For those of us in the media today it seems that people have two separate reactions to MMA, one of complete disgust, or one of awe to the spectacle of two people fighting.
The truth of the matter is that even for those that choose the latter, there is a line of acceptability. We often don't know where it is, at least not in a clear sense, but we know it's there.
From MMA's Pankration roots, and it's Roman hyperbole, MMA is one of the safest contact sports in the world, with a death figure in the country still in the single digits.
However, brutality is tough to stomach in any form, perhaps it's human nature, perhaps it's been nurtured into us as civilization has taken hold, either way people can't handle intense violence for fear of turning their children into blood craving monsters hell bent on eating small kittens.
At K-1 Dynamite 2009, an unpleasant incident accrued. For that we have no debate.
However who's to blame for the fallout of it? Hirota for allowing his arm to be broken by not ending the fight when he should have? Or Aoki for mishandling the situation post-fight?
The answer is both.
Shinya Aoki has taken the load of the blame for his bird flipping of his defeated adversary. But how should we handle Hirota?
After all he could have ended the fight himself with his arm still intact at any point during the near 20 second hold. The result would have been the same regardless. He doesn't need to be signing checks with his left hand right now.
He didn't need to have that surgery to repair the structural damage to his shoulder, but there he is with his arm bent like a chicken's wing, and how do we choose to portray him? He's the victim of a savage attack, and a “true warrior” for never giving up in the face of impossible odds.
This is false and we know it, but we say it anyway because we feel we need to respect a fallen fighter, and to an extent we do.
However, is it not fair for Aoki to feel equally disrespected by a fighter refusing to tap out to a fully applied submission with no hope of escape, for being forced to injure a fellow competitor?
It leads to a delicate issue. When should you be expected to admit defeat?
The simple answer would be when they can't escape, or the pain in the joint risks injury. But we know the fans expect more effort than that. Taking a beating and not quitting is almost as important as winning fights in the MMA world today.
Clay Guida's “cardio” plays off of this persona. It really means, I won't quit.
Fujita, equally made a name for himself with his iron chin, and wrestling chops. Sakuraba has been in a world of trouble before, and has comeback from impossible odds in the past.
In fact, legend building is more important to a fighting career than anything else. As much as we like to call ourselves elitists, who only want to see the best fighters fight the best fighters. Guys like Phil Baroni, and Mark Coleman have built such reputations just on the back of never quitting, despite having fuel mileage standards worse than the now defunct Hummer.
Bravado permeates the sport. It's the most enduring reason it's gained the following it has in the male demographics. We want to be tough, masculine, get the hot babes, grunt a lot, and tapping out cramps our tender egos. Instead they endure the pain of having a shoulder ripped out of it's socket or an elbow dislocated. After all, chicks dig scars right?
The question is, are we willing to sacrifice some of that bravado to reduce the number of unfortunate incidents that happen? Either through fines, or suspensions, and even if we could how could we enforce it?
It's a sticky situation regardless of how it gets handled it. Do we “stay the course” as George W. Bush coined during the 2004 elections, living with the occasional broken arm, or torn up knee? Or do we come up with some form of bureaucratic, or civil justice to reduce the amount fighters willingly sacrificing their limbs?
Cheick Kongo obviously made the decision to go to sleep rather than tap to a Frank Mir guillotine choke just a few weeks ago. It was fairly clear he made that decision with plenty of time to make the other. Should we not rebuke this senseless course of action?
In the end I've weaved the topic in my head ever since I watched the fight, with no hope of escaping the fence... and maybe that's an answer in and of itself.