Ultimate fighting finally getting mainstream attention
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organization began in 1993 and featured some of the most brutally prehistoric rules known to organized fighting. Fighters wore no gloves, were allowed to head-butt, permitted to kick opponents in the head when they were on the ground and virtually fought with no rules. How it ever functioned without a death is a bit of a mystery in itself; however, that may explain the poor ratings it sustained over its first 10 years — people not wanting to tune into a live massacre.
Today, the rules have been tweaked to somewhat civilize the brute sport, transitioning it into a mainstream sport, and UFC President Dana White has seemingly grown into one of the best commissioner figures in all sports with his mastery of the advertising business. After sinking all of the UFCs hopes and livelihood into a risky business venture we now know as the Ultimate Fighter — which is set to begin its biggest season yet on its tenth season, featuring Internet street-fighting sensation Kimbo Slice — White brought the sport from near-death to the realm of one million pay-per-view buyers in its 100th event on July 11.
In a sport where its stars were more famously known from outside ventures, such as Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn who appeared regularly on World Wrestling Entertainment events, or even unheard of, like Royce Gracie, to the everyday folk, the climb the UFC has embarked on in really only a little over five years is surreal. It’s quickly growing into the top fighting sport, even bigger than boxing, and prepping itself to become the fifth major sport in America, although, if hockey keeps on its downward spiral, UFC may just replace that. Now, its stars have become regular talking points in water coolers around the country as well as the world. I’m betting I can name 10 fighters and most people would know them, whereas, I could ask you to name 10 hockey players in the National Hockey League (NHL) who don’t play for the Wings and you probably couldn’t. Names like Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, GSP (George St. Pierre), Anderson “the Spider” Silva, Chuck “the Ice Man” Liddell, Brock Lesnar and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic are some of the organizations biggest names. When you Google “Chuck Liddell” you turn up about 900,000 listings compared to just over 500,000 for Alexander Ovechkin — one of the top two NHL stars.
For its critics, the UFC is still too brutal to be a mainstream sport, but if you look at the statistics (according to www.associatedcontent.com), boxing produces nearly 11 deaths each year whereas mixed martial arts (MMA) altogether has produced one death throughout its history which occurred in an unsanctioned fight. This is most likely directly attributable to the style of gloves in the respective sports. Boxing gloves have significantly more padding causing less one-punch damage, however, creating fairly higher likelihood of serious brain injury through repeated headshots causing a “jarring of the brain” to occur. Mixed martial arts gloves, more specifically those used in the UFC, have padding to only protect your own fist, making it more likely a knockout or serious one-punch damage will occur, which may seem brutally inhumane, although, the domino effect set forth by rules and human reaction cause a significantly lesser impact.
You see, with human reaction, when you get hit with a bare fist (as I’m assuming you’re not an MMA fighter so you don’t know how it feels to be hit with an MMA glove) it hurts and you’re more likely to try and get out of the way, whereas in boxing with a heavily-padded glove it doesn’t hurt as much so you’re consciously able to take more hits to the head without feeling the impact. Bottom line, it takes a less amount of punches (or kicks) in MMA to reach the knockout point or pain threshold. The less hits, no matter in what form, the less damage to the brain. Easy as that. The second part of the UFC is the rule factor. When an opponent is getting pummeled with fist after fist, the referees in the UFC (and MMA) do a tremendous job of ending the fight so the opponent doesn’t have to take further senseless beating. In boxing, the only way out for a fighter is to be knocked out. A fighter may not even be able to defend himself but is still standing, so he is game for a few senseless punches. In addition, boxing is strictly punching to the head and stomach. MMA and the UFC are much more. I’m guessing here, but I bet in an 8-round bout, boxers take somewhere between 200-300 punches in the head whereas an MMA fighter takes maybe 50 hits in a 3-round match.
In my mind, boxing will eventually become just another fighting style in the vast MMA world, no different than Judo, Muay-thai or any other style. Its fighters, promoters, managers and overall well-being have diminished too greatly in the last 10 years for a comeback today, I believe. Maybe I’m wrong but it doesn’t seem like there’s much on the radar for boxing, other than a bunch of interview comparisons to MMA.