A few years ago, i developed an interest in boxing. Watching it, not participating. But then, i came across the relatively new sport of MMA–Mixed Martial Arts. I mostly watch WrekCage, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) on Versus. It is the fastest growing sport in America, and its fans run the gamut of economic, social and ethnic demographics.
One of the first things i noticed–perhaps absurdly–was that the sport seemed overtly homo-erotic. Scantily clad men would wrestle with each other, their arms and legs entwined in often very sexual poses, and they could win the fight through techniques like “Submission” and “Rear Naked Choke.” And some of the clinches these guys wind up in, can be pretty entertaining.
All that silliness aside, it was easy to become a fan of this sport. I am most impressed with the degree to which these guys have to be athletes. I am convinced that they are among the most physically well-conditioned people on the planet. Maybe even THE most.
MMA has more dimensions than boxing. During a match, fighters can use kickboxing, wrestling, and regular boxing, as well as various martial arts, like Jiu Jitzu, Judo, Karate, Muay Thai (moy-tie). But these guys don’t wear those puffy gloves. They barely have any padding in the ones they do wear, and yet they stand toe to toe and smack each other with enough force to cause unconsciousness before they even hit the ground. Mostly, though, the sport is about skill and many times, few or no punches are even thrown. it all depends on the skill-set of each fighter and the dynamics of the fight.
There are 9 ways to win an MMA fight:
- Technical Knockout
- Referee Stoppage
- Doctor Stoppage
- Corner Stoppage
- No Contest
Fighters use striking and grappling techniques to conquer their opponent. And according to the URMMA,
(a) The following are fouls and will result in penalties if committed:
1. Butting with the head;
2. Eye gouging of any kind;
3. Biting or spitting at an opponent;
4. Hair pulling;
5. Fish hooking;
6. Groin attacks of any kind;
7. Intentionally placing a finger in any opponents orifice;
8. Downward pointing of elbow strikes;
9. Small joint manipulation;
10. Strikes to the spine or back of the head;
11. Heel kicks to the kidney;
12. Throat strikes of any kind;
13. Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh or grabbing the clavicle;
14. Kicking the head of a grounded fighter;
15. Kneeing the head of a grounded fighter;
16. Stomping of a grounded fighter;
17. The use of abusive language in fighting area;
18. Any unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to opponent;
19. Attacking an opponent on or during the break;
20. Attacking an opponent who is under the referees care at the time;
21. Timidity (avoiding contact, or consistent dropping of mouthpiece, or faking an injury);
22. Interference from a mixed martial artists seconds;
23. Throwing an opponent out of the fighting area;
24. Flagrant disregard of the referees instructions;
25. Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his or her head or neck.
Now this is what i would call an extreme sport, yet not at all foolish. When MMA first started in 1993 with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), there were injuries, but no more than in any other contact sport. John McCain, however, derided it as “human cockfighting,” spearheading legislation that kept the fights from being aired on Pay Per View, and even convinced some states to ban the sport altogether. Ironically, McCain is still a fan of boxing, though he was ringside when boxer Jimmy Garcia was killed in the ring, and also ironically, there are over a thousand documented deaths in boxing, and only 1 in MMA, Doug Dedge, who died in a Kiev hospital soon after an unsanctioned bout in Russia in 1998. But as the real story came to light, it seemed that Dedge also had a preexisting condition that probably exacerbated the likelihood of his demise. He had suffered from blackouts, temporary blindness, vertigo and other ailments, but refused to see a doctor. Those around him during this time stated that his condition seemed to have little to do with any injuries sustained during training and other bouts.
In 2001, when the regulatory bodies began to oversee the sport, after a few years hiatus, there were new fighters and the sport flew in under the radar again. Under The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts Combat, it then became just as safe as any other sport, and in some ways, safer. Professional mixed martial artist John Rallo, said,
it is honorable to tap in our sport. If you quit in a boxing match you may not fight again. Look at Roberto Duran after the “no mas” match with Ray Leonard. He was looked down upon and never regained his edge after that fight. A KO is not the only means of victory. The average boxer takes several hundred blows to the head in a winning performance. In MMA I have been in fights and not even taken one punch. If you take down your opponent and finish the fight on the ground you greatly reduce the chances of being KO’ed or even hit at all. Obviously there are injuries. This is a contact sport. But the injuries are no more severe then those suffered by collegiate wrestlers or football players.
One thing i noticed after watching only about five bouts, was how many of the fighters seemed to have weird ears. I assumed it had to be a product of the constant grappling and punching they do. It soon became apparent that this was the proverbial “Cauliflower Ear,” only not the one mostly known in context of those who are talked to incessantly. It really is a condition. According to Wikipedia,
“Cauliflower ear (also hematoma auris or perichondrial hematoma) is a condition most common among wrestlers, rugby players, mixed martial artists, and boxers. If the external portion of the ear suffers a blow, a blood clot or other fluid may collect under the perichondrium. This separates the cartilage from the overlying perichondrium that is its source of nutrients, causing the cartilage to die. This leads to a formation of fibrous tissue in the overlying skin. When this happens, the outer ear becomes permanently swollen and deformed, thus resembling a cauliflower.”
I always wonder why anyone would want to engage in a sport that they knew was going to not only draw blood sometimes, but hurt like hell….but knowing that these guys go at it with copious amounts of training and preparation, and are familiar with what it entails, keeps me from in any way feeling sorry for them. And as a woman, it has the added entertainment of watching two men beat the crap out of each other. obviously, I’m not the only one. My fellow blogger, Maude, said,
“…then we watched WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting), which I’m embarrassed to say, I have been enjoying. I just have to ignore my feelings about the channel VS (on cable–all sports and sports related stuff like sports movies, etc.) because if I stop to think too long about it, it does remind me of everything I despise about machismo and the heteronormative sports culture that simply reinforces all that is fucked up in this world (prescribed gender roles, misogyny, violence, etc.), and yet I find all out brute ass-kicking in a cage entertaining. I don’t know what to say for myself. It’s embarrassing and troublesome on so many levels I just don’t even know where to begin.”
Neither do I, Maude, but we like it, so what the hell.