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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Old Man and the Beast

“Getting old sucks. Your body starts to ache and creak in places you didn’t think possible. Youthful vitality slowly erodes into vague weakness and general malaise. Simple tasks become more labored and painful. The ability to get excited fades, thinking fogs and things like sleeping and standing cause lower back pain. It gets harder to keep up with the pace of a rapidly changing world, and all the while there are younger, sharper people nipping at your heels, impatiently waiting to render you obsolete.

Indeed, getting old sucks — unless you’re Mark Hunt.

The 43 year-old “Super Samoan” on Saturday penned another chapter in one of the unlikeliest careers the sport has ever seen. The longtime combat sports veteran with over 50 combined fights in MMA and kickboxing took out a younger, more athletic Derrick Lewis in the fourth round of their UFC Fight Night 110 main event in Auckland, New Zealand, snapping Lewis’ six-fight win streak — one of the longest in the history of the heavyweight division.

A number of factors make Hunt one of the most improbable characters to loiter around relevancy. Though he’s sneakily crafty and reliably exciting to watch, there’s little else about Hunt’s career that has resembled consistency. After reeling off five straight wins in Pride Fighting Championships, including wins over Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Filipovic, he then lost six straight, topped off by a 63-second submission loss to Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut. He was finished in all six of those fights…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Benefits of a Slow Boil

“I’m probably not alone in saying that the UFC 212 main event between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway was incredible and horrible at the same time. The fight itself was incredible — there was a narrative arch to it and plenty of big-strike action, as well — but there is an unmistakable anxiety that comes with watching two great fighters go at it.

It’s impossible to remove myself emotionally from such fights. I also tend to think it’s boring to do so, since the real weight of watching sports is in the human connection that permeates the immediate entertainment. Regardless, this was a tough test, for both men in the Octagon and for me to watch.

I’m a teacher. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorite students, but we do: Some kids are simply more enjoyable than others, in the same way that some coworkers have better personalities than others. It shouldn’t affect how students are treated or evaluated, but having classroom favorites is an unavoidable reality. The same logic applies to being a part of MMA media. Objectivity is important, especially when it comes to reporting and analysis, but when the fights are on, you’d have to be pretty cynical to not feel any sort of way about any of the action…”

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By In essay, Mixed Martial Arts

Something in the Water: The Past and Present of Hawaii’s Warrior Spirit

“It’s in the water. It’s in the Hawaiian water.” — former EliteXC champion K.J. Noons
A faint glow pulses in liquid darkness like the first heartbeat in a mother’s womb. Ever rising, it reveals itself to be lava leaking upwards from beneath the Earth’s crust. Its searing heat clashes with water cold enough to freeze if not for its salinity. Solid earth forms and pushes upward. Miles of black, cold ocean weigh on it heavily, but it continues to ascend until it pierces open air.

Solid land stretches out on top of the ocean surface. Powerful waves rear up and sculpt the shoreline. Distinct islands drift away from each other, netting floating debris and hosting seabirds for brief rests along their transcontinental flights. Seeds nestle into the nutrient-rich volcanic soil, sprouting into a diverse, pullulating oasis, more untouched and isolated than anywhere else on the planet. The islands settle into their edges and wait. Seafaring Polynesians arrive, pragmatic with details and romantic with ambition, brave brilliant and foolish enough to voyage into the distant horizon with little more than their knowledge of submarine rivers and extraterrestrial bodies. They bring more animals and plants with them, and a new set of life takes root. They are the first to cultivate civilization from the naked, Edenic land.

Communities across the islands grow into large, independent societies.They remain divided until European explorers drop anchor. Armed with superior technology, a renowned warrior and son of a nobleman conquers and unites the islands. The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi breathes its first breath. Waves of immigration from Europe and America crash ashore, bringing with them a new religion and way of life. The new residents start plantations, businesses that require labor, prompting more immigration from Japan, China and the Philippines.

The Kingdom thrives, so much so that a group of businessmen backed by the United States military lock Queen Liliuʻokalani in her palace and institute their own government. This government, absent any Hawaiians, opts to become a U.S. territory and eventually the 50th state of America. She is the last monarch of her country, unceremoniously under house arrest while her nation slips away into foreign hands.

From Hawaiʻi’s underwater inception to its birth as a modern metropolis, the pacific waters, like an amniotic ocean, carried with them the physical struggle for new life. As that life has been created and recreated over time, the confluence of opposites — darkness and light, hot and cold, ocean and land, native and foreigner, struggle and survival — has defined the Hawaiian identity. Hawaiʻi is and always has been a land of conflict…

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Down So Long It Looks Like Up

“No industry is exempt from cycling through boom and bust periods. It’s a staple of capitalist economies and, frankly, an inevitability given the interconnectedness of the digital world. Even the most tightly managed and vertically integrated companies are subject to consequences from outside forces beyond their control. Perpetual growth is an impossible illusion, and if anything, contraction is more of a guarantee than expansion.

There’s no question that this has been a down year so far for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The four pay-per-view cards of 2017 have all, to varying degrees, failed to make a blip on the wider sports radar outside of MMA diehards. The trend seems to be swinging upward, with UFC 211 being the most successful event so far; and there are some solid events lined up for the next few pay-per-views. A lot will be riding on their success.

That’s not to say there haven’t been good fights or even good fight cards, but sports are more than just games; there is a vital business infrastructure that needs to be in smooth working condition in order for the games to happen in the first place. The business side may not be your personal cup of tea, but if you’re a fan of the actual fights, then the business climate affects your areas of interest nonetheless…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Appeal of Relevance

“The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s fourth pay-per-view event of 2017 was without question its best yet. The prelims were mostly exciting, resulting in a rare “Fight of the Night” bonus going to an undercard bout, and the main card was composed entirely of fights relevant to the top of their respective divisions — an increasingly noteworthy occurrence in this WMG-IME era of ownership. Compare that to any of the previous events, each of which with one or two meaningful fights per main card, and the matchmaking behind UFC 211 becomes a legitimate achievement.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of relevance. To some extent, fans will always show up for gimmicks, like the now thankfully scrapped Georges St. Pierre-Michael Bisping “super fight” or to see CM Punk catch a beatdown against anyone on the roster, but the best-case scenario for that type of matchmaking is one-off success. Fans stick around when they can invest into a meritocratic infrastructure of some sort. The ultimate appeal of this sport, after all, is to know who the best fighters are and to see how they’re the best…”

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