Someone Please Explain the Appeal of Mixed Martial Arts

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIApril 13, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - APRIL 04:  (LtoR) Chris Horodecki in the white trunks of Team Tompkins battles Nate Lamotte in the white trunks of the IFL in the International Fighting League match at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 4, 2008.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for IFL)

I watched my first-ever MMA fight on Saturday—Ken Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz.

I'm a boxing fan, but I've always held some amount of disdain for the entire MMA phenomenon. Anyway, I'll get more into that later on.

I came out of the fight with the same attitude with which I came in: I just don't get it, and I can't understand MMA's popularity.

I've always held the opinion that MMA was a white-trash "sport"—a sport reserved for the underbelly of our society. The guys with no future that listen to Eminem, shop at Wal-Mart, eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, and play hours of X-Box.

That sounds horrible, but I only write it because half my family falls into that category.

The Shamrock-Diaz fight started with some very, very weak stand-up fighting. Diaz kicked Shamrock and then he was on top of him, throwing punches at his head while Shamrock lay pinned on the ground.

The second round wasn't much different, as this guy Shamrock looked like a drunken bouncer who'd never seen a boxing ring. He couldn't protect himself from a basic jab. Diaz had some boxing skills, but would have been beaten by an average club fighter.

The ground fighting just looked like two guys rolling around on top of each other. There's something called "top guard" and a "kimono."

I've watched Greco Roman wrestling and came away equally as bored.

I've been told that MMA is the purest way of fighting, and that it combines hand fighting, ground fighting, and the use of kicks. But it's not marketed that way, and I don't think most of the patrons look at the nobility of the sport. I think they just like to see one guy get the crap beaten out of him.

There was, quite honestly, something stomach-churning about watching Shamrock lie on his back while Diaz sat on top of him and rained down punches on his head. My wife was disgusted...and she's a boxing fan!

I'm not sure if I can express why I find boxing so interesting, yet am put off by MMA. I'm completely aware that boxing is a brutal sport that often leaves its champions punch-drunk, writhing with Parkinson’s...or dead.

Maybe if MMA was marketed differently? I mean, they fight in a cage. Animals belong in cages. Is that the connotation...that these fighters are little more than animals? Maybe these fighters are barely above pit bulls in the food chain, or perhaps they're like fighting roosters?

More than that, the sport seems to be marketed like a blood sport.

It's not trying to be honorable or respectful. The music, the advertisements, and even the announcers all appear to be marketing themselves to a generation of disenfranchised young men with ADD and anger issues.

I noticed something else: Most of the fighters are white. Maybe this explains the appeal more than anything else? Boxing seems to be dominated by black and Hispanic fighters, and it has been this way for decades.

Look into the crowd at an MMA fight and it's predominantly young, white males in their teens or 20s. Perhaps this is where they can find an identity? Maybe they can get lost in MMA and forget about the hopelessness of their own lives?

Maybe they can feel good about watching white guys kick a little ass for a change?

Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'd much rather someone in my own family learn how to fight and hit the gym rather than getting drunk, high, or wasting life playing a video game.

I watched the Paul Williams-Winky Wright fight afterwards, and honestly found it be to be tremendously more entertaining than the MMA bout. The fighters were amazing technicians and clinical in their execution. They were obviously far, far superior athletes to any of the MMA guys.

Maybe there's something to be said for watching two guys who are absolutely the best in the world at their one fighting discipline rather than watching some guys try to master four disciplines?

Anyway, I gave MMA a chance, but I'm sorry to say...I'll stick to watching boxing.