As a hardcore mixed martial arts junkie, I can't help get a little perturbed when casual fans do things like boo fights that are wrestling and clinch heavy or make asinine remarks about the action inside the cage.
It's really not their fault. They just don't know the intricacies of the sport that well.
However, as I watched Saturday night's UFC 158 with a group of newly minted MMA enthusiasts, I couldn't help but be a little optimistic for the future of the sport's fandom after seeing their reactions to the welterweight title fight. What I saw was an outpouring of positive response to champ Georges St-Pierre's domination on the mats, a possible sign that the casual fan may have finally learned to love wrestling in MMA.
Now, of course, not everyone in the small group I watched the fights with showed an appreciation for St-Pierre's repeated takedowns and forcing the fight to the ground. But overall, I heard cheers and more positive remarks throughout the champ's domination of Nick Diaz.
You could even hear the Montreal crowd's excitement every time their hometown star got Diaz on his back or worked the clinch against the cage. Sure, they have a bit of a bias toward the champ, but there's no denying that they have an appreciation for St-Pierre's high level of ground skills.
While casual fight fans are starting to show a better understanding of the wrestling and ground portions of MMA, it takes high-level practitioners like St-Pierre to really get people excited about this part of the sport.
For the uninitiated, stand-up brawls will always reign supreme as a casual fight fan's top preference, but when he or she sees just a technically brilliant, dominant performance like the champ's on Saturday night, they can't help but show some respect.
Sure, casual MMA fans may always fancy the sport's bloodier side, but at least they are finally learning the nuances of the ground game.
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