Mixed Martial Arts
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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Same But Different

After Sage Northcutt was knocked out in his organizational debut at One Championship “Enter the Dragon” on Friday in Kallang, Singapore, Deadspin covered it with the following headline: “Poor Sage Northcutt Gets Knocked Out 30 Seconds Into Minor League MMA Debut.” This caused a surprising amount of ire in certain segments of the MMA community. Not only does One Championship boast a number of world-class fighters on its roster, but it’s not even a league in the first place.

Of course, calling One a “minor league” was not meant to be a comment on the structural organization of MMA so much as the talent disparity between that promotion and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That Boolean framework of major league versus minor leagues is immediately understood by most of the general sports-watching audience. In that way, the headline makes sense, especially since a big part of Deadspin’s editorial style is its irreverence. Yet it is, in fact, inaccurate, for both the synonymizing of “league” and “promotion” and, partly, for the underlying assumptions about the differences between One and the UFC. There are clearly significant gaps between the two, but in a lot of ways, they aren’t all that different…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Following Fear

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight titleholder Rose Namajunas had some interesting things to say after her fight at UFC 237 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That wasn’t surprising, as her honesty and willingness to be vulnerable have often led to interesting sound bites. This time, however, her thoughts were more broadly relevant than they immediately seemed.

“It’s just a huge pressure off my shoulders,” she said during the in-cage interview after her knockout loss to Jessica Andrade. This surprised UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who was sitting cageside on commentary duty. “What’s the pressure?” he wondered aloud. “Not having the belt anymore? Getting rid of fight week? I don’t understand. We work our entire lives to get [the belt], right?” At the post-fight press conference, Namajunas was asked to elaborate: What exactly was the pressure? Fighting generally, or being the champion specifically? “I mean, yes, being the champ, I guess … but honestly, just the fighting itself is a lot. It’s scary. I mean, that’s why I do this. I want to face my fears.”

If they sound like contradictory sentiments, it’s because they are. “Thug Rose” is large; she contains multitudes. Yet there’s an undeniable truth in the tension between wanting to face your fears and being utterly exhausted by them…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

MMA’s End Game

If you haven’t seen “Avengers: Endgame” yet, don’t worry. There are no spoilers here, other than to say it will put you in a mood that lingers with you. Naturally, given the title, you’ll think about endings and how they happen, when they should happen, why they have to happen and if they really happen at all. It’s an internal dialogue that for most of us is no more than existential musing, but for professional fighters, it’s necessary and practical. No one can fight forever…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Fighting in One Week

I’m not sure if the late American poet Wallace Stevens would be a fan of mixed martial arts if he were alive today, but last week would have given him ample reason…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

It Is What It Is, and It Is Beautiful

Before the epic interim title fights at UFC 236 began, former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titlist Rich Franklin was announced as the promotion’s next hall of fame inductee. Franklin’s work in the cage merits the honor by itself, but one of the reasons he stands apart from other former champions is that he was one of the UFC’s finest ambassadors. At a time when most people only saw the sport as brutish barroom brawling, the educated and erudite Franklin — a former teacher with a master’s degree — was a congenial face and articulate voice behind the violence.

This was a fitting prelude to the fights at the top of the card. At a time when ugly feuds and domestic abuse allegations have overshadowed the sport, the fights at UFC 236 on Saturday in Atlanta and the individual combatants in them were ideal ambassadors of what mixed martial arts is at its best. They showcased the thrill of competitive violence but also transcended their immediate entertainment value to demonstrate different contours of what makes fighting beautiful…

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