5 Rules for the New MMA Fan
As a fan of MMA since it's inception in 1993, I have had the privilege of watching the sport go from a Gracie Jiu Jitsu infomercial to a global phenomenon that just broke the record for gate revenue at "The World's Most Famous Arena". I would be lying to you if I said that I didn't feel a great sense of pride (PRIDE never die fuckers! Sorry I can't help it #PRIDE) from being able to witness the birth of a sport.
But with the boom of MMA comes a whole new bag of worms. And by worms I mean new fans.
Suddenly, all of these people I know who didn't understand why I couldn't go to their engagement brunch because I had to watch two heavyweights give each other brain damage are finally coming around. But like Ben Parker said in Spider-Man "Fuck all you fake ass mutha fucka's" (He actually didn't say that), there is a responsibility in the power that comes with being a fan of MMA. So here are some guidelines that I being the unofficial grand wizard of the MMA fandom clan is instating...
RULE #1: Don't call all MMA UFC
I don't want to hear these happy horse shit "The UFC is the Kleenex of MMA" excuses. There was a time when people viewed a non-UFC promotion by the name of STRIKEFORCE as the de-facto number two promotion in the world to the much superior UFC. We have since seen Fighters like Daniel Cormier, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Luke Rockhold, Gilbert Melendez, Tyron Woodley, Miesha Tate, Cristian "Cyborg" Santos (Gina Carano who would never fight in the UFC sadly but I loved watching those thick tits in Deadpool) and a young up and coming former Olympic judoka by the name of "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey come up through the STRIKEFORCE ranks only to become world champions and top contenders in the "Kleenex of MMA", the UFC. We also saw UFC washouts like Robbie Lawler, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson and Josh Barnett leave the world's most prominent promotion and defect to STRIKEFORCE, reinventing their skills and rediscovering their love for the savage art of fighting outside of the blinding lights of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The bottom line is this. Just because most of the world's best fighters are in the UFC, doesn't mean that all of them are
RULE #2: Respect the ground game
Like Biggie Smalls once said "This rule's so underrated, a tight triangle leaves opponents incapacitated" (I took liberties ). I can't tell you how many events I have been to where new fans start booing when the fight hits the ground and I want to start handing out poisoned Brooklyn Lager like it was god damned Jonestown! Here's the thing, back when MMA was in its infancy there were moments where the athletes were unconditioned, unskilled and flat out lazy when it came to the ground game. You had a lot of ex-collegiate wrestlers who had the jock mentality of "I'm gonna take this pussy down and big brother his ass until he realizes that if this were prison he'd be tossing my salad like there was a pardon from the governor in there" so you had fights where the tough son of a bitch on the bottom just wouldn't quit and it would lead to monotonous dry humping. But those days are over. Take it from me as someone who witnessed the era that us historians call the "Brokeback Mountain" regime, what we are seeing in MMA today is the culmination of years of evolution. Gone are the days of a single "Base" that fighters clung to. Holding on like the child of a stripper, who being watched by the matronly manager of the trailer park clings to his security blanket with the grip of a pet chimp. The Fighters today are what we call "Well Rounded" which means that they have been in the constant pursuit of mastery of all the disciplines that are necessary to compete in MMA. If the fight hits the ground there is action and usually the fight it either goes back to the feet or someone gets choked out or severely beaten. So everyone wins! Well, except for the guy who was choked out or beaten. But who gives a fuck about that dude anyway! The irony of new fan's hatred in the ground game is that pretty much every fight, professional or not, hits the ground. The purpose of MMA was to give fighters an arena and rule set to prove what style would reign supreme. When it comes to fighting there is no other alternative that is purer. As a fan, like in any sport there will be barn burners and there will be stinkers. All you can do is sit back and watch it all play out. Worse case, you can get some tips on how to big brother the fuck out of someone
RULE #3: Don't fight at events
I am going to keep this one short because it frustrates the fuck out of me even having to bring this up but it needs to be said. Hey assholes, don't go to MMA events and drink yourself into thinking you are one of the guys fighting in the cage! First off, it will only make you look that much more of an inferior twat when you have two shredded, killing machines competing on Combat Sport's biggest stage and here you are dressed to the 4's rolling around in Bud Light residue. Secondly, you have burly security guards who've had to deal with drunken morons all night looking to use you as an anatomically correct stress doll. Don't forget that these dudes are working and haven't been taking drunken selfies or harassing scantily clad women all night. These guys have been actually watching the fight and are itching to try some of the moves they have learned on some Armani Blue wearing punk. Lastly though, you have people who've paid their hard earned money to watch these highly trained athletes compete. Don't let your small dick and hidden frustration of lost grandeur ruin the experience for them.
RULE #4: Learn the history
MMA is still a very young sport. It's basically sharing the same growth chart as Matthew Mcconaughey's career. Both had their growing pains and low points but the persevered and now it's all gravy. But there was a time before Ronda and Conor. A time when the sport was like a moody teen looking for acceptance and mainstream media was accepting two men fighting in a cage like the weird musician who finally finds an agency to represent them when their song breaks the top ten. The story of MMA is fascinating and has so many interesting elements that if turned into a documentary would get five stars on NETFLIX (That's how we rate sports now. It's called the "Black Mirror" effect). It has drama, money, intrigue, sex, stars and most importantly... Violence! There's a reason that stars of every major sport flock to watch the UFC's best throw down inside the Octagon, it's because fighting another man in front of millions with your self respect and consciousness on the line is intriguing no matter who you are. But if you are a new fan of the sport currently remember that there are a ton of amazing moments that you may have missed. Moments like Randy Couture and Pedro Rizzo throwing down for the UFC Heavyweight strap in what "The Natural" calls the toughest fight of his career. Or BJ Penn knocking out Sean Sherk and licking the blood off of his gloves like Hannibal Lector. Perhaps when Matt Serra knocked out a then prime GSP to win the Welterweight title after people said it was more likely for women to fight in the UFC than for him to win (This was after all a long time ago). This rule was the most difficult to write because I had to choose three great moments out of thousands to try and embody why this sport is the best on god's green earth. The only good part of that is the fact that now you have to find the rest for yourself.
RULE #5: Be a loyal fan between the good and the bad
I wrote this rule last because to me it is the most important of the five. Like any sport there are going to be amazing highs and heartbreaking low's. But what makes MMA different than other sports is that it is based on singular athletes and not an entire team structure. Yeah it sucks dick when the star QB of your team gets an injury that prohibits him from starting on Sunday, but at least the game continues. As MMA fans we have seen the most anticipated cards fall to freak injuries and failed drug tests which sucks really bad. But believe it or not, even the dreaded injury bug contributes to the appeal of MMA. The fallout from a big injury leads to discussion, speculation and the ever revolving MMA news wheel that is a huge part of the sport. We can shit on an injured fighter for overtraining, bitch about his training partner for sparring too hard or curse the mythical MMA gods for turning our favorite fighter into a human sacrifice. The bottom line is that even when bad stuff happens in MMA, we as fans who love the sport can still find something entertaining about it. Which is strange considering that MMA fans tend to be a bunch of cynical pricks but that is the duality of what makes us a unique group of malcontents. But when it's good it's great, and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts when performed at the highest level is something that can turn the most negative of sports fans onto the power of two men throwing down in a cage. So respect the sport and love it for the testosterone fueled train wreck it can be, for better or worse. Because when it is firing on all cylinders it truly is a thing of beauty
Ricky Bonez - host of Hammerfisting