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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The UFC’s Old Epidemic

“Even for a sport as reliably strange as ours, the past week was a particularly bizarre one. Between the bookends of two excellent fight cards in UFC 217 and UFC Fight Night 120, a month’s worth of weird went down. Yet aside from Conor McGregor’s shenanigans at Bellator 187, a common theme permeated the goings on of the last seven days: the repercussions of getting old in the fight game, or, as I like to call it, MMAging.

Bad portmanteau aside, there’s a difference between getting old in regular life and getting old as a professional fighter. It’s not so much a defined age — though it often is that, too — as it is an accumulation of fight-related erosion…”

 

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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 Tale of Two Main Events

“When referee John McCarthy held the arms of Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko and ring announcer Bruce Buffer started reading the scorecards at UFC 215 on Saturday in Edmonton, Alberta, it was impossible to know what the decision would be. The only certainty was that it was close enough to be controversial no matter who won.

Spoiler alert: Nunes picked up the split verdict. It may or may not have been the right decision in your eyes, but it was by no means a robbery. At least three of the rounds were close enough to go either way, making it an interesting case study. According to FightMetric, Nunes outlanded Shevchenko in all but the final round. That is helpful, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture. First, in Rounds 2, 3 and 4, the striking differential was pretty minimal — +4, +2 and +4 for Nunes, respectively. Those aren’t dominant differences, even if we’re going strictly by the arithmetic. Although these tallies are only noting “significant” strikes, who’s to say which strike is really more significant?

Shevchenko made a case for herself in an entertaining if not exactly convincing way. “Look at her face,” she said in disbelief. “Her nose is red from my punches.” Even if Nunes landed more punches, Shevchenko was arguing that they didn’t land clean or do any real damage. How many glancing punches equal one clean one? There is no criterion through which to answer that, nor can there be…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Simple Complexities of The Money Fight

“As “The Money Fight” inexorably becomes reality and the odds inexplicably become closer, the cynicism of it all has grown tiresome. You, dear readers, may recall that I haven’t been particularly enthused by the match, but that isn’t because I don’t understand its appeal. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about it. The optics alone of seeing Conor McGregor in the ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be interesting. Plus, for all the criticism McGregor gets for his goofy-looking training methods, there is an undeniable itch of curiosity to see if maybe he’s on to something. That’s to say nothing of the ultimate appeal of Mayweather’s career in the last decade: the desire to see him lose. To lose to a boxing debutante would be the most hilariously embarrassing schadenfreude imaginable, unlikely as it may be.

Both actors are fascinating in their own ways. Mayweather is unquestionably The Best Ever, though not in the way he sells himself. No, Mayweather is not anywhere near the top of the all-time pound for pound list, and he is hardly in contention as the greatest welterweight or lightweight, either. Imagine Mayweather against a prime Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns or Roberto Duran, and it is hard to picture him winning any of those fights. He is a gifted, beautiful fighter, no doubt, but the zero in his loss column has masked his flaws and granted him undue credit…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Dueling Insecurities of Boxing and MMA

“Few conflicts are as inevitable or as stupid as generational ones.

Without exception, every generation has bemoaned the one that follows. Kids these days are addicted to their phones; the kids before them had their egos overstuffed by participation trophies; the kids before them were rotting their brains with TV and video games; with the kids before them, it was all that darned rock and roll music; the kids before them … you get it. Yet somehow, despite all these oh-so-serious problems with the youth and the even more serious fist shaking, the cranky folks yelling at generational passersby to get off their lawn have only ever been addressing the next group to take their spot on the porch.

There’s a flipside to that, of course. Older generations are not the only guilty parties when it comes to broad dumb accusations. Young people are frequently guilty of dismissing the wisdom of life experience, eagerly substituting it for Google voyages and Netflix documentaries. The abundance of information available to people and the 24/7 access to it make it easy for anyone to feign expertise about anything and everything, and unlike true expertise, the fake kind is often immune to listening.

These aren’t terribly difficult challenges to overcome — all you really need to do is attempt to understand where the other is coming from — but these differences and generalizations are so deeply entrenched that it’s hard to uproot them and give genuine empathy a chance to occur. The upcoming Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor boxing match has unearthed a similar mindset, much of it stemming from similar generational disparities…”

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