Much like the appearance of my fascination with Star Wars and all things geeky/nerdy, I am not sure where or when my interest in mixed martial arts began. I used to watch cheesy “B-movie” quality kung fu and karate flicks when I was younger (and admittedly still do), but I knew, even then, that they were heavily produced and not real. Still didn’t stop from trying to emulate some of the more complicated techniques and scenes.
So while I am not clear as to how/why I began watching fighting sports, I have not been deterred by this confusion in seeking them out. I am particularly looking forward to the long awaited Pacquiao v Mayweather boxing match this weekend. Seriously, I will be glued to a screen watching that fight…possibly in Spanish. Because of this new found interest, I have been watching as much boxing and mma as I can find. This led to a spiral of several hours of UFC viewing, one program being the Top Five Greatest Fights.
It was actually a pretty good rundown and made me want to see more. Now, obviously many people believe that boxing and mma are nothing more than two grown men, and now women, beating the crap out of each other for the amusement of the masses. They would argue that it is a barbaric, uncivilized sport that should be done away with. Frankly, I fully disagree with this notion and seeing the aired special only further demonstrates the absurdity of this false belief along with some lessons to take to heart. As always SPOILERS ahead.
The first fight on the list (aka #5) between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan Henderson demonstrates the true importance of going the distance and keeping on until the final bell. Seriously it sounds cliche, but it is still true. This fight was the first time in UFC history that a non title fight went for more than three rounds. They were going to fight for five full rounds, and they did. For the first three rounds, Rua takes one of the worst beatings a human can possibly take. He is a bloodied mess of cuts and hits to the face. Had the fight been the standard 3 rounds, Shogun would have basically been a footnote. Instead, he survives the onslaught and makes a formidable rally against Henderson. This fight was not for a belt or title; it was solely for pride. And that was enough to keep Rua going until the fight had its natural end. Sometimes knowing we were not knocked down is enough of a victory.
The next fight, Edgar vs Maynard (#4), shows that redemption can be a great motivator. Frankie Edgar had a stellar professional record. In fact he was undefeated, except for one loss to Gray Maynard. It was the blemish on his past. A constant reminder of the one misstep Edgar had taken in his storied career. I don’t know if you have ever met an athlete, or even just a competitive person, but they don’t bask in the glory of their victories. They remember and live in their losses, analyzing them for errors, and trying to figure out what they could have done differently to win. It is an inherent trait in people to want to change their mistakes. Most will never get the chance, but when it is offered, we pounce on the opportunity. Edgar was no different. He knew what was at stake and he left nothing to chance; bleeding and fighting his way to an incredible bout. It may have ended in a decision, but Edgar still earned his redemption; a fact further proven in their next match.
I don’t want to spoil too much, so for the final lesson let’s focus on the Mark Hunt vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (#2). These are two huge heavyweights who had never truly been tested or challenged before. They had simply been waiting for each other. A true and worthy opponent will test you beyond your limits, show what you are made of, and improve your performance and competitiveness overall. A true rival is the greatest gift you can be given. Cherish it. These two fighters forced each other to dig deep and take a fight further than either had. They beat and bloodied each other. They build to a beautiful crescendo of blows and strikes. And they were better for it. In one another, they found the truth of their abilities and potential. Their gratitude was apparent as they met and shook hands before the final round of their incredible match.
Fighting is a physical, painful, and at times deadly sport. However, these traits do not deny or devalue the beauty, honor, intelligence, and pure artistry of the sport and performances. There is a reason that martial arts have been passed down and practiced for generations. Beyond its physical benefits, there lies a plethora of lessons and morals to draw from.
Thus endeth today’s lessons. Also, go watch the entire special if you get the chance because it is worth the investment.