” through physical fighting. Maybe it’s just human nature, but people resolve to fighting way too often as a way of dealing with problems. My inner hippie (who guides me on many an issue) believes mediation and taking a second to just calm down and speak to the other party is ultimately the best way to deal with conflict. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a serious physical altercation, and I don’t like it when people fight out of stupid anger.
With that said, I can’t stop watching MMA fights (mainly UFC). MMA or Mixed-Martial Arts is a fighting contest between two people using any number of different fighting disciplines including Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, and Wrestling. They smack and wrassle each other around for 15-25 minutes in the middle of a padded octagon shaped mat. It is quite violent, and yet my inner disgust for fighting is not triggered by the sport — and I can’t get enough of this type of combat.
MMA is a lot more gladiatorial in nature, as two men train and are pitted in combat, rather than two drunk guys just fighting each other at a bar. The more I watch how much these guys train for these fights and how much physical and emotional pain they go through to find the exuberance of a win, the more respect I have for this sport. Quite bluntly, these guys truly lay their bodies on the line, more so than in other sports where people talk a hard line but really do nothing *cough* baseball*cough*.
But this sport really is grotesque sometimes, as this past week’s fight between Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann showed (google it, but be ready to see lots of blood…), and I think it still has a lot of regulations and social stigmas to overcome before it can be mainstream and broadcast widely. This lack of media coverage and sponsorship value is the reason why many of these fighters, who fight through injuries like torn ACL’s that would decommission any other sport’s star, make so relatively little. The highest earners don’t even make minimum wage for the NBA, minimum wage meaning the last guy on the bench who has a .00008% chance of doing anything other than giving high fives and sitting.
This type of controlled fighting really makes me think of two “warriors” going at it to see who is the best and although I never liked just brute fighting, the element of control behind these contests make them enjoyable to me. It becomes an art and no longer a brawl (but then again sometimes it is great to just watch a guy get completely KTFO which totally diffuses any argument I’m trying to make). The fights are exciting, but still relatively safe. In fact, many studies have shown that despite the fact that this is actual fighting, MMA fighters actually suffer less debilitating injuries and concussions than say football players. Probably because MMA fighters are aware of the shots that are coming, whereas football players are oftentimes blindsighted by huge tackles by people in a completely different weight class.
And so I sit here with a combined disdain and appreciation for fighting, and MMA has been a great and exciting spectator sport for me. Hope the politicians can hold up their end of the bargain and legalize and regulate this sport better. But then again, with politicians, you never know.