Times Have Changed

I’ve been in this business for about ten years, and damn have I seen it change. Before my fi rst fi ght – against a gi-clad “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” expert – I was scared that his magic might destroy me before I stepped foot in the ring. I was pulling in triple digits for the fi ght ($300, I think) and I was happy to miss my prom for the opportunity to fi ght in front of a big crowd.

I had such a simplistic view of the fi ght industry – like Bloodsport. I fi ght in the Kumite, I struggle, and eventually I get to nail the blonde. If I could fi nd a large biker friend, I’d be all set. But as years go by and the sport continues to grow and change, weaving its way through America and the world, I continually get an updated view of things. My opinion changes by leaps and bounds, even on a daily basis. Not just from the martial arts perspective, but every aspect: the fame, the people attracted, and the people that have been in it the whole time. The game has changed.

TEN THINGS I WOULD CHANGE ABOUT MMA

1.KNEES TO THE HEAD ON THE GROUND, KICKS TO A GROUNDED OPPONENT

I lost a fi ght by getting soccer kicked, so don’t whine to me about its brutality. I know fi rst hand it’s brutal, but it makes for exciting fi ghts – a knockout should be a knockout.

2. ENTRANCES

I really believe that the fi ghters make the show, are the kings of the world for that night, and should be treated as such. Coming out the service entrance of a shopping mall, looking like a janitor, isn’t my idea of royalty.

3. MORE HERB DEAN

With his fl owing braided dreadlocks and keen eye on the fi ght, there isn’t a much better referee. Honorable mention – Steve Mazagatti and his glorious moustache.

4. KARATE UNIFORMS

Why oh why can’t we wear these throwbacks to the good old days of fi ghting? Who wouldn’t want to step into the combat arena looking like Ken or Ryu? Maybe next I can learn to throw a fi reball.

5. BOOING FANS

America, learn how to grapple. Guys are on the ground for a half a minute and here come the jeers. They’re standing but not slugging it out? More boos. It’s a nation of Mick Jaggers.

6. FEWER ELBOWS

All too often, a fi ght gets stopped by a cut from a well-placed elbow. I don’t mean a cool looking one from the stand up, but one on the ground. Think I’m being a sissy with this one? See change #1.

7. AMATEUR EVENTS

I mean amateur in ways other than just not paying the fi ghters. Special headgear and rules, letting the youngins get a crack at punching, kicking, and choking one another.

8. NO HOLDS BARRED EVENTS

Worse than Vale Tudo in Brazil. Not just head butts and the like. Take convicts off death row, give them weapons like machine guns, and let us watch in high defi nition. Ok, maybe this one is extreme.

9. MORE VARIETY AT THE CONCESSION STAND

Over two thousand years of watching athletic competition, and we haven’t evolved from hotdogs, popcorn, and draft beer? Nothing like a stomachache to go with some face punching.

10. MORE BOOBS. THANKS.

If you are reading these words, you are one of two types of people: someone who has been a fan for nearly a decade, or someone who has been a fan since The Ultimate Fighter reality show. First, let me address the more recent members of the MMA audience. Although thirteen-year-old internet badasses will call you a TUF newbie, welcome to the sport of MMA.

What you have to understand is that we’re about a decade and a half into this sport’s life, making MMA a bratty teenager. We aren’t too far removed from when Art Jimmerson donned a single red boxing glove and stepped into the Octagon. That fi ght, won when Royce Gracie made him tap by just sitting on his chest, launched a revolution in combat sports, as well as cheesy t-shirts. Those days of style versus style are long gone, but until recently training methods did not vary much from doing Muay Thai at one gym and Jiu-Jitsu at another. Now, everyone who is really successful mixes multiple disciplines together, but it took years of fumbling around for fi ghters to fi gure it out.

Now that the sport has gone beyond fi fth-rate productions in backwoods venues, the paydays for fi ghters have gone up. Not phenomenally, but enough to chum the water for sharks from every other scuzzbucket industry. Guy robbed everyone blind in the skateboard clothing industry? Easy fi x, just have him escape to MMA. Trainer milked some boxer for all he’s worth and needs to latch onto another poor sap to suck dry? Boxers throw punches. So do MMA fi ghters – it’s a perfect fi t. You sell cookies outside of grocery stores for your Girl Scout Troupe? Sorry toots, beat it – no job for you here.

Of course, not everyone is like this; it is just a few bad apples. Before paydays got huge, there were still scum buckets, but they usually just ripped off sponsors and left the fi ghters alone. Now that fi ghters are raking in cash, watch out – everyone and his brother is poised to mooch and exploit.

In our industry, you get scumbags to end all scumbags, because of the nature of the game. An outsider sees two big dumb goons getting paid by wealthy, educated, businessmen to beat each other to a pulp for everyone’s enjoyment and profi t. In reality, most of us aren’t dumb goons, and most of the businessmen aren’t educated, but the profi ts are defi nitely being made. It’s like going to war in there, and you can’t trust anybody.

The worst thing about it is, even if you trust someone in the beginning, things change when money gets involved. I’ve seen kids fi ght for a thousand dollars, watch their coach collect the purse and give their fi ghter two hundred dollars. It’s mean in these streets. It’s up to the fi ghter to watch his own back. Problem is, it comes from all angles.

Nowadays we have frickin’ groupies. Groupies! Amazing. Before it was only dudes running up to take a picture. Now it’s dudes and their slutty sisters chasing us down for autographs. Even me, and I’m a z-list celebrity. Used to be, the sole groupie was a 205-pound Midwestern chick that only liked dudes with caulifl ower ears because she was a mat-maid at Bumblepuck High School. Now it’s ridiculously hot girls who have watched every one of your fi ghts and cried during the ones you lost.

You might think I hate MMA. Not at all. Like the great poet Christopher Wallace said, “Mo money, mo problems.” I sure am happy to be writing this in my swanky Hollywood bachelor pad rather than in a cardboard box behind 7-11. I’m glad that things have evolved all the way into what MMA is today – a unique martial art that is a combination of all the things that work the best. I am glad for the endorsement contracts, and the sponsors like Mickey’s Malt liquor that give money to fi ghters. I endure the line of lawyers, trainers, and managers all with their hands out,

I just see so many people getting caught up in this whirlwind that I worry kid MMA grew up too fast. He’s just a high school freshman, barely getting a learner’s permit, and already has to pay taxes.

Even I’m not understanding my metaphors now. I’m just trying to illustrate that fi ghters must think to themselves, “Who do I trust?” and do their best to tell their friends from snakes in the grass. But that is a whole hell of a lot of thinking for someone who gets hit in the head for a living. No one really gets to see everything behind the scenes; we just read the headlines when they hit the papers. By the way, you shouldn’t read the paper with that one red boxing glove on, you look ridiculous.

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