Anyone who knows me knows I’m a HUGE sports fan. I won’t brag about being the most hardcore fan or talk about any insane antics or hefty dollars I’ve spent to prove it. No, in fact I would say I’ve been modest and there’s always a crazier fan around the corner.
I’m still a relatively “young” sports fan, not having been for more than a decade. I initially followed the NBA then transitioned to the NHL after moving to Toronto then the NFL and MLB followed. I follow other sports to an extent but casually: college basketball and football, tennis, soccer on an international level and pro wrestling if you count that.
But it wasn’t until April 9, 2005 as what Dana White would call “the most important fight in UFC history” that I got sucked into the world of MMA. I’ll always remember that fight as the sporting event that had me glued to the TV set from the moment it started to the moment it ended. Here’s the fight in its entirety:
Eight years, hundreds of UFC cards and endless fights later, I’ve finally decided to blog about MMA. I’ve tried blogging in the past about past sports or all of them and it turned out to be too much and I slowly faded.
But not this time. MMA is the sport I write about and it’s the sport I’ve decided to stick to. I love it, I respect it and I’ll continue to watch it till the day I die or till the day it dies (hopefully never). Here’s some reasons why I love it so much and why you should:
Young Sport but the Fastest Growing Sport Worldwide
The sport of MMA is pretty young especially if you compare it to other combat sports such as boxing and wrestling. The UFC, the biggest MMA promotion is only 20 years old versus the big four sports leagues, which are all about a thousand years old. The promotion actually began at a time when I was not only alive but at a conscious age. I can trace the UFC and MMA back to its roots and actually recall it easier or watch it and it’ll be more accessible as opposed to baseball. Good luck finding older videos or tapes.
Despite being young, MMA is the fastest growing sport in my opinion. It’s a global sport that is big in all continents from North America to Asia to Europe to South America and so on. The only two sports I can think of that are more popular in a global scope are football (soccer) and basketball.
There are over 90 fighting promotions based in (n) different continents and the UFC has been to every continent (but Africa and Antarctica) and is being broadcasted in over 130 countries and they’re not slowing down any time soon. For the UFC to have been so successful and not use the state of New York, arguably the hottest market for anything sports-related speaks volumes.
From a career perspective the sport of MMA is the place to be. As an aspiring public relations, events and writing student I would want to be a part of a sport that I can only see continue growing and expanding. The sport of MMA I feel is only as young as I am. This is the sport for me and my generation.
Most Diverse Sport
There are over 25 different nationalities in total competing in the UFC alone. Tito Ortiz (above) reps both his Mexican and American heritages. There’s over a hundred women competing, making it one of the largest if not the largest organized sport for women worldwide. There are over ten weight classes ranging from as light as 105 lbs to 265 lbs over. You have fighters as small as being under 5 feet and behemoths the size of Shaquille O’Neal. Needless to say, no matter what your ethnicity, sex or build, you have a spot in the world of mixed martial arts.
As a diminutive Asian, there weren’t many athlete role models I could take after. Asians are particularly nonexistent in the realm of sports and women’s sports are but an afterthought. You also seem to need to be over six feet tall to be given better consideration in most sports. But if I ever wanted to strap up, train and go HAM at least I know that pint-sized people like myself have a weight division to compete in.
Best Sport to Follow
There is no “offseason” in MMA. No waiting around for an entire season feasting on the endless trade and signing rumours, top ten lists of underrated and overrated fantasy players and whatever your favourite player is having for dinner.
There is an event perpetually every week or a PPV every month. Fighters only fight within three to four months, maybe two if they take fights on short notices or fight in multiple tournaments but that isn’t common especially for the big name fighters. Within one calendar year, the average MMA fighter fights 2-3 times. Assuming you follow or love about 20 fighters, that’s still only about 10-20 events you can catch in a full calendar year distributed quite evenly.
Also, in an age where there’s distractions everywhere *cough* ADHD *cough* Internet *cough*, the three-round five-minute format of the UFC for instance is easier to watch in its entirety than a 90 minute football match or a 60 minute American football game.
Not About the Violence… it’s Respect and Discipline
Every MMA opponent would always argue the same thing: it promotes violence and is human cockfighting. Two people causing short-term and long-term physical and psychological injuries to each other for the sake of our petty entertainment… allow me a pause for brief laughter.
The relatively young sport of MMA is relatively no more as violent as other sports like hockey, American football, rugby, lacrosse, even pro wrestling if we want to stretch it that far. MMA just happens to be the most visually striking among all sports and the violence is direct with kicks to heads and faces caked in blood. You’d be hard-pressed to find deaths within major MMA organizations such as the UFC or One FC.
But it’s not about all of that. It’s about the respect and discipline each fighter puts in night in and night out. I’m not a fighter and I can respect every competitor that puts their body, mind and soul on the line. And at the end of a fight, even bitter rivals like Nick Diaz and GSP shake hands for respect. Because there are only two things that can overcome hatred: and respect is one of them. It’s a strange juxtaposition of something that is graphically bloody and violent with a great show of sportsmanship.
Every MMA fighter trains continuously maintaining strict diet to get to their respective weights.
Most Exciting Sport. But it’s about the Story.
MMA is the most exciting sport, period. I haven’t been on the edge of my seat more times than MMA fights and I’ll always remember the nights I stayed up an extra two-three hours just skimming online for whatever fight videos I can see or going through Wikipedia or Sherdog reading up on fighter profiles, tracing fight history and reading up on various fighting styles.
But it’s beyond that sometimes. Sometimes it’s about what MMA – particularly the UFC – has stood for: truth and honour. Ties in to my earlier point on respect and discipline. It’s about what Royce Gracie started way back in UFC 1 (video below). It’s about the average guy, 170 lbs making much bigger fighters – hulking bullies like Ken Shamrock at 205+ lbs tap out. It’s about the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu adding this new dimension – this new image of fighting that has changed it forever – at least in the mainstream world.
What Royce Gracie showed was how the smaller man could beat the bigger man because it wasn’t just about someone’s size in a fight. He gives underdogs – pipsqueaks such as myself
a chance to get ground and pounded instead of getting straight up knocked out the ability to defend myself from nearly anyone.
Sure, the world of MMA is very mainstream and commercialized now. It’s transcended what it originally meant and maybe it has no meaning at all for most people. As simple as two guys beating each other up for everyone’s amusement. But to me it’d always be about underdogs overcoming odds to win. And it’s just not just limited to Royce Gracie’s original domination of the first three UFC’s. There’s plenty wherever. From Matt Brown overcoming a heroin overdose to becoming one of the hottest welterweights currently to Frank Mir overcoming a motorcycle accident to pave a Hall of Fame career to bitter rivalries that span months or years from Tito Ortiz making peace with Ken Shamrock or the aforementioned GSP and Nick Diaz settling old scores in a handshake and hug at the end of their fight.
MMA isn’t so much about the gratuitous violence as it is about the passion, respect and triumph of human courage. You can beat each other to death (and potentially cause future physical risks) and still be best friends is why I love this sport.
With that said, I leave you with the video – the event – the night that changed it all.