In sports, we tend to idolize our athletes and at times, raise them to the status of hero, some might say super heroes. If you think of it, MMA is no different.
So what if these fighters were super heroes? They're both strong, wear colorful outfits and have to brave to step into the field of battle. Three examples come to mind, even without the spandex and secret identities.
Randy Couture as Captain America
This one is a gimme since Couture already has had the moniker “Captain America" for years. Often credited for bringing mixed martial arts into the mainstream of American pop culture and sports, Couture is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame and many consider him to be the most popular fighter in MMA history.
In the comics, Captain America uses his shield for most of his attacks. In the cage, Couture uses “dirty boxing” for most of his. Captain America was the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a sickly young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States' war effort.
Ironically, some might accuse the UFC of “enhancing” Couture’s image in order to aid the growth of the sport. Some would argue the UFC did so by putting Couture into very advantageous situations which he almost always made the most of. (Notice we stayed away from any talks of experimental serum with Couture. There's never been an accusation against him and I'm not about to start!)
Regardless, Couture is a pioneer of the sport and will always be remembered for his tireless work ethic, masterful game plans, and all-American persona, just like ol' Cap.
Last year, Rogers was killed off in the comics and another man took the mantle as the famed superhero. If Couture were to pass the torch, Forrest Griffin would be a great choice. Griffin immortalized himself in MMA history in his fight against Stephan Bonnar in the finals of season one of The Ultimate Fighter.
Griffin embodies the blue-collar work ethic that is synonymous with most Americans. Like Couture, he doesn’t have to win all his fights, but he does remain viable in the hearts of fans.
Anderson Silva as Spider-Man
Since Silva’s moniker is “The Spider,” this also seemed like an obvious choice. Spider-Man is the alter ego of Peter Parker, a teenage high school student whose self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy and loneliness allowed young readers to relate. Through a stroke of luck and a spider-bite, he gained incredible powers.
Something tells me that Silva doesn’t obsess much over rejection or inadequacy. Perhaps he did so as a teenager and that's what propelled him to become the “web-slinger” (or is that punch slinger?) that he is today. Silva’s “web” consists of super-fast pinpoint strikes and a Muay Thai clinch that his victims can’t escape once caught in. Ask Rich "Doctor Octopus" Franklin.
Silva also has that “Spidey-sense” that alerts him to danger, allows for perfect balance and equilibrium, as well as superhuman speed and agility. While Silva might not excel in applied science, chemistry and physics like Peter Parker did, his MMA game is the perfect alchemy of all the mixed martial arts.
Lyoto Machida as Batman
If there was a fighter that was as cool, mysterious and elusive as Batman, it would have to be Lyoto Machida. Machida solidified his superhero status at UFC 94 with his masterful performance over Thiago Silva. Like Batman often does, Machida made it seem nearly effortless.
But putting forth effort is only an outside appearance. The Dark Knight has every trick and gadget at his disposal and uses them when he gets in trouble. Machida’s "utility belt" includes a blend of Shotokan Karate, Sumo, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and Muay Thai.
While Machida has appeared flustered at times, his ever-evolving style allows him to remain one step ahead his foes who want his identity exposed. Just see either of the new Batman movies to get perspective on how Bruce Wayne deals with difficulties.
While Machida isn’t a wealthy industrialist, playboy and philanthropist like Wayne, he maintains the cool exterior and his hair always seems to be in place. While the biggest fear Wayne has is bats, Machida’s biggest fear may be losing as his sterling 14-0 record seems to prove.
If there was another fighter who had some similarities to Batman, it would be “cool as a cucumber” Fedor Emelianenko. If any MMA fighter remains shrouded in mystery, like Batman, it would be “The Last Emperor of Russia. I wouldn’t be surprised if Emelianenko had a compound similar to Wayne’s that is buried somewhere underneath the frozen tundra of Russia. Is he the hero that MMA (Gotham) deserves?
Georges St. Pierre as Superman
After his destruction of arch-nemesis BJ Penn in last Saturday's super-fight, the man known as GSP has risen to the top of superhero status. He certainly has X-ray vision after seeing right through Penn and don’t tell me you couldn’t see St. Pierre running around the octagon while wearing a red cape.
Superman was vulnerable to the radioactive material Kryptonite and exposure to it nullified his powers. GSP’s well-known kryptonite has been his suspect chin and mental game, although his fans would dispute this.
Regardless, St. Pierre seams to have found the “lead to his kryptonite” which is a stifling takedown offensive. His takedowns allow him to avoid the stand up game when needed, thus protecting his chin.
Ironically, Superman was co-created by Canadian-born artist Joe Shuster. Another similarity GSP shares with Superman is the strong moral compass he seems to subscribe to.
Superman was often referred to less-than-flatteringly as “the big blue Boy Scout” by some of his fellow superheroes and I wouldn’t be surprised if fellow MMA fighters had some choice nicknames to describe GSP’s signature nice guy persona.
And then there is Clark Kent. As Kent, Superman lived among humans as a “mild-mannered reporter.” Other ways to describe Kent might include awkward, nervous, and always self-effacing.
In a different version of Clark, he was given a more aggressive personality and was made a top football player in high school. I see GSP as a combination of the two, epitomizing the idea of the “athletic dork.”
If there was another classic version of Superman in MMA, that would be Chuck Liddell. While he doesn’t draw as many comparisons to Superman as GSP does, Liddell was “The Man of Steel” no one could defeat for a long stretch in his career. Liddell found his kryptonite later in his career at the hands of Keith Jardine and Rashad Evans (maybe Greg "Lex Luthor" Jackson put it in their gloves).
B.J. Penn as The Penguin
Every superhero needs a villain. The same holds truth in the world of MMA. The Penguin is depicted as a short, obese man and is one of Batman’s greatest enemies.
While B.J. Penn isn’t the archenemy of our Batman Machida, they did fight each other once. Penn is not overly short, nor is he obese, but I will let you come to your own conclusions on his stature and conditioning.
Penguin was a mobster-type criminal who fancied himself a gentleman of crime and his nightclub business provided a cover for more low-key criminal activity, which Batman tolerated as a source of criminal underworld information.
If anyone tolerates B.J.’s antics, it’s Dana White. B.J. has had his run-ins with the law and is known for his mischievous, trash talking ways. No one will forget the blood licking.
As a kid, the Penguin possessed traits that make him an outcast in his rich, high society family and their rejection drove him to become a criminal. In keeping with his family’s tradition of wealth, the Penguin lives a life of crime, yet executes it with his own self-proclaimed class and style.
B.J. wasn’t rejected by his rich family, nor is he a full-blown criminal, but the undertones remain.
Some would go as far to call the Penguin a sociopath. I wouldn’t go that far with B.J., but some of his detractors might. Personally, I enjoy the role of the villain Penn plays and it has its place in MMA.
And lastly, like any good villain, they ultimately lose to the superhero and B.J. did a fine job losing to St. Pierre.
Brock Lesnar as The Incredible Hulk
If Brock Lesnar painted himself green and ran full force at you yelling like a raged monster, wouldn’t you think he resembled The Hulk just a little? Despite the clear physical comparison, Lesnar might resemble this superhero in more ways then one.
The Hulk was the emotional and impulsive alter ego of the withdrawn and reserved physicist Dr. Bruce Banner. The Hulk appears shortly after Banner was accidentally exposed to the blast of a test detonation of a gamma bomb he invented.
While Lesnar wasn’t exposed to any gamma rays, most think of him as a freak of nature. Bruce Banner lives in a constant state of panic, always wary that the monster inside him will erupt. Therefore he can’t form meaningful bonds with anyone.
When "The Next Big Thing" isn’t looking crazed inside the octagon, he is back in Minnesota perfecting his craft as if it were a science. To say that Lesnar becomes withdrawn and reserved would be a fair characterization.
Rumors are he doesn’t even own a cell phone or get on the Internet. He remains isolated at his gym where he creates the perfect monster to dominate the world of mixed martial arts.
Ironically, the Hulk’s creator - Marvel legend Stan Lee - said he was inspired by a combination of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. Lesnar certainly seems to have two different personalities, one for the cage and for his private life and Lesnar quickly is turning himself into the Frankenstein of MMA.
Gina Carano as Wonder Woman or Catwoman
I will let you pick your favorite. Personally, I prefer the Wonder Woman costume but you can't go wrong either way. One thing is for sure: this All-American beauty has the talent and the look of a super hero. She can rescue me anyday!
I could go on and find more superhero counterparts for other MMA fighters but I don’t want to have all the fun. Hopefully, some of you can add to the list. Feel free to call out any discrepancies I may have made in labeling or add to the list of things that make these fighters like their superhero counterparts.