By In Mixed Martial Arts

Life on Manuwa Island

“Jimi Manuwa is in an interesting spot. After zapping Corey Anderson with a one-punch, walk-off sniper shot of a left hook in front of an audience of countrymen at UFC Fight Night 107 on Saturday in London, “Poster Boy” is now 6-2 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. His only two losses came against the two top contenders in the light heavyweight division: Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson. He’s currently riding a two-fight, two-knockout winning streak, and he’s ranked No. 4 in the division, according to the UFC rankings — which is really No. 5, since the promotion does not rank its champions. At any rate, it’s good to be Manuwa right now. The future, however, is anyone’s guess…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Kelvin Gastelum’s View from the Fence

“Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie, aka The Notorious B.I.G., aka one of the most era-defining artists of hip-hop ever. His style continues to be emulated and imitated, and his lyrics are among the most commonly referenced by other MCs to date.

Among the more frequent homages to his work is citing one of his biggest hits “Mo Money Mo Problems,” a track about the proportional relationship between having a lot of money and having a lot of problems. At the time it was recorded, platinum-selling Biggie — along with labelmate Ma$e and hitmaker extraordinaire Puff Daddy, who were also on the track — knew the ills of fame and money all too well. Celebrity makes it hard to live a normal life, compromising everyday luxuries like being able to walk freely in public. Wealth breeds mistrust. It can turn longtime friends and relatives into sycophantic barnacles who cling to their famous acquaintances and wait to catch the financial scraps that fall from the table. Affluence is its own brand of chaos.

To most of us, though, the idea that being rich is problematic is a bit silly. For those of us who have had to grind through multiple jobs at the same time, who have had to sweat through conversations with landlords for an extra week to pay the rent, who can hardly remember the last time we were able to go on vacation, we would gladly trade our problems for being too rich to go to the mall without personal security.

Indeed, some problems are better than others. For Kelvin Gastelum, a 25-year-old on a three-fight winning streak that includes two consecutive TKOs, his problems are pretty ideal for the MMA world. Yet they are still problems nonetheless…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Other Side of Anything Can Happen

“Every time I watch an Ultimate Fighting Championship event, I invariably see the same UFC Fight Pass commercial; and every time I see it, I’m struck by its stupidity.

You’ve probably seen it, too, but in case you can’t view the link, it’s the one that starts by asking “What’s your problem? Bored?” before imploring you to “Stop whining and watch a fight.” The sound and image of a crying baby briefly pops up, because nothing sells a product better than “You’re not a baby, are you?” The slogan of this ad is “Fighting solves everything.” Car broke down? Fired from your job? The remorse you’re feeling from pounding that Taco Bell Party Pack in a single sitting? Don’t worry about any of that. Just watch some fights and all will be well.

Aside from the cringe-worthy tropes of being a dude/man and the laziness of its angle, there’s something ingenious about the ad, a common motif immediately recognizable to all fight fans that the advertisers likely didn’t realize at the time but is nonetheless present. The hook of the commercial is that people have problems, which is as sure an investment as you can make. As long as humans are involved, it’s inevitable that something will go wrong. Anything can happen.

“Anything can happen” is a familiar concept to fight fans. Not only is it the reason why Fight Pass is proposed as a solution to existential boredom, but it’s the dynamic of the sport that makes it surprising and exciting; it was a promotional angle in the early stages of MMA’s growth. A fight can end at any moment for any number of reasons. The nature of fighting is like imagining Hail Marys were worth three touchdowns in football or if there was a full-court shot worth 25 points in basketball. Fights can change instantaneously. Fighters can lose four and a half rounds and find a submission in the waning minutes of the fight; they can jump off the cage and kick people in the face.

They can also miss weight the day before they fight or spend long stretches locked in a staring match in the cage…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Black Beast: A Meditation on Ethics in MMA

“A philosophical dilemma arose shortly after “The Black Beast” announced he needed to take a dump.

By the time Brian Stann was interviewing Derrick Lewis in the cage after UFC Fight Night 105 on Sunday in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there was subdued outcry at the fact that referee Mario Yamasaki was late to stop the fight, allowing Lewis to land a few additional strikes on an already unconscious Travis Browne. Lewis did nothing wrong; the strikes weren’t malicious, just unnecessary, which is an expected occurrence in this line of work. It’s just that Lewis hits harder than a 10-foot wave breaking onshore, which makes those extra shots a bit more serious than if it were, say, Jared Rosholt delivering them. Alas, Yamasaki was a little late to intervene, and “The Black Beast” crashed on the eroded shoreline of Browne’s consciousness.

In other circumstances, that may have manufactured some outrage, at least for a few hours until people got bored. Not this time. Browne has become one of the more reviled fighters on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster in certain circles. His association with perpetual punchline Edmond Tarverdyan and his relationship with Ronda Rousey are both part of it, but Lewis made sure to remind people why they shouldn’t feel too bad for Browne: “He calls himself a man, but he likes to put his hands on women, so forget that guy.”

If there was any lingering resentment about the late stoppage, it evaporated quickly at that line…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Cheating Pays

“Around the same time we were D.A.R.E.’d to resist drugs in elementary school, we were also taught that “cheaters never prosper.” These are strange messages to process for most pre-teens. Apparently, the enemy was among us — standing in line for the slide, punching the tetherball, swinging from the monkey bars — ready to pass out free drugs and/or hurriedly copy answers onto their arithmetic worksheets. Aside from creating an atmosphere of suspicion on our playground, both messages fell upon ears that weren’t so much deaf as they were clogged with fart jokes.

As is the case with all good advice given to little kids, it wasn’t long before they were inverted for comedic effect. “D.A.R.E. to DO drugs,” the playgrounds laughed. “Cheaters ALWAYS prosper.” Saying the opposite of what you’re supposed to say is one of the earliest lessons in humor. In reality, though, the results of cheating were mixed. Cheaters sometimes prospered — when adults weren’t looking — but for the most part, they got caught. It took some trial and error and sophistication to make cheating a consistently prosperous endeavor.

The most common rebuttal to “cheaters never prosper” is “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” It speaks to the idea that cheating is not a cut-and-dry moral failure. Often, it’s just good sense. If it helps you achieve your goals and you can get away with it, why wouldn’t you? This is the case in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and lopsidedly so. If you aren’t breaking the rules, you’re fighting uphill…”

 

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