an all purpose guide to educating MMA newcomers
This is courtesy inink86 at sherdog one of the best post I have I ever read
An all purpose guide to educating MMA noobs
Hey I wrote this for my American journalism class. My professor is a priest so it reads for people who know nothing about the sport. I thought you guys might enjoy even though its a long read. You'll probably notice the quotes are lifted from various sources, that's because we did not have to do original reporting. It centers on the UFC, but it supposed to read as a guide to learning MMMA. Enjoy anyway.
Don’t call it cage fighting, don’t call it ultimate fighting, call it mixed martial arts
Boxing’s decline gives way to fighting hybrid
This story is a classic.
A fan-favorite in “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya and a villain in “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, Jr., two of the best in the world, face to face and ready for battle. Boxing experts expected a fight titled “The World Awaits”—in line with great promotion titles of the past such as “The Rumble in the Jungle”—to draw between 1.4 million and 2 million pay-per-view buys. It drew more.
With 2.2 million buys, approximately $120 million in pay-per-view revenue, and upward of $19 million from the live gate, why—in a hangover from its biggest payday in history—is boxing being dismissed as a thing of the past?
The answer can be found in De La Hoya himself. Since Mike Tyson’s media-frenzied decline, the former Olympian remains boxing’s last superstar. Corruption and four sanctioning bodies for 17 different weight classes have diluted talent, competition, and public interest. These reasons are what made the championship tangle all the more intriguing— along with what waits in the wings.
“[Mixed martial arts is] the most exciting sport in the world,” said Dana White, president of the mixed martial arts (MMA) organization Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). The UFC is North America’s largest showcase of MMA. Fights take place within the confines of a mesh eight-sided cage trademarked the “Octagon.”
The sport combines muay thai (Thailand’s national sport), freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling (Olympic sports), jiu-jitsu (meaning gentle art), judo (an Olympic sport), sambo (a judo off-shoot developed by the Russian military), and catch wrestling (a form of grappling practiced by Teddy Roosevelt). These martial arts, along with many more, comprise MMA. And of course, boxing.
Since UFC’s popularity boom in 2005, many questions have arisen in the fight community. Is boxing dead? Is mixed martial arts the new combat sport?
On December 30, 2006, UFC drew over one million pay-per-view buys, surpassing boxing’s top grossing fight of the year, Oscar De La Hoya’s return from a two-year lay-off against an outclassed Ricardo Mayorga.
That December contest featured a man who can be North America’s first mixed martial arts superstar: Chuck “the Iceman” Liddell. The Southern-Californian is UFC’s light heavyweight champion. More appearances and consecutive wins than any other UFC fighter in history—including seven knockouts—have made the mohawk sporting, tattooed Liddell a fan-favorite.
Liddell’s speak softly and carry a big punch attitude carried out in three 2006 fights, attracting fans in record-breaking numbers. His first and third 2006 fights broke UFC attendance and pay-per-view records. 2006 saw UFC surpassing the pay-per-view industry’s all-time records for a single year of business with nearly $220 million in revenue. Boxing’s record-setting year, 1999, featured Oscar De La Hoya versus Felix Trinidad. It failed to match UFC’s 2006.
But this is a startling new revelation. Boxing has been in the American psyche for an entire century. When it was thriving with Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Julio Cesar Chavez in the early 1990’s, UFC was in its infancy.
The event premiered in 1993 under a “there are no rules” banner. Businessman Art Davie co-founded the event with martial artist Rorian Gracie under Davie’s Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG). Gracie attached himself to the project in order to prove the superiority of a martial art—Brazilian jiu-jitsu— developed by his father, Helio Gracie. UFC 1: The Beginning was an open-weight, non-sanctioned, fight to the finish. The one-night tournament pitted fighters from one martial art against another. It was a sensationalized variation on Brazil’s vale tudo (anything goes) fighting. Royce Gracie—Rorian’s brother—submitted opponents on his way to the championship.
For casual viewers, there was little “sweet” about the event and it could hardly be called a “science.”
The brutality and success of the first UFC events led Republican Senator and current Presidential hopeful John McCain—a life-long boxing fan—to label the sport “human cockfighting.” Negative media attention snowballed and SEG neglected its product, running away from athletic regulations, maintaining its “blood sport” feel.
By 2000, UFC had disappeared into obscurity. Casino owners and jiu-jitsu practioners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta teamed up with former amateur boxer and budding businessman Dana White to form Zuffa, LLC. They purchased UFC for $2 million in 2001. White credits McCain, saying his criticisms were the first step toward regulation
by athletic commissions—legitimacy.
All UFC fights since Zuffa’s purchase have been sanctioned. There are now 31 rules, a far cry from its three unspoken rules of the past: no groin shots, eye gouging, or fish hooking. There are now five weight classes: lightweight (146-155), welterweight (156-170), middleweight (171-185), light heavyweight (186-205), and heavyweight (206-265). The old format once featured a 400lb discrepancy. Fights occur in three five-minute rounds or five five-minute rounds for title fights.
Despite shaping the sport to be acceptable, UFC suffered from North America’s lack of interest in the sport. Meanwhile, Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships thrived with regular live gates of over 40,000. White longed for bigger live gates, more international exposure, and the credibility of mainstream recognition like PRIDE relished in Japan and boxing took for granted in the States. His solution: television.
After shopping around a reality TV show with no luck, Zuffa came to an agreement with Spike TV. The network is geared to UFC’s 18-34 year old male audience but was reluctant to produce the The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). White’s supreme confidence in the sport and his organization saw Zuffa cover production costs in addition to a $10 million fee to air the series. It was an instant hit.
The show housed 16 fighters (8 middleweights, 8 light heavyweights) competing for two (one for each weight class) six-figure, multiple-fight contracts. They were split in two teams and coached by UFC veterans Liddell and Randy “The Natural” Couture, who were to fight at the shows end on pay-per-view. Each week documented the lives of the fighters and featured a fight. The loser went home.
TUF became Spike’s groundbreaking series. The live finale featured live fights for the prize. Finalists Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin battled for fifteen minutes in a bloody display that lacked refined aspects of MMA, but involved showmanship and heart. The fight cemented UFC’s arrival in the public eye, drawing over a million viewers at one point in the broadcast—the most viewed UFC had ever been.
Television propelled the UFC into the spotlight. TUF is now airing its 5th season and filming its 6th. UFC has outdrawn Major League Baseball playoff and World Series games in the 18-34 year old male category with its free fights on Spike. UFC.com has received more hits than NFL.com. Pay-per-views are now offered in high definition. Fights can be seen in over 35 countries. UFC recently held an event in England, packing a rabid M.E.N. Arena in Manchester. In June, they venture into Ireland. A TUF Mexico is in the works.
Spotlights, however, are never without shadows.
Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley of HBO Boxing have dismissed MMA as street fighting that requires no skills.
But UFC has taken the criticism in stride, capitalizing on its immense popularity to better the sport. UFC was integral in sanctioning MMA in California, Texas, and Ohio. The first MMA event held in California was Strikeforce, a local promotion that broke the North American MMA attendance record, later to be surpassed by the UFC’s first event in Ohio. UFC has been aggressive in sanctioning the sport in all 50 states. New York City, the home of Madison Square Garden—boxing’s legendary stomping grounds—has not sanctioned MMA. 29 states, including Iowa, which recently deregulated MMA, do not sanction fights.
“I think this is very shortsighted. Somebody will get hurt there because there a lot of underground shows that need to be regulated," said Marc Ratner of Iowa’s decision. Rather is the former Executive of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who the UFC stole away and named vice president of governmental affairs for UFC, leveraging its negotiations in sanctioning MMA.
He worked in boxing for decades.
UFC is so dedicated to MMA, it has become a virtual monopoly. UFC purchased fight contracts from a quickly defunct World Fighting Alliance (WFA). Zuffa snagged World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and began running it as a parallel to UFC. But the sport changed forever when the Fertittas purchased PRIDE for under $70 million on March 27, 2007.
Since 1999, PRIDE has hosted fights in a traditional boxing ring and had relaxed rules due to no regulation outside of the organization. This allowed for soccer kicks, stomps to a downed opponent, occasional open-weight fights, and one-night tournaments. The purchase of PRIDE, the Fertittas promise, will only better the sport.
"This is really going to change the face of MMA," Lorenzo Fertitta said. "Literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as soccer. I liken it somewhat to when the NFC and AFC came together to create the NFL." Fertitta is alluding to unified rules and weight classes—and important element of defining the sport of MMA—across the world. In addition, the acquisition translates to super-fights between UFC and Pride champions that were talked about for years, but failed to materialize.
On April 8, 2007, UFC versus PRIDE became a reality when UFC heavyweight contender Jeff “The Snowman” Monson stepped into the ring against PRIDE favorite Kazuyuki “Ironhead” Fujita. In what can only be considered a symbolic finish, Monson submitted the former Japanese Olympic wrestler.
The potential Fertitta stronghold has garnered concern among fans and Sherdog.com—The New York Times of the MMA world—Editor Josh Gross, but a vocal Dana White asserts this is what is best for the sport.
There are still alternatives to UFC. The International Fight League (IFL) is 2006 upstart company that presents a team-based concept with legendary mixed martial artists as coaches in 11 American cities and one Tokyo squad. It offers its fighters salary and health benefits—a new model for business in MMA, which typically operates like
NASCAR. Fighters are independent; they are contacted by an organization and rely heavily on sponsorships. IFL went public shortly after its first event and was estimated to be worth $150 million even though it lost money producing its first shows. It now appears weekly on basic and cable television.
The most controversial organization to emerge during the MMA boom is Elite XC. Boxing promoter Gary Shaw owns the promotion and his affiliation has caused concern among MMA loyalists, fearing boxing will attempt to sabotage MMA.
“Boxing is a road map of what not to do,” said Dana White. He faults boxing for detaching itself from fans with overpriced pay-per-views, lackluster cards, inaccessible fighters, and no free fights on television.
Whatever White is doing, it is working. UFC will be televised by HBO in 2007 and covered by ESPN. “Will UFC get good ratings? Probably. But so would naked boxing," said Seth Abraham, former President of HBO Sports. ESPN, who has partnered with Sherdog.com to ensure journalistic expertise, was previously banned by its parent company, Disney, from reporting on UFC.
MMA is transforming into a legitimate sport in the eyes of the world. White’s optimism is zealous. He hopes MMA will find its way into another realm of boxing: the Olympics. “Broken down, on their own, you've got wrestling, boxing, judo. It's a no-brainer,” said White.
In fact, a former conception of MMA was in the Greek Olympic games approximately 648 BC. The event was called Pankration, which roughly translates to “all strength or power,” and mainly consisted of boxing and wrestling, although it did incorporate chokes and joint locks—the basis of many grappling arts.
The sport, however long it has been a part of civilization, still struggles with its demonization. White feels the current allegations are unjust: “This sport is actually safer than professional boxing.” He attributes this to no ten counts, which prevents fighters from fighting after suffering severe head trauma caused by knockouts. He also points to faster stoppages and the fact that the grappling aspect of MMA can see a fight end without a strike landed.
There has only been one recorded death in MMA.
It occurred in a non-sanctioned fight in Ukraine over 10 years ago. Deaths in boxing occur yearly in sanctioned fights, substantiating White’s claims. All contact sports are dangerous. Even high school football sees double-digit deaths per year. Some are just more dangerous than others.
“Boxing has a storied history,” said Abraham, who believes “when HBO attaches itself to boxing, it attaches itself to Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali. It attaches itself to history, achievement, and glory. UFC has none of those things.”
Enter Chuck Liddell.
Liddell is a prototype for the modern MMA fighter. He has an accounting degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo He does not have to fight like the Jake LaMotta’s of the world, he simply wants to.
College educations are commonplace in MMA, straying away from combat’s sports negative associations with fighting to get off violent streets. UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture was an Army Ranger, Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling alternate, and has a degree in German literature. Jeff Monson has a P.H.D in psychology. Mirko Crocop is a senator in his home country of Croatia. But MMA has its mean-streets stories as well.
Roger “El Matador” Huerta is a Mexican-American who grew up in El Salvador during their Civil War. His parents returned America, where their drug addiction left Huerta homeless by the time he was in high school. A caring teacher named Jo Rodriguez introduced Huerta to wrestling at age 15. She adopted him, and at 23 years old, he debuted in the Octagon well after the UFC’s popularity boom.
Huerta enjoys popularity of his own. His last fight against Leonard Garcia—an unknown—was a fifteen minute exercise of attrition. It stole the entire show. MMA cards offer over 9 fights per card, all potentially offering equal excitement. UFC offers monetary bonuses for best fight of the night, best knockout of the night, and best submission of the night. This is how the UFC builds contenders.
While there is no official ranking system provided by the organization or a Ring Magazine-type entity, under cards offer insight into who belongs. UFC pushes Huerta as a contender in order to tap into the massive Latino fan-base, a traditional boxing market. It incorporates regional fighters into its shows to identify with its fans. Essentially, it is investing in its future—a trait long forgotten in boxing.
Boxing has taken note. HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman has voiced his support for MMA. Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield recently commentated at IFL show, stating his love for the fighter’s athleticism. Another former heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis is a big fan. Former heavyweight contender Jeremy “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” Williams has quit boxing and is 3-0 as an MMA fighter, combining his knowledge of the fisticuffs with his judo background. Even “the Golden Boy”—who trains with TUF Winner Diego Sanchez—has expressed respect for MMA.
But De La Hoya may not be training anymore. After a disappointing loss to Mayweather, the 34 year-old strapless pugilist is considering retirement. Mayweather, considered pound for pound the best boxer in the world, said he is retiring for good. On May 5, the world hoped for the resurgence of the “Sweet Science.”
The world received just another night out in boxing: a $54.99 pay-per-view, an obscure under card, and an anti-climatic main event. Had “the fight to save boxing” been as spirited as a Diego Corrales or Micky Ward fight—two names lost on the public’s ears—boxing could be back in the right direction.
“It used to be boxers were called…the best pound for pound fighter in the world,”
said Pat Miletich, a former UFC champion and trainer of champions. “Now it’s you’re the best pound for pound boxer in the world. [MMA fighters] are the best pound for pound fighters in the world.”
On the heels of boxing’s most viewed yet most underwhelming fight, Chuck Liddell’s crowd pleasing style attempts to finish Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Since 2003, Liddell has avenged all of his losses—except Rampage. The knockout artist seeks to extend his winning streak to eight, but the Memphis native is out to “whoop Chuck’s ass!”
On May 26—the day after ESPN hosts weigh-ins for the fight—a new international sport called MMA, an American phenomenon called UFC, will take center stage.
MMA is in its adolescence. Boxing is an old-timer. MMA’s history, although brief, has already produced Rocky-like moments. Whether it was Randy Couture capturing the UFC heavyweight title at 43 years-old against an adversary 13 years younger and fifty-pounds heavier or Dan Henderson’s toothless smile expressing the joy of being the first fighter to hold two major MMA belts simultaneously. But no one can say these moments erase boxing’s impact; boxing has given faces to decades, names to nations.
There is still plenty of fight left.
MMA and boxing are not lions in a pride. Boxing can learn from UFC’s marketing and battle for the respect boxing took for granted. UFC can avoid drowning in its politics like boxing did. Fight fans will show up—ring or cage—when they know talent, pride, and heart are on the line.
“People see a lot of times fighting as….an ugly thing, as a thing that denigrates the human being. In reality, I see fighting in everything…everything is fighting…doesn’t matter what it is, you wake up in the morning to get out of bed, it’s a fight, believe me,” said Renzo Gracie, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt of the first family of ground fighting. The former vale tudo fighter has competed in MMA for 10 years, and recently focused his training on boxing: “So fighting is actually the best thing a man can have in his soul.”
PLZ tell me u copy and pasted that.....
He did copy and paste, if you read the first post he says he took it from Sherdog and even credits its writer.
It was a good read, but I think it could do more to address the technical criticism that new viewers often have like "Why are they just rolling around on the ground?" etc.