The first images I have imprinted on my mind of MMA consist of Krzysztof Soszyński running around the Octagon with his own arm bent behind his back signaling victory over Brian Stann at UFC 97. Then the replay was shown where I saw the submission hold (Kimura) being applied and I realized why the fighter on the victory lap was bending his arm backward in that manner. I immediately switched the channel with a thought regarding what I had just seen in my head. The same thought that brings about a collective sigh of disgust from the hardcore MMA community today. “This is a barbaric and violent sport.” I was 15 at the time.
The next fight I remember seeing is Kenny Florian vs. Clay Guida. I have a theory that if I really pay attention and learn all the rules and regulations, I can be a fan no matter what sport I’m watching. So I really decided to give it a go. I remember Florian cut Guida with an elbow and the fight was stopped briefly so that the doctor could check on Guida’s cut. Joe Rogan said something like, “Oh man! You can see his skull!” and you can imagine my horror. I still continued watching and stayed persistent and to this day I am grateful that I did. Florian knocked Guida down and won via RNC. In the very next fight Frank Mir did the same thing. Knocked Cheick Kongo down and submitted him via guillotine choke. So in two back to back fights, two scary dudes had lost to two much less intimidating guys. And so was the case with the main event. B.J. Penn schooled Diego Sanchez in the art of fighting. Hence UFC 107 taught me to look past appearances and physiques and to focus on technique, skill and speed.
I have no problem when it comes to violence in movies and T.V. shows, but knowing that the pain being experienced by a fighter is real threw me off a little at first and I couldn’t look past it and focus on the beauty of the sport. The different martial arts being put together as one and being mixed with one another. The different styles of fighting and how they all match up against one another.
Since then I have gone back and researched on the history of the sport, watched all of the iconic fights and honestly the deeper I dig, the more I uncover, the more drawn towards the sport I get. This is a great sport, the best of all. No other sport demands such level of skill in so many departments as this. It honestly baffles me that some people don’t like it and consider it to be “barbaric”. Then again, that’s how I felt about it at first.
I have no doubt in my mind that this sport will continue to grow no matter what. We just need to be smart about how we introduce other people to it. We need to show them fights that showcase the skill level of fighters rather than their heart and their durability. That comes later. Since becoming a fan I have absolutely loved fights like Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua and Chan-Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier. But I honestly think that if I had watched Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar as my first fight I would have turned a blind eye to the sport. A fight like Forrest Griffin vs. Anderson Silva or Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis 1 would attract more people’s attention in this day and age. We have moved past the time where people will prefer two hard-nosed dudes slugging it out with each other over true displays of art. Believe me Griffin-Bonnar was beautiful in its own way but if someone is not used to violence they won’t be able to look past it.
Since my first encounter with the sport I have absolutely fallen in love with it and as it continues to move forward my intrigue grows. I love to break down fights in my head and then to see them play out. I love to listen to and read different experts’ analysis and to discover aspects of fighters and fights that I hadn't previously considered. Most of all I love well-rounded fighters that can put it all together and fight everywhere the fight goes. There are just so many different layers to this sport as it continues to evolve and especially now, so many great fights to look ahead to. This is a great time to be an MMA fan and also a great time to invite your friends and family who weren't fans of the sport before to watch it alongside you as the coming months will surely have some great action. Once people understand the sport and how it works, not many of them will dislike it.