Ahh, the good ole days.
Remember when Royce Gracie, a sensational but one-dimensional fighter was destroying guys twice his size with some newfangled fighting system called Brazilian jiu-jitsu?
Remember when Frank Shamrock slammed Igor Zinoviev, literally ending his opponent's career with one powerful act of sheer brutal force?
Those were awesome times. The sport was bursting from the ground as a small sprout, eager to soak up some sun and water from its adoring, violence-hungry fans.
And we fed the small plant well.
Like Jack's beanstalk, the sport of MMA blossomed before us with unparalleled speed and tenacity, capturing more and more fans along its ascent to the world of mainstream sport.
Now, as the sport is bigger than ever, as more people watch and more people understand the game than ever before, we see the emergence of nostalgia.
We see people who want to see unrestricted violence—street fighting—and who want to see some Roman Coliseum-caliber battles.
Friends, the "good ole days" are gone, and they are not coming back.
Were they fun?
There was nothing like a ferocious battle in the Pride ring and nothing like watching a 400-pound Sumo specialist get his teeth knocked across an arena.
The sport has evolved though, and we fans need to evolve with it.
The more we strive to recreate the good ole days, the more we miss what is beautiful about the current state of the sport. We have rules, regulations, trainers, game plans and a global demand.
This is a sport now, and it is better that way. These athletes are more skilled and under more pressure than ever before. The money is there, the mainstream appeal is there and we are there to witness it all develop.
The sport has progressed. Just like football, baseball, hockey and basketball before it, MMA has changed and molded itself to fit the times.
The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were awesome and boasted some of the most dominant teams in the history of football, but a reincarnation of the 1976 Steelers would be a terrible team by today's standards. The sport was different then, just as MMA was different in its infancy.
Just like my beloved "Steel Curtain"-era Steelers, the 1993 version of Royce Gracie would struggle to win a single fight in the current landscape of MMA.
Gone are the days of one-dimensional specialists; successful fighters today can do everything, and they can do it all exceptionally well.
This only opens up more opportunities for exciting matchups, for sport in its purest form. MMA is, after all, a sport at its core, and we need to treat it as such.
The UFC is not what it used to be, and that is a good thing.
Wipe the tears out of your eyes, put down your best of Pancrase VHS and appreciate what you have in front of you. This is a rapidly developing sport that is becoming ingrained in our lives more and more everyday.
Pride fights, UFC 1 and Wanderlei Silva highlight reels will always exist, but the progress we are experiencing now is a one-shot opportunity. You can be along for the ride and enjoy it, or you can complain about how the seat is too hard and how you liked your old one better.
So open your eyes.
I would hate for you to miss it.
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