Isn’t it called Mixed Martial Arts?
I remember that Bruce Lee once said, “Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” This quote embodies the true meaning and purpose of a Martial Artist. The intention to promote growth is the goal, and not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Unfortunately I feel as though a lot of this has gotten lost in the shuffle amidst the glitz and glam that the current MMA landscape provides. More and more it seems like a WWE type of production. I understand the value of entertaining the audience and the need to sell-out fights. However, as a martial artist and a huge combat sports enthusiast it saddens me to watch fighters and promoters degrade what this sport should be.
I come from a Muay Thai background. There is a very different vibe in the locker room at a Muay Thai show than there is at an MMA show. Muay Thai is rich in its traditions and history. It’s two trained fighters coming out and displaying one skill set against another. Both before and after the bout, both fighters are celebrated and display a great amount of respect for each other. At the end of the bout you visit your opponent’s corner where the opposing coach will give you a drink of water, bow (wai) and pay you the respect that you deserve for getting into the ring and doing battle. Compare that to MMA. Fighters bicker back and forth on Twitter, talk about how great they are, and how they’re going to “DESTROY” their opponent on fight night. Fast forward to weigh-ins and they’re nose to nose where the inevitable pushing and shoving match ensues. What about that screams “Martial Arts”? You guys signed a contract right? You get to fight tomorrow right? What are you so mad at weigh-ins for? You get to punch him in the face TOMORROW!
MMA is made up of several combat sports that are rooted with their own traditions and histories. However, each of them is widely built around respect. Whether you are talking about Boxing, Wrestling, BJJ, or Muay Thai, respect is preached from the moment you walk through the door. Respect for yourself, your coaches, your teammates, the facility, and your opposition. So, if you look at these components that come together to help convene what it is that Mixed Martial Arts is supposed to be then where does the trash talking and the knucklehead, bully mentality come from? Is it the promoter trying to get more pay-per-view buyers or is that genuinely what the fans want to see?
Not to pick on Chael Sonnen but; I think we have our most prevalent case-in-point when we look at him. Now, I understand that he was competing against the very best 185-pound MMA talent on the planet. However, do you think his insults, his poems, his vignettes, and his mouth did him any service inside the octagon? No. In fact, I think it put more pressure on his shoulders. I’ll tell you what made him great; he was great at selling himself. He made people believe that he was significantly better than he actually was with each little rhyming phrase, Ali Style. He created friction and rivalries that the public wanted to see, which translated into a few more commas, and few more zeroes on payday. I think Chael will be the first to tell you that he is not a Martial Artist; he’s a fighter. Although the business of MMA and the individual fighter selfishly benefit from having guys like Chael Sonnen around, is that really the image and the example that we, as Martial Artists, want to set for the sport. It will be up to the next wave of fighters to carry on the business of MMA. Will they make the same selfish choice? I hope not.
Conor McGregor would be the next fighter you could look at I suppose. He speaks from a place of self-confidence. While he does tend to let his mouth write a couple of checks, you better believe he’s had the money in the bank to cash them. He spends more time talking about his ability and the things he’s capable of than he does talking about his opponents. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily agree with it but it’s a different type of self-promotion than that of Chael Sonnen. Maybe a little less undignified but either way, it seems as much about the talking or the politics as it is about the competition.
There is a colossal difference between a Martial Artist and a fighter. Fighting is a controlled act of violence while Martial Arts is a disciplined lifestyle, two very different things. I would just like to see MMA embrace more of a Martial Arts approach than the Pro-Wrestling, over-the-top sales pitch.
In a recent episode of Bellator, Stephan Bonnar brought out Justin McCully as his masked sidekick in his attempt to take down Tito Ortiz and it just had a very Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon vibe to me. I don’t want to see the sport I love turn into a sideshow. We have fought that stereotype long enough. Time to start taking more notes from the EMF(European Muaythai Federation) and less from the WWE.
Let’s put Martial Arts back into MMA. Fighters shut your mouths; listen, train, learn, test yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Being respectful makes you RESPECTABLE. I get it, at the end of the day it’s a fight, but then let your skill-set do the talking instead of Facebook and Twitter.