As we approach UFC 100, I think it’s an apropos time to wax philosophical about MMA. Instead of offering up fight predictions, I want to tackle the big questions. Questions like: Why is MMA now widely accepted as the fastest growing sport in the world?
How do we explain this phenomenon? How did we move from bloodsport to big time?
The very ontology of the sport is a good place to start. Americans, at this time in history (particularly those of us between the ages of, say, 20 and 40 - MMA’s core fan base), have a very hard time with commitment. With jobs. With relationships. With YouTube clips.
How many numbers do you have in your cell phone contacts? How many part-time jobs do you work? How long can you watch a movie (or, God forbid, read a book) for without getting bored?
I personally don’t know many people in committed relationships. Even my friends who are married are already on their way to divorce. Our culture just doesn’t promote the idea of monogamy–personally or professionally–as a sexy thing. Just look at all the shows on VH1, TLC, or Bravo. Even when people “find” love, they need to lose it before season two.
Our solution to the dizzying array of choices in life has not been commitment to a singular focus, but rather to mash it all up.
Most of my friends have multiple professional identities: waitresses who are dancers; personal trainers who are actors; lawyers who are chefs...
This is why MMA is the ultimate sport for the commitment-phobe. Not just for fans, who are typically treated to pay-per-view cards with five matches, but for practitioners as well.
Consider the hip-hop nature of the sport: lay down an old school beat (say Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Thai Kickboxing), and then freestyle on top; mixing and matching techniques from different styles, and different cultures.
You’re not good with your hands? You can still make it in MMA as a Jiu-Jitsu stylist. Not flexible? Shoot a double leg, pound ‘em out.
There’s no other sport that lends itself to so many possible narratives. 25 minute grappling wars. 30 second knockouts. Everything in between.
We don’t have to choose. MMA is for the player in all of us.
[Stay tuned for Part II of this ongoing piece]