By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Other Side of Anything Can Happen

“Every time I watch an Ultimate Fighting Championship event, I invariably see the same UFC Fight Pass commercial; and every time I see it, I’m struck by its stupidity.

You’ve probably seen it, too, but in case you can’t view the link, it’s the one that starts by asking “What’s your problem? Bored?” before imploring you to “Stop whining and watch a fight.” The sound and image of a crying baby briefly pops up, because nothing sells a product better than “You’re not a baby, are you?” The slogan of this ad is “Fighting solves everything.” Car broke down? Fired from your job? The remorse you’re feeling from pounding that Taco Bell Party Pack in a single sitting? Don’t worry about any of that. Just watch some fights and all will be well.

Aside from the cringe-worthy tropes of being a dude/man and the laziness of its angle, there’s something ingenious about the ad, a common motif immediately recognizable to all fight fans that the advertisers likely didn’t realize at the time but is nonetheless present. The hook of the commercial is that people have problems, which is as sure an investment as you can make. As long as humans are involved, it’s inevitable that something will go wrong. Anything can happen.

“Anything can happen” is a familiar concept to fight fans. Not only is it the reason why Fight Pass is proposed as a solution to existential boredom, but it’s the dynamic of the sport that makes it surprising and exciting; it was a promotional angle in the early stages of MMA’s growth. A fight can end at any moment for any number of reasons. The nature of fighting is like imagining Hail Marys were worth three touchdowns in football or if there was a full-court shot worth 25 points in basketball. Fights can change instantaneously. Fighters can lose four and a half rounds and find a submission in the waning minutes of the fight; they can jump off the cage and kick people in the face.

They can also miss weight the day before they fight or spend long stretches locked in a staring match in the cage…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Black Beast: A Meditation on Ethics in MMA

“A philosophical dilemma arose shortly after “The Black Beast” announced he needed to take a dump.

By the time Brian Stann was interviewing Derrick Lewis in the cage after UFC Fight Night 105 on Sunday in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there was subdued outcry at the fact that referee Mario Yamasaki was late to stop the fight, allowing Lewis to land a few additional strikes on an already unconscious Travis Browne. Lewis did nothing wrong; the strikes weren’t malicious, just unnecessary, which is an expected occurrence in this line of work. It’s just that Lewis hits harder than a 10-foot wave breaking onshore, which makes those extra shots a bit more serious than if it were, say, Jared Rosholt delivering them. Alas, Yamasaki was a little late to intervene, and “The Black Beast” crashed on the eroded shoreline of Browne’s consciousness.

In other circumstances, that may have manufactured some outrage, at least for a few hours until people got bored. Not this time. Browne has become one of the more reviled fighters on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster in certain circles. His association with perpetual punchline Edmond Tarverdyan and his relationship with Ronda Rousey are both part of it, but Lewis made sure to remind people why they shouldn’t feel too bad for Browne: “He calls himself a man, but he likes to put his hands on women, so forget that guy.”

If there was any lingering resentment about the late stoppage, it evaporated quickly at that line…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Cheating Pays

“Around the same time we were D.A.R.E.’d to resist drugs in elementary school, we were also taught that “cheaters never prosper.” These are strange messages to process for most pre-teens. Apparently, the enemy was among us — standing in line for the slide, punching the tetherball, swinging from the monkey bars — ready to pass out free drugs and/or hurriedly copy answers onto their arithmetic worksheets. Aside from creating an atmosphere of suspicion on our playground, both messages fell upon ears that weren’t so much deaf as they were clogged with fart jokes.

As is the case with all good advice given to little kids, it wasn’t long before they were inverted for comedic effect. “D.A.R.E. to DO drugs,” the playgrounds laughed. “Cheaters ALWAYS prosper.” Saying the opposite of what you’re supposed to say is one of the earliest lessons in humor. In reality, though, the results of cheating were mixed. Cheaters sometimes prospered — when adults weren’t looking — but for the most part, they got caught. It took some trial and error and sophistication to make cheating a consistently prosperous endeavor.

The most common rebuttal to “cheaters never prosper” is “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” It speaks to the idea that cheating is not a cut-and-dry moral failure. Often, it’s just good sense. If it helps you achieve your goals and you can get away with it, why wouldn’t you? This is the case in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and lopsidedly so. If you aren’t breaking the rules, you’re fighting uphill…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Korean Zombie in Context

“By the time he steps into the Octagon against Dennis Bermudez at UFC Fight Night 104 on Saturday in Houston, exactly 1,281 days will have transpired since Chan Sung Jung’s last Ultimate Fighting Championship appearance. A lot has changed since then. When Jung fought last, George St. Pierre was still the welterweight champion, gearing up for his next title defense against up-and-coming contender Johny Hendricks, while Chris Weidman was fresh off his upset win over longtime middleweight king Anderson Silva. Current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was 1-0 in the UFC, as was a young Irishman by the name of Conor McGregor, who was two weeks out from fighting fellow prospect Max Holloway. Weigh-ins were still the night before the fight, before-and-after United States Anti-Doping Agency memes had not yet come into existence and the UFC was still in the firm clutches of Zuffa.

When Jung returns, the sport will be a completely different place. Yet unlike most prolonged absences, his three and a half years away from the sport had little to do with injury. Rather, it was the result of a government policy that mandates all South Korean men serve in the military. This makes it hard to assess how he will look upon his return…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Myth of Mind Games

“It’s not uncommon to hear fighters harp on the mental demands of mixed martial arts. ‘The fight game is 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical,’ they’ll say. It makes sense that they emphasize the aspect of the sport that isn’t immediately apparent to the folks at home, most of whom have never experienced anything remotely similar to preparing for a fight.

The tedium of clocking in for work is no less present in a training camp than it is in a regular 9-to-5. Ask any fighter. There are days when you are motivated and days when you aren’t, days when everything is clicking and days when nothing seems to go as planned. There’s also the emotional rollercoaster of teetering between supreme confidence and nervousness as the fight draws nearer, as well as the general exhaustion that comes with rigorous exercise and dietary restrictions. On top of all of that, top-level fighters are often isolated from their friends and family, instead spending their time with complete strangers to do promotional work to hype the fight. Fight camps are strange bubbles of reality.

Without a doubt, MMA takes an incredible mental toll on fighters. With that being said, the fight game is at the end of the day a physical contest between two people wielding their bodies as weapons. As simple and obvious as the statement seems, fight fans frequently forget that, especially in the days leading up to the fight…”

 

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