So You Wanna Be a Fighter?
I was sitting around the TV one rainy afternoon last May with a group of friends - watching an NBA playoff game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards - when we began discussing our favorite athletes. With the majority of us being native to New England, names like Paul Pierce, Tom Brady and David Ortiz were mentioned several times. Naturally, I announced that my favorite athlete was BJ Penn. I received a few confused looks before explaining that BJ Penn is a jiu-jitsu world champion, as well as the lightweight champion of the UFC.
One of my friends, not a knowledgable MMA fan himself, shouted out: “You know who my favorite UFC fighter is? Kimbo Slice.” Because he was actually being serious, I almost smacked him. But instead, I calmly explained that Kimbo Slice was not in the UFC, nor would he ever be. I made it perfectly clear that MMA and the UFC were not the same thing, and that the UFC is simply the biggest organization within the sport of MMA.
Now this kid also happened to be a co-worker of mine for the majority of the summer, and spent a considerable about of time in my apartment, where he was further exposed to the sport. He spent countless hours watching my UFC and TUF dvds, and even asked me to show him a few moves. While I am by no means a qualified instructor, I have studied martial arts for a significant amount of time, and have medaled in several karate and jiu-jitsu tournaments. I showed him a few basic submissions just to humor him.
This went on for awhile, and over time, his personality started to change. Normally a quiet and mild-mannered kid, he began having occasional outbursts where he’d start shadow boxing like a jackass and saying how he badly wanted to knock someone out. I’d usually just tell him to lay off the dvds and leave him alone. This continued throughout the summer months, and MMA became the only thing he ever talked about. He even made up a story about how he got into a fight with a much bigger opponent at a party, and won using the techniques he had seen on TV. He told the story to anyone who would listen (I later found out that the “fight” was actually a friendly wrestling match against his friend, which ended once his friend was too tired to continue). At one point, he declared that his goal was to be in the UFC within a few years, even suggesting that he could defeat some of the fighters he had seen. My co-workers and I would just laugh, though he was starting to get on everyone’s nerves – mine in particular.
Martial arts are something I take seriously, and this kid was making a mockery of the sport. Day in and day out, I explained to him that the odds of fighting in the UFC are slim to none, unless you’re a jiu-jitsu or muay thai prodigy, or an all-american wrestler. He didn’t wanna hear it. One day, I decided to show him exactly what I was talking about. I challenged him to a grappling match, to which he happily obliged. Right away I tied him up with double underhooks, and noticed that he was breathing aggressively and grunting (two things that have no place in a grappling match). I pulled guard and swept him with a scissor sweep. I now had him mounted and grapevined. He rolled over and gave me his back, and I immediately sunk in a rear naked choke. I let him up, and explained to him that even though I had just submitted him in a matter of seconds, I would get absolutely destroyed by any professional mixed martial artist. He seemed very curious, so I enlightened him on the logistics of jiu-jitsu, and how it may look basic on TV, but in reality, takes decades to master. For the first time, I seemed to get through to him.
To be 100% clear, I’m not trying to deter any aspiring fighters out there, as I’m sure most of you are aware of what it takes to become a professional mixed martial artist. And I'm not trying to promote my jiu-jitsu skills, which are nothing special. However, I know that there are an abundance of people out there, like my friend, who need a reality check. So to those people, I would like to offer a little insight, and refute a few of the outlandish statements I've heard over the past few months.
Myth #1: "I bet I can knock out so-and-so with one punch."
No, you can't. If you think you can KO any of the fighters you’ve seen on TV, you’re a moron. Just in case you forgot, these guys fight for a living. They’re trained to punch, kick, knee and elbow guys who know how to counter their every move. Do you think you’d even be able to hit a world class fighter, let alone hard enough to knock him out? Even more importantly, would you be able to avoid being hit? Fat chance. I dare you to go in there with him and start throwing wild punches like you would in a street fight. It would be game over very quickly.
Myth #2: "I bet I can choke out so-and-so."
No, you can't do that either. If you think you can submit any of the fighters you’ve seen on TV, you’re an even bigger moron. There are thousands of jiu-jitsu techniques, and similar to striking, these techniques have multiple counters and escapes. You don't know any of them, because you personally have never trained. Watching it on TV is not training. Believe it or not, there are BJJ white belts out there who could snap your arm in two seconds. Imagine what a brown or black belt could do to you.
Myth #3: "I am going to fight in the UFC."
There are tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of amateur and professional fighers in the United States alone. Worldwide, that number is exponentially greater. The UFC has a roster of 180 fighters, which averages out to 36 in each weight class. For the most part, these are the absolute best fighters the world has to offer. The outlook isn't good.
If that didn’t put things into perspective, maybe this will. I’ve had the opportunity to train with Paul Georgieff, who was a member of Team Hughes on the Ultimate Fighter Season 6. Paul is a brown belt in BJJ. He has placed in nearly every grappling competition he has entered, and is one of the best grapplers I’ve ever seen. Before TUF, he had a professional MMA record of 5-1, with most of his wins coming via first round stoppage. In his only fight in the TUF competition, Paul was knocked out in the first round by Troy “Rude Boy” Mandaloniz. At the TUF finale, he was submitted in the first round by Jonathan Goulet. Keep in mind, Goulet was once knocked out in 11 seconds by Duane Ludwig, knocked out by Mike Swick in 33 seconds, and choked out by Dustin Hazelett in just over a minute.
So to the people out there who've seen the UFC on TV and think you have what it takes to compete with those guys, hopefully this article has opened your eyes. Like my friend, you guys need a wakeup call. If after reading this, you still think you can beat up a professional fighter, stop talking and go prove it. Let me know how it turns out.
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