MMA

Fairy Tale Fans: Why Tim Tebow Supporters Are Naturals for Mixed Martial Arts

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos sits on the bench in the second half against the New England Patriots during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Jonathan SnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterMarch 21, 2012

Sports fans are typically a pretty realistic bunch.

Look at fans of teams like the Cleveland Browns, who are lousy, know they are lousy and don't try to pretend otherwise. Entire industries have sprouted up with the seemingly sole purpose of criticizing athletes and coaches, pointing out all of their flaws, humanizing what were once mythical creatures. A separate cottage industry exists to mock and deflate the sports media. Sociologically, it's fascinating stuff.

Mixed martial arts fans? We're that beast of another color. Hope springs eternal in mixed martial arts.

It's a place where fans can, in all seriousness, suggest that an athlete with no wrestling background, no discernible proclivity for wrestling, and a decade of ignoring his fundamental flaws in the area, can become a master of the discipline simply by switching training camps.

The idea that certain people simply aren't good at something never seems to cross a mixed martial arts fan's mind. In the insular community of super fans, training is always the answer.

Got beat up by a guy who's been kickboxing his whole life or a prodigy with amazing hand speed and reflexes? Just travel to Holland or Thailand and book some time with a handful of grizzled kickboxing coaches. Problem solved!

Other sports don't have these fairy tale fans. When a quarterback comes out of college and can't make the deep throws, no one suggests that spending the summer with Dan Marino will make the kid into the next Jeff George. There's a more sophisticated understanding that success in high stakes athletics is a product not just of rigorous training, but of innate ability as well. MMA fans are more democratic than that. In fact, athleticism rarely comes into the equation when discussing fighters, or at least certainly not with the frequency you see skill sets mentioned in pre- and post-fight analysis.

Representing an art.
Representing an art.Markus Boesch/Getty Images

Part of this disconnect is a product of the sport's rise to success in America. Royce Gracie was MMA's poster boy, not despite his lack of athletic skill but expressly because of them. Gracie's uninspiring physique and average speed and strength made it all the more impressive when he dispatched opponents with shocking ease. The UFC at the time was less athletic contest, more infomercial for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. It made sense to emphasize the technique over the technician. After all, that was the product they were moving.

None of that, of course, explains why Tim Tebow supporters live in a fantasy land. Football fans have had decades to grasp the prerequisites for success as an NFL quarterback. Making good decisions under pressure and the ability to accurately throw a football where you want it to go are key. If an athlete can't do these two things at an otherworldly level, he is going to fail in the professional ranks. Period.

There's no examples of successful quarterbacks who fail in these two simple areas. There are copious examples of system quarterbacks, and make no mistake that Tebow—who was just traded to the Jets today—is every bit the system quarterback a kid from Texas Tech is, failing to make it against more complicated defensive schemes and better athletes.

Yet Tebow fans remain undaunted. He just needs seasoning. Some time under the wing of a veteran quarterback who can show him the ropes. He needs time.

His fundamental flaws? An inability to throw the football quickly or where he wants it to go? Never part of the discussion with his millions of rabid fans.

Maybe Tim Tebow's ultimate home is MMA? It will be the perfect home for his fans, a place where hope springs eternal and you are just one miracle coaching session away from glory. A place where his mythical ability to win and legendary will power will be more than enough.

After all, according to MMA fans, a couple of months at Golden Glory and a stint at Greg Jackson's fantastic gym in New Mexico is all it takes to achieve your dreams in the fight game. It'll be like taking candy from a baby.

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