By In Mixed Martial Arts

Getting Ahead by Getting People Mad

“First it was boos that rained down upon Colby Covington. Then it was booze.

After his unanimous decision win over hometown-favorite Demian Maia in the UFC Fight Night 119 co-headliner on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Covington proceeded to get on the microphone and call the host country “a dump” and the 10,000 Brazilians in attendance “filthy animals.” Derek Kronig was on translator duty for the event, but Daniel Cormier didn’t bother to pass him the microphone. Covington reveled in it: “We ain’t translating tonight, baby!” As he was rushed out of the arena by security, fans pelted him with cups of beer and whatever trash was within reach. Clearly, no translation was needed.

Covington and his antics became the most talked-about part of the show, despite his fight with Maia being altogether forgettable. On paper, beating a top-five welterweight in his hometown is impressive, but the manner in which Covington won did not make anyone clamor to see him in a title fight. Don’t be surprised, though, if that’s exactly where he ends up. In this era of the UFC, ratings trump rankings, and playing the villain — even when it’s done poorly — continues to work. Covington was the biggest story of the night because he made people angry. He failed to excite anyone with his actual fighting, but angering people is a fine enough substitute. Anger is a powerful source to tap into. It excites and energizes us in real, biochemical ways. Our brains secrete adrenaline, our hearts beat faster and our bodies pulse with the same evolutionary readiness to do battle that was a necessary survival tool for much of human history. Only now, our “battles” mostly take place via seething comments online…”

 

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By In Medium posts

Spooky Spooky: A Definitive Timeline

“Getting scared taps into something deep within the heart of man. The pure, primal adrenaline of fear is still as powerful a motivator for us as it was for our ancestors struggling for survival on some simian savanna.

Embedded within that fear is a labyrinth of uncertainty, the same mystery of death that also imbues the mystery of life. One mystery threatens us, the other drives us towards a cliff of unanswerable questions. We fear what we don’t — or can’t — know: What is my purpose? What causes things to go bump in the night? Is there a real me? How did this Ouija board get back into my house after I threw it away?

Will my next decision result in a trick, or a treat?

These are tough questions. They lay dormant beneath each Halloween celebration, treacherous waters we navigate only with a compass of willfully distracted ignorance. As luck would have it, there is a light guiding us, a modern day Virgil for our Inferno of existential fear: A.J. Jenkins, singer/songwriter for KidsTV123 and poet laureate of all things spooky…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

One Man’s Loss is Another Man’s Luck

“It’s no secret the Ultimate Fighting Championship doesn’t exactly pull out all the stops for UFC Fight Night events, let alone those that take place in Poland. If you opted to skip UFC Fight Night 118 on Saturday to spend your afternoon doing something else, I don’t blame you. Yet despite the general dearth of name value on display, by the end of the card, it felt like a new star had been born.

Darren Till, an undefeated 24 year-old prospect, put on a clinic against longtime veteran and fan favorite Donald Cerrone in the main event. Till was dominant. He stuffed the first takedown with little effort, scrambled out of the second attempt with ease and then proceeded to land big shots without taking any real damage. He stalked Cerrone around the cage, and after a beautiful standing elbow and a barrage of hard left hands, the TKO was called with under a minute left in the first round. It was a big upset, even if the betting odds weren’t terribly steep: Cerrone was the -160 favorite and Till a +130 underdog by fight time. From a distance, however, the matchup couldn’t have been more lopsided…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Violent Meditations

“One of the more fascinating aspects of mixed martial arts is understanding why people watch it. Most other sports have obvious and mostly singular appeals: They showcase elite athletic feats and elicit some emotional cocktail of pride in seeing your side win and/or schadenfreude in seeing the other side lose. Much can be said about the combination of catharsis and entertainment, but that umbrella tends to cover everything.

MMA is a little more fractal than that. Fans flock to the fight game for a number of different reasons. For some, the enjoyment comes from purely sporting purpose, as they want to see high-level athletes doing high-level combative chess; others come to MMA for the martial arts component, to see the skill, honor and discipline of ancient practices applied to real-life situations; and of course, there are those who simply want to see some bloody, violent chaos. All three of these are perfectly legitimate reasons to enjoy the sport.

A clip from the MMA Beat last week made the rounds, with host Ariel Helwani making the case for why the Ultimate Fighting Championship should not promote itself as violent: “Outside of the MMA world, in what realm do you ever hear the word ‘violence’ used positively? It always has a negative connotation, yet we promote it and celebrate this word and want to stick it on our sport like it’s some cool thing to do. It disgusts me.”

This is not the first time this argument has been made — you may recall early last year when SBG Ireland trainer John Kavanagh voiced a similar gripe — nor will it be the last. That’s a good thing, though. It’s a worthwhile discussion to have, and fans should be grappling with the violent nature of the sport they support…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A Source of Pride

“There is a story behind every journey into the Octagon, and every story invariably includes adversity and heartache — almost certainly to a much greater degree than triumph. Success is built on a mountain of Ls, and in order to suffer through those losses and keep trudging onward, there must be an aquifer of personal pride somewhere beneath the bedrock of whatever other motivation propels fighters forward. Though nebulous and amorphous, pride is an essential piece of the fight game. There was no shortage of it at UFC 216 on Saturday in Las Vegas, especially at the top of the card…”

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