Mixed Martial Arts
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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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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Nostalgia is a Hell of a Drug

“Nostalgia is one of the traits that make humans unique in the world. It’s hard to know if other animals ever feel nostalgic, since it’s not exactly visually readable like anger, sadness or fear. It’s likely that even emotionally and cognitively advanced animals cannot reminisce, as nostalgia is really an offshoot of — or perhaps an intersection for — imagination and emotion. It requires us to imagine the past to stir up similar feelings we once had. Whether nostalgia is part of the evolutionary development of remembering or if it hints at something larger, like the existence of a soul, it is a potent and uniquely human experience.

This weekend was especially fixed on the rearview. It marked the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, as well as the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. All manners of punditry were employed to construct meaningful, coherent narratives about both of them to see if the distance of time has brought about new understanding.

Combat sports also had some acute fits of nostalgia over the weekend. Anthony Joshua notched his 19th straight knockout in the biggest fight of his career against Wladimir Klitschko, immediately drawing comparisons to greats of old, from Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson to Joe Louis. Perhaps it was a result of the absence of any major fight cards this week or the next, but the MMA media was busy looking back, too. Patrick Wyman of Bleacher Report, Chuck Mindenhall of MMAFighting and our own Jordan Breen each published a retrospective-style piece looking at how different aspects of MMA’s past collides with its present. Some of those collisions are obvious, some not so much.

Truly, a lot has changed in this sport, while a lot continues to remain the same…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Paradox of Perfection

“Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White was the first to take the dais after UFC on Fox 24 in Kansas City, Missouri. He announced the usual business — gate numbers, bonus winners, compliments to the host city — before telling the press about how he overheard Demetrious Johnson asking coach Matt Hume what he did wrong in his one-sided drubbing of Wilson Reis. White answered on behalf of Hume and really anyone else who witnessed the fight: “Nothing.” When asked about Robert Whittaker’s win, he was just as effusive: “He fought a perfect fight.” As for Rose Namajunas: “[She] fought a flawless fight.”

Perfect, perfect, perfect. It’s typical promoter hyperbole, but in a lot of ways, White wasn’t wrong. None of the winners in the top three fights had to overcome any real adversity. Namajunas utterly dismantled Michelle Waterson; Whittaker completely stifled Ronaldo Souza; and Johnson? He Mighty Mouse’d Reis, landing more significant strikes than his opponent even attempted before adding demoralization to dominance by submitting the jiu-jitsu ace. For Whittaker and Namajunas, it was the best performance of their careers thus far. For Johnson, it was business as usual.

Of course, this wasn’t just any old fight for the flyweight phenom. This was his opportunity to tie Anderson Silva’s title defense record, the most hallowed record in the promotion, if not the sport. However, with Johnson, the results of his work, as impressive as they tend to be, are never as impressive as the work itself. He was overwhelmingly favored to make his 10th title defense, which took some air of that narrative, but the manner in which he did was, well, perfect…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Most MMA Event of the Year

“Event of the year it was not, but by the end of 2017, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a card more MMA than UFC 210 on Saturday in Buffalo, New York.

Let’s take a minute to unpack that idea first, since saying that an MMA event was “so MMA” — and the fact that almost everyone immediately knows what that means — is telling. It hints at the bizarre, sometimes horrible and often frustrating things we expect from this sport. It’s a particular feeling in the MMA community, somewhere between victimhood and resignation, over-salted with well-earned cynicism. When hyped fights fall through last-minute due to freak injury, a United States Anti-Doping Agency flag for “dick pills” or someone slipping in the bathtub during weigh-ins, or when impossibly bad scorecards turn up after a fight, the most accurate, most succinct way to describe that feeling is to say it’s “peak MMA.” Fighting is a weird and crazy sport, so we expect weird and crazy things to happen.

Though co-main eventer Gegard Mousasi made some fight-week ripples by vocalizing unapologetic opinions about his paystubs — a point of interest compounded by the fact that the top-5 middleweight’s bout against Chris Weidman was the last on his contract — the real ridiculousness started at the weigh-ins. Strawweight Pearl Gonzalez was reportedly removed from her fight after hitting weight but not because of a failed drug test or any of the other usual suspects; she has breast implants, which are barred by the New York State Athletic Commission in boxing. She was never officially pulled from the fight and everything ended up getting squared with the commission, but the episode was a portent of just how MMA this card would turn out…”

 

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