MMA demands violence, sweat and sacrifice. Fighters endure these rigors; so, we idolize them. Our favorite UFC fighters are heroes, even if they are vapid and plain outside the Octagon.
So, martial arts skills aside, is your favorite fighter really that badass in real life?
There are some fighters who act like heroes by any metric, thanks to their exploits away from the cage. Their appeal as heroes is universal, even to those who deplore MMA.
I've jotted down a list of men who dispel the myth that MMA fighters leave their grit in the cage. The spirits of these men shine through many avenues, not just pro fighting.
Let's celebrate them.
Meet Phoenix Jones: amateur MMA fighter and superhero.
Jones, whose parents named him Ben Fodor, leads a crime-prevention patrol group in Seattle known as The Rain City Superhero Movement.
This isn't a banal movie plot: Jones and his crew are Seattle's sentinels. His squad, always well-equipped, dons garish threads as they traverse the city in search of crime to quell.
When he's not busting scalawags in Seattle's streets, Jones thrashes innocent men in a cage. He's amassed a 15-2 amateur record, as per Sherdog.net.
I questioned Jones' intentions. "He must be an attention hoarder," I thought. There's no way he's helping extinguish crime.
Conversely, his help is actually valuable. Among other busts, the vigilante has caught a man wanted by the FBI, according to Seattlepi.com.
Brian Stann fights without fear. He's willing to step into the pocket against any foe and throw leather until someone tumbles to the canvas. Stann's lionhearted approach to fighting shouldn't come as a jolt: He's handled far more duress than facing an unarmed brawler.
Stann served in the Iraq War as a platoon leader, according to his website. Their first mission: seize a well-defended bridge. An insurgent ambush seemed inevitable.
Indeed, Stann's men fell into a rigged ambush. Stann's 2nd Mobile Assault Platoon was surrounded. They withstood RPG attacks, IED threats and constant streams of machine gun fire.
His blood astir with courage and mind with tact, “The All-American” didn't wilt: He fought while directing air support and tank fire, moves that turned the battle's tide. Amid a volley of fire, Stann also established casualty evacuation points for his men hit by suicide IED attacks.
The soon-to-be WEC champ was honored with a Silver Star for his sharp performance under fire and distress.
And to think people believe Stann ducked Hector Lombard, a solitary man without an arsenal. Pssht!
Paulo Thiago holds two jobs. One of them demands a wealth of toughness, tactical prowess and combat training. The other is MMA.
The favelas of Brazil aren't far removed from hell. Their streets foster some of the most wretched criminals on Earth. As a member of BOPE, Brazil's answer to SWAT, Thiago probed the loaded favelas and pacified their streets.
Thiago must fancy MMA like he would a placid picnic in suburbia, considering his former calling asked him to neutralize hordes of armed bandits in the indifferent slums of his homeland.
Thiago's job description included: shoot to kill criminal threats, provide assault firepower in certain situations, rescue hostages, and exterminate drug trafficking criminal factions and all of its members; this told by bope-elite-squad.com.
BOPE is a renowned killing machine. Watch Tropa de Elite to understand the brutal, hardened nature of BOPE.
Honorable Mention: On a similar note, Mirko Cro Cop worked in an anti-terrorist unit in Croatia.
His fighting career has ebbed, but Roger Huerta's storied gambits outside of MMA have propelled his stock as a badass.
When Huerta sees injustice, he channels Wyatt Earp.
One of Huerta's triumphs: He witnessed a hulking man punch a woman on a Texas street, as per TMZ.com. While onlookers ignored the horror, Huerta, never meek, confronted the abuser, who went full-moron and tried to attack Huerta too.
That was silly.
In predictable storybook fashion, Huerta punished him with fists of justice, rendering the villain a fleshy lump on the road. Rightfully, the former UFC employee wasn't punished by law for his daring.
Huerta's heroism wasn't spent in Texas. Years later, Huerta corralled a drowning boy from the waters of a Thai beach, and performed CPR on the squirt before paramedics arrived, thereby saving his life, as per mixedmartialarts.com.
His career continues to sink, to the point where his most popular recent highlight is him getting near decapitated by a soccer kick. But Huerta's clout as a common savior will embed him in the minds of those who know of him.