MMA is more than violence. The rapacious bloodlust that purportedly fuels MMA and its fandom only exists in the minds of those ignorant to one of MMA's true strengths—inspiration.
The saga of fans and fighters is one of human interest, one of overcoming adversity, beating the odds and saving lives.
What stories, specifically, warm the heart and soothe the soul?
Read and find out!
The name "Joe Lozito" probably doesn't elicit any reactions, save for a "who" amongst casual fans and even some hardcore ones.
However, his tale—one of superlative bravery and survival—is arguably the most harrowing on the list.
It started on the New York City subway.
Lozito was confronted by a knife-wielding attacker who threatened to end his life. Lozito had other plans.
Instead of playing the victim, he took action. A long-time interest in MMA served as his weapon.
Lozito had been watching the sport since the inception of the UFC in 1993. As an avid fan for such a long time, he garnered a basic understanding of MMA techniques and was able to use them to save his life under extreme duress.
Watching MMA and being familiar with some moves doesn't make one bulletproof (or knifeproof as the case may be), but in the case of Lozito, it made him a survivor rather than a statistic.
To MMA fans, it sometimes feels that self-defense is a neglected skill in today's world. Many people forget that, in some sordid places, people would be willing to murder you for your cell phone and the contents of your wallet/purse.
Fortunately, the lessons of self-defense wasn't wasted on Antoni Hardonk—a kickboxer and MMA fighter who had a mediocre 4-4 stint in the UFC heavyweight division before retiring from competition.
While not a noteworthy, top-tier fighter, Hardonk proved one night that he was a courageous man and a hero—stopping a group of thugs not once but twice.
The first time, his tough demeanor and size were enough to intimidate the would-be robbers into backing off taking his wallet.
As he was being driven home, he noticed the same group of men surrounding a woman and then grappling with a man over his wallet.
He sprung into action and rescued the victims.
"I believe if you can do something to help someone else, you should," Hardonk told Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. "We're all here and we should all try to help each other if we can. It's the right thing to do. I just did what I thought was right."
A similar story happened with former UFC fighter Guy Mezger, who saved a woman who was being publicly roughed up and berated by her boyfriend.
After getting involved, the man eventually pulled a knife on Mezger who made short work of the attacker.
Another former UFC employee in Roger Huerta, too, intervened on behalf of a woman who was being attacked.
In an infamously viral video, Huerta battered a larger opponent who had previously laid hands on a woman, infuriating Huerta.
These stories show that people exist who do the right things, and you can too.
Some people don't train because of injuries, some people don't train because they're nervous about it, some people don't train because they're just lazy—Nick Newell is none of those people.
Suffering from congenital amputation, Nick Newell was born missing a large part of his left arm (it stopped just beneath the elbow).
Despite this massive setback (and that's an understatement), Newell managed to make the most of what physical tools he had, becoming an accomplished wrestler, and eventually, an undefeated MMA fighter with a current record of 8-0.
If you're ever telling yourself, "I can't," you can—just think of Nick Newell.
Sometimes acts of heroism and inspiration come from the most unlikeliest of places—such as from a nine-year-old boy.
In 2009, a child by the name of Drew Heredia was walking with a friend of his who was walking their dog. The party was met by a larger dog.
He wasn't friendly.
The larger dog bit Heredia's friend's dog and then Heredia's friend.
A typical kid might scream ineffectually or run for help that'd take minutes to arrive. Instead, Heredia sprang to action, employing a rear-naked choke (a hold commonly used in MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu) to subdue the dog for 20 minutes until help arrived.
For heart-pounding, exhilarating moments that burn brightly in memories and motivate people to do those extra reps or make that important decision (or what have you), there are few in-cage moments better than Frankie Edgar's latter two fights with Gray Maynard.
Edgar's first ever loss was to Gray Maynard in 2008.
Years later, Edgar would become the UFC lightweight champion, and Maynard would challenge him for the belt.
In the very first round of their second encounter at UFC 125, Maynard nearly separated Edgar from his consciousness. Even after Edgar barely survived the first round, it seemed as though he was defeated. He was out—standing up and wobbly; defeat was imminent.
Except it wasn't.
Edgar overcame the adversity of the first round as well as his size disadvantage to fight to a draw. Since the title cannot change hands on a draw, a rematch was booked at UFC 136.
The first round of the rematch played out in exactly the same fashion, with Maynard steamrolling over Edgar but not being able to finish him.
However, the major difference in this fight was that Edgar managed to pull off a stunning KO in the fourth round, sending fans into a frenzy.
Whenever you think you've faced too much to overcome or that you've been dealt a poor hand (either genetically or through some other irrevocable twist of fate), remember Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II and III.
Alan Belcher isn't nicknamed "The Talent" for no reason.
However, no amount of talent could've saved him from a nearly career-ending injury—a detached retina that threatened to leave him blind in one eye.
Belcher had to persevere through two major surgeries and sit on the sidelines while the sport was passing him by, forgetting about him.
After being out action for over a year, Belcher made a triumphant return against the mid-level opponent Jason Macdonald.
While it was a great performance, the skeptics weren't convinced that Belcher was truly "back."
Belcher was then matched up with Brazilian jiu-jitsu monster and perennial twister-of-limbs Rousimar Palhares.
Palhares was expected to make short work of the "overmatched" Belcher.
Instead, Belcher dominated Palhares, who was unable to submit Belcher, despite various leglock (Palhares' specialty) attempts.
Belcher worked through his deleterious setback and never lost hope. Now, he's a top contender in the middleweight division.
Ikuhisa Minowa started his MMA career at an abysmal 4-9-3 after the first two years.
Most men would've just given up; They would've said "a future in MMA just isn't in the cards for me" or some other self-defeating notion.
But Minowa kept fighting, kept training, kept trying—and kept winning.
Two years later, he was 17-12-6. While still a somewhat pedestrian record overall, he managed to go 13-3-3 after his initial 4-9-3 run. That's a significant turnaround.
Most men would've stopped here. "I did alright," they'd say.
Alright wasn't good enough for Minowa—he wanted to be remembered.
While Minowa's run wouldn't improve much in terms of win-loss ratio (his record currently stands at 54-34-8, losing to almost all the big names and beating mostly lower-level fighters), he would certainly be remembered.
Minowa (referred to commonly as "Minowaman") is a cult figure in the MMA fandom for his tenacity and his fearlessness in fighting much larger opponents.
In fact, what is arguably Minowa's most impressive streak of wins came in 2009 in Dream's "Super Hulk Grand Prix" where Minowa won the tournament by dismantling much larger opponents such as the massive Bob Sapp, 7'2" kickboxer Hong Man Choi and the chiseled UFC veteran Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
Minowa is an example of just trying as hard and as consistently as you can. You might not ever be great at something, but you can always be better. Minowa embodies that spirit.
To hardcore fans, it's well-known lore that Rich Franklin didn't have a proper background in combat sports before embarking on his MMA voyage.
He was a math teacher, a math teacher who first trained in the grappling arts via instructional videos.
One thing led to another and eventually Franklin became a professional fighter, and then, the UFC middleweight champion.
This could not have happened if Franklin didn't have the temerity to try and pursue a greater life for himself.
Remember the movie Kick-Ass?
Well, there's a guy who kind of does the stuff in that movie. Except, he's not a kid, and he can really kick your ass.
His name is Ben Fodor, and he's an MMA fighter, although he's better known as Phoenix Jones, the costumed hero of Seattle.
Jones dresses up in a high-tech suit (he recently planned on creating one valued at nearly $200,000) and patrols the streets at night like a real-life Batman. A full profile about Jones and his other vigilante friends can be read here.
Jones, when he saw corruption and villainy, didn't stand still and wait for it to envelop all of society. He went out, and he did something about it. That trait is something that more people should emulate.
Fighting, generally, is not a lucrative business.
Many fighters need to work full-time jobs in addition to their job as a fighter in order to make ends meet.
Current UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was one such fighter.
In fact, he once worked as a garbage man over the span of a few months!
If GSP can work a menial job while still attempting to achieve his dream and succeeding, so can we all.
Just because a story hasn't been reported on in the news doesn't mean it can't be inspirational.
There are countless men and women around the world who have used MMA to enact a positive change in their lives, and they, too, are inspirational tales. Whether it's someone who uses MMA to lose weight and becomes fit and healthy in the process or a person who makes MMA their vocation rather than resorting to crime and villainy, these people are examples to us all.