MMA is fast becoming one of the biggest sports on the planet. Since it’s early days of Pancrase, Vale Tudo, Shooto and the UFC, the sport has become a phenomenon like no other. MMA is something I talk about every day, not only to you guys, but also to anyone who’ll listen. I think everyone should get the chance to train/follow/learn about MMA at least once in his or her lifetime.
I think there are five basic principles that have helped modern MMA become the greatest sport on the planet, bar none.
There is something about pitting two humans against each other in combat that brings out their souls, their inner being. You can’t hide in MMA, especially on such a huge stage as the UFC. Whatever you are inside, whether you want it to be or not, will be revealed once you step inside that cage. This is probably the biggest factor in the sport's popularity, people need to feel a connection to the protagonist in books and movies, just as they do in sports. A perfect example of this is when Mirko Cro Cop wept at winning the Pride Open Weight GP, I felt like I was right there with him. Such a base level of involvement in a sport is essential to it’s popularity.
Another base-level principle, but mortality plays a huge role in the current level of MMA’s success. The idea that someone could get really hurt, or worse, is tantalizing to humans. We don’t like to admit it, but on a primal level we need to see who is the top dog. The sacrifice that a warrior is willing to make on the field of combat speaks volume about his strength of character, which brings me to my next point….
The fighters that we are blessed with in MMA make such a huge impact on the sport’s growth. Even down to the lower level promotions, there are such amazing characters in mixed martial arts. When you look at guys like Kazushi Sakuraba, Bas Rutten, Kazuyuki Fujita, the Gracies, and Mirko Cro Cop, you can see why the sport was so popular around that time. There you have some really likeable characters, and then you have the ‘once in a lifetime’ fighters. Every so often, you have someone come around that is truly one of the greatest you will see. Muhammed Ali was that to boxing, and I feel Fedor Emelianenko was that to MMA. Someone who comes along and changes the common perspective of a sport, makes people believe in something, no matter how small or insignificant.
The excitement involved in MMA events is unlike many things I’ve seen. I’ve been to some pretty major sporting events, but never to a top level MMA show. Trust me, it’s on my bucket list. The spectacle of seeing modern day warriors going to battle creates such a hype in the followers and athletes alike. The buzz is often felt even through the TV screen for me and, when watching UFC 162 for example, I actually felt shell-shocked when Anderson Silva fought Chris Weidman. I was so excited, even buzzing about the event and the climax was so unexpected and exciting that I think I had an overload of thoughts and simply went in to vegetable mode. Anything that can get me, and probably everyone else that piqued is an amazing thing.
The reality of MMA is unlike almost any other sport out there. I’m not talking about TUF or a reality show, but the absolute involvement for fans in the sport. The ability to know almost everything about the sports stars, read about them, watch them train and hear them speak. We get to see everything play out in front of us, and although it can sometimes be influenced or staged, moments like Sakuraba’s brutal loss to Ricardo Arona are a testament to the sports unrelenting costs. A harsh taste of reality, but an essential part of the sports nature. I also feel that modern MMA fighters and promoters, yes I mean Dana White, have actually pioneered in the level of involvement for fans with sports. We get such an in depth view of pretty much everything to do with the sport, and although this is for marketing as well as interactivity, we are treated to some truly amazing moments.
These five principles, which make the sport huge, are base, but absolutely essential. Just like a fighter’s skillset, all are needed in a well-measured blend. If one is neglected or taken away, then the rest will be out of balance and not perform to their fullest ability. I love that MMA has inspired me to do so many things in my life, it is more than a sport to me, it's pretty much my life.