Rio Heroes: Legit or Human Cock-Fighting?

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Rio Heroes: Legit or Human Cock-Fighting?

Back in the mid to late 90s, when the UFC was getting started, Arizona Senator (and now presidental candidate) John McCain placed himself at the forefront the battle to make sure that No Holds Barred fighting had nothing to do with American Sports. He likened it to gladiator combat in ancient Rome and (the most quoted) human cock-fighting.

The premise of the first UFC was simple. What form of martial arts is superior to all others? In that first UFC competition spectators saw Savate, Sumo, Pancrase, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, Western Boxing and Karate. 

The first actual fight pitted Savate (a vicious form of kickboxing where the practioners wear shoes) World Champion Gerard Gordeau versus Samoan Sumo Wrestler Teila Tuli. The fight lasted :30 seconds as Gordeau avoided Tuli's initial rush, forced him against the fence and landed a vicious kick to Tuli's face, visibly knocking out his tooth. His eyes were cut and he seemed confused as to what had happened. The referee immediately stepped in to inspect Tuli's injury and after much debate, ended the match.

While Tuli was being looked at, announcer Jim Brown (why he was any announcer for NHB fighting is anyone's guess) say that he disagreed with the ref stopping the fight and that action should continue. This sentiment held true with what many believed the sport would be, the last man standing. The idea of submissions seemed so alien to the referee that submissions by Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie were not immediatley stopped.

The event was set up as a spectacle and that was what people had paid money to see. People wanted to see blood and carnage and find out exactly what form of fighting was the best (surprise, it wasn't karate).

As UFC PPV events rolled on, critics of mixed martial arts fighting (if you could even call it that at the time) came out of the woodwork. It was called a bloodsport and was likened- thanks Senator- to cock-fighting.

First of all, if we are going to compare any fighting competition to cock fighting, it is going to be capoeira- the Brazilian dance fighting adapted by slaves so that slave owners would not realize that they were practicing a form of self defense (watch the Temple fight scene in the Tony Jaa movie The Protector, or the movie Only the Strong to see more of capoeira, though it does show up in just about any tournament style martial arts movie). As the sport style evolved it went to the streets were combatants often tied knives and blades to their feet to increase the deadliness of their kicks- exactly like what is done with chickens in cock fighting.

So, McCain got his way and the sport changed, for the better I might add. Rules were set and put in place to protect the fighters. 4 ounce gloves were made mandatory along with protective cups and mouth guards. Big John McCarthy took care of the quality reffing as he was more than willing to throw himself in the middle of a situation that was getting out of control.

The sport became more controlled and evolved. There were no longer single facet competitors. Combination of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, wrestling, Pancrase and boxing melded together to get the fighters we have today. The skill level has increased as well as the intensity of the sport.

Then there is Rio Heroes. If you were so inclined, you would call it a more pure version of the MMA fighting that most of us know. It is much more similar to Vale Tudo rules, which find themselves somewhere between where the UFC was and is now. The basic rules of vale tudo are no biting, no eye gouging, no time limits, no gloves required, groin shots, head butts, soccer kicking (or stomping) a downed opponent, strikes behind the head or spine are all legal. It is truly the embodiment of last man standing. 

But human cock-fighting it isn't. This isn't to the death. Given the environment and the promoter is it no more violent that standard MMA fights. Let's not forget that there are plenty of underground fights and smokers out there (right Din Thomas?). Amateurs are out there all the time putting themselves on the line in competitions that don't even have medical supervision.

Is Rio Heroes dangerous? Hell yes, it is a brutal sport that looks more like it takes place in a basement or alley versus the Las Vegas strip. The fighters look bloodthirsty and as tough as they come... but they aren't looking for a kill. They want to win. They want to win by the rules of the sport.

Is Rio Heroes bloody? Yes. Is the UFC bloody? Hell yes (anyone see Babalu's last fight in the UFC?)! Is it human cock fighting? Not even close. The difference is that it doesn't get the glitz and glamour that shows like UFC, WEC, Strikeforce and K-1 get. It is the way that the UFC was for a time, but the fighters are better trained (more dangerous). The sport has risks, but it isn't forced upon the fighters. For many it is their way of life. Gracies have been prevalent and dominant in the sport for years and their blood is the basis of what MMA is today.

We may not understand it, or particularly like to watch it, but we shouldn't be so fast to judge it. It is a different place and a different set of circumstances. If you don't like it don't watch it and sure as hell don't compete in it. And if you feel you have something against it, ask yourself, would the world of MMA be what it is today without the type of fighting shown in vale tudo and Rio Heroes?

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