Mixed Martial Arts
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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Final Tragic Stage of a Fighter’s Career

“Remember the good ol’ days of MMA, when guys like Fedor Emelianenko, Takanori Gomi, B.J. Penn and Andrei Arlovski were tearing up the scene in their respective promotions? There was nothing like those glory years of the early 2000s, when mixed martial arts was permeated with excitement from the original guard of the sport passing the torch to the next generation. Those four were among the trailblazers that pushed the heavyweight and lightweight divisions in Pride Fighting Championships and the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the next level of the fight game.

Fast forward a decade or so, and all four of them are continuing to compete, much to the chagrin of fans who were there in those early years. Penn and Emelianenko suffered demoralizing losses at Bellator 180 and UFC Fight Night 112, and the week before that, Arlovski and Gomi put some additional losses on their losing streaks at UFC Fight Night 111. To see these legends fade so drastically this late in their careers is tough to bear. When you’re pushing 40 in the fight game, Father Time starts to push back mercilessly…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Cost of Combat

“Traumatic brain injury for combat sports athletes is rarely the result of a singular event. It’s an accumulation of damage, a creeping punch-at-a-time erosion that takes place in every fight and sparring session. For the duration of his professional MMA career between 2006 and 2016, Hague fought once every 14 weeks. If he had a five-week training camp for every fight — short by industry standards — that means in a given year he was taking real-time, fight-prep punishment either in the gym or in a fight for over 200 days out of the year.

We don’t know Hague’s exact training conditions, but even the safest, most precautionary camps put the human body through extreme rigors. That is to say, the sport itself puts the human body through extreme rigors. There is no way to safely be a fighter; the best way to prevent injury of any kind is to not participate in the first place.

Such tragedies put a spotlight on a number of questions that are normally ignored or contentedly left unanswered. Why did the commission let this fight happen, knowing that Hague had been knocked out regularly and recently? Why did Hague, a former kindergarten teacher, want to continue putting his health on the line in this line of work? Why did the referee let the fight go on after Hague had been dropped several times in the opening minutes of the match? Why didn’t his corner throw in the towel? Why do we watch people inflict life-altering brain damage on each other?”

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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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