Saturday, July 7, 2012

UFC, MMA, and Fighting

Tonight, live on pay per view, Anderson Silva will defend his UFC Middleweight belt against Chael Sonnen. To some people, this sentence might not even make sense. To others, this sentence may cause an eye roll and 'whatever'. Then there's a group a people who read that sentence and know exactly what it means, and oh boy are they excited. You could look at it as a fight, as two men senselessly beating eachother in some sort of primitive macho contest. That might even be accurate, on some level. But I choose to consider the word 'Arts' in 'Mixed Martial Arts'. That 'A' in MMA is there for a reason. Because it's not just a fist fight, or 'human cock-fighting' as the less informed will call it. Fighting at a high competitive level takes discipline, technique, talent, and heart. Sure, a knockout is exciting, but I watch UFC events to see two masters showcase their craft.

People usually find the fact that I enjoy UFC quite a surprise. Sure, I'm into books and films and writing, but watching two men fight and sweat and bleed? I don't play any sports, though I did have a very successful run as a soccer goalie between the ages of 5 and 8 years old. Since those days, I've moved on to more cerebral activities, the arts, the creative stuff. As for watching sports, I'm a casual hockey and football viewer. I don't really follow any teams or cheer for anyone, and I'd likely never put a game on myself, but if someone has it on at their house or a group of friends is watching at a pub, then it's entertaining enough for me.

So how did UFC grab my interest? About five years ago, I was flipping through channels and came across Clay Guida vs. Roger Huerta, free on television. This fight is an all out war, a battle of wits and spirits, and still one of the most exciting fights I've witnessed. At the time, Huerta reminded me of Tyler Durden, and Guida reminded me of a psychotic monkey. My friends Guy and Corlin were already getting into the sport, and their excitement about it definitely intrigued me. It shames me only a little bit to admit this, but I grew up on WWF/WWE (you know, that 'fake wrestling' crap), and was a fan through out my teenage years. Being a fan of that kind of 'sports entertainment' definitely paved the way for my interest in the UFC. There are still rivalries, twists, and storylines, but when someone bleeds or gets knocked out, it's real and unscripted. I'm also a fan of action movies and superhero books, and there's always something exciting about watching the final showdown. Each fight in the UFC is like that final showdown. Sometimes I don't care about either fighter, sometimes I dislike both of them, and sometimes I'm a fan of both. But there are usually the fan favourites and the villains, tonight's main event being the best example. Silva is Superman, Sonnen is Lex Luthor.

Sure, you could call it barbaric, but I appreciate the fact that both men are giving their approval for a fight and both of them know exactly what they're getting into. Outside of professional sport, fighting doesn't have these rules and guidelines. And you can't even kick in Boxing, so that doesn't count in my books. On the 'streets', You don't have to consent to a fight in order to be thrown in to one. I've done my best throughout my life to avoid fighting, I think there's always a way to just figure it out, without punching. Or run. I'm a Thinker, not a Fighter, and people usually catch on to this quickly and just leave me alone. So since I know that a contract has been signed and that the best interest of both fighters is not to die or be disqualified, I can relax and appreciate the fight for what it is: a skills competition. I can enjoy a flash knockout as much as a five-round war, as long as I feel like the athletes are trying their hardest to win.

When you're a UFC fan, you have to deal with other UFC fans. Sometimes this can be an enjoyable experience, if both of you have the same level of interest. Other times, it can be quite frustrating. I'd say I'm more informed and interested in MMA than the casual viewer, but I wouldn't say that I'm a hardcore fan. There's some people out there that live and breathe MMA, they watch every fight, follow every fighter's careers, keep up with daily news and interviews. I get into that stuff, but not at the rate of a die hard fan. However, I'd take a MMA super-nerd over the casual pub fan any day. You know the ones, who only know the 'big names' and are only there for the main event. These are usually the ones booing during a technical chess match or ground-game war, they just want to see Rock-Em Sock-Em style video-game punch festsI'm somewhere in between those kind of a fans. I know a lot of names, I've seen a lots of fights and events, and I try to keep up to date on who's injured and who's calling who out. It's a hobby, just a nice escape from my usual routine. The worst people to watch UFC around are the ones that say it's totally homo-erotic and can't get over that fact. Yeah, sometimes they roll around together on the mat, they're almost naked, they're sweating. But least they're punching eachother right?

Also, as a UFC fan, you find yourself having to pick and choose who you like and who you want to win. For me, it all comes down to the fighter's heart and overall attitude. The same as with music, if I feel like a fighter is putting in a genuine effort and isn't just there for the fame and cash, I'll be a fan. A little bit of trash talking and hype is cool, but I usually don't support the all out bad guys and bullies. I like a respectful fighter can be dangerous once the fight starts. Guys like Thiago Silva, The Diaz Brothers, and Rampage Jackson are some of the worst offenders. I appreciate that pounding on another male might make you feel powerful, but I prefer them to talk through the sport, not through taunting and shit talk (which is one level worse than trash talk). Some of my favourite fighters include Clay Guida, Ben Henderson, Shogun Rua, Carlos Condit, Forrest Griffin, and Lyoto Machida, to name a few.

Aside from the fight card itself, the best part of any live sport event is being entertained alongside your friends and other fans. Like any hobby, it's always nice to meet someone else who shares your interests and is as passionate about it as you are. My close friends are all MMA fans, so I know that when a pay per view or free fight card is coming up, it's going to good a night full of beer, laughs, and hopefully some entertaining fight action. It's a very 'male gender role' kind of activity, and as a rule I usually try to avoid the truly manly stuff, but it's fun to let loose and embrace the caveman within every once in a while. Yeah, it's violent, homo-erotic, 'totally staged', and barbaric, but if these guys are willing to fight and to make it entertaining, I'm willing to watch and kick in a few bucks for it. It's a hobby of mine that may not make sense to a lot of people, but it makes sense to me.

With that, I'm heading off to Corlin Rosewater's house to enjoy a stacked fight card, which includes Tito Ortiz's final fight. This is an awesome moment for me, not only because I can't stand that guy, but also because Forrest Griffin gets to kick his ass out of the UFC. As for the main event, I have no interest in who wins as long as it's a clean finish (no weird DQs or stoppages), and a good fight. Anderson Silva is untouchable, but Chael Sonnen is evil. Should be a classic.

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