What do we mean when we say world class? What is the message that is conveyed by that term? Is it more a cliche or a description of the quality surrounding any particular topic described as such?
World class in reference to the sport of MMA really is as literal as it sounds. It is a type of competition that allows for any person to compete at the highest level of the sport, regardless of their nationality or beliefs.
The eclectic mosaic of competitors that compete in this sport could rival any other sport one could offer. The level of athletic capability found amongst those competitors could easily rival any other athlete in any pro sport.
Any individual with the drive and desire to be a mixed martial artist, can take their first steps to learn this sport and assuming they have what it takes, they can compete given the opportunity to do so.
It is not just any sport that allows for any average Joe to compete, and depending on their capabilities, be allowed to compete at the highest levels of the game.
Not just anyone can wake up one day, watch Albert Pujols and make up their minds, baseball is what they want to do. There is a lengthy process involved, that if not pursued at a very young age, will be almost impossible to attain.
Any young person can decide they want to compete in MMA. And if they have the skills and the proper training, within a few years, they could be competing on some of the biggest stages.
Those young men or women could hail from Brazil, the U.S., Canada, Thailand, Europe, or even Iceland, there are no boundaries. They could be of any nationality, any fighting discipline, any religion.
The ability to bring together so many different cultures and meld them as one is one of the very aspects that sets MMA right up next to any other sport that can be mentioned. MMA is more like proper football than anything, or maybe the Olympics, with regard to its wide spread acceptance and following amongst various cultures.
Does that argument make MMA world class all on its own? Of course not. MMA, for all the allure and positive potential, still has many quirks to sort out before it is as streamlined as MLB, or the NFL. The point is though, even as it is today, its much more than it is given credit for being.
We are talking about a sport that is widely accepted as a viable form of athletic competition across this planet. Some cultures accept it more than others, but in the end, the country that supports it the most can't seem to wrap the public conscious around its quality.
The sport is still illegal in a handful of states across the U.S. How in the world can that be? This is a sport that spans the globe, and somehow right here in the freedom capital of the world, fight fans and fighters alike are still being told what is acceptable for them to support or not. Go ahead and think about that for a minute.
While you think about it, consider this. Abu Dhabi, of the United Arab Emirates, buried deep in one of the most imposing, hands on, and culturally driven communities in the world, doesn't have a problem supporting and condoning the sport.
We are in a time in history where tension between the Muslim and American community could not be more stressed. Yet somehow, the UFC has an event, a mega-event really, scheduled to take place in this region this very year.
But we can't get a fight for Matt Serra in The Big Apple, seriously, are you kidding? If an Emirate like Abu Dhabi can wrap their minds around MMA long enough to see not only its value but its worth, what are our leaders here in the states missing?
The overall point is this, look at the top four pound for pound kings atop the MMA ladder and that is all the example one needs to accept this sport as a world class, culturally diverse, potentially dominating sport if given the opportunity to be as such.
These are in no particular order, line them up as you see fit, but the point remains. Anderson Silva (Brazilian), Georges St. Pierre (Canadian), Fedor Emelianenko (Russian), and B.J. Penn (American). To fly to each of them, you would have to span the globe.
They are the faces of this sport, and to a man, each has individual qualities that reflect on the integrity of this sport. There are aspects to each fighter that easily stack up to a Derek Jeter, a Kobe Bryant, or a Tiger Woods. It's the lack of credit they are given that holds them back, not their abilities or character.
It grows tiresome hearing the judgement passed on this great sport, it irritates people to have to explain over and over again what it is that appeals about MMA. It chaps ones hind quarters when they have to hear some yokel talk about two guys in their underwear tickling each other.
Let me tell you something, I've said it before and I will say it again, look me in the eye with straight face and a fraction of knowledge, then tell me Georges. St. Pierre is not a world class athlete.
I will laugh in your face, and challenge you to name another athlete who is superior. When you're done making a jerk out of yourself trying to explain it, I will give you a list of even more fighters who are equally as talented if not very close.
The bottom line is this. England, Ireland, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and now the UAE to name a few countries, have all opened up their minds and accepted this sport for what it truly is, world class, not to mention highly entertaining.
Oh yeah, and most of a country that considers itself free, the good ol' U.S.A. also accepts and promotes MMA. So tell me after hearing all that, what exactly is the hold up in New York and various other states? When are people going to take down their defenses and realize MMA is on a come up, they can either get on board or get the hell out of the way.
It sort of reminds me of prohibition, or maybe even marijuana being illegal. Let's face it, the people typically do what they want when they want. If the government wants to ignore that, the people will take their risks with the notion its unacceptable, and do it anyway.
They can either pretend in their tiny little boxes that they have the upper hand, or they can step outside the box and realize the people are the pulse, and like it or not, we support this, it's happening, and MMA isn't going anywhere, take it or leave it.
MMA is not a crime, it's a beautiful expression of combat arts. The key word being arts. The mural painted on the canvas of a cage floor as the brush strokes of the fighters come together is nothing less than captivating.
Go into any gym anywhere in this world, and talk to some amateur fighter trying to make their way in this game. Listen to their heart, listen to their drive, and hear them light up when they talk about their accomplishments.
The allure of this sport brings the best out of people, the discipline and integrity required to compete really raises ones character in the process to attain it. Not every competition can say the same.
Barbaric? Yes. Dangerous? Inherently. Brutal? No, evolved. Unacceptable? Tell that to decades if not centuries of cultural involvement in root disciplines.
World class? You bet your ass it is.