It’s been a slow couple of news weeks, but the wheel still turns for the media, so to keep things rolling, this installment of Rebellion Roundtable is all about “Why MMA?” – as in, what prompted Rebellion Media’s writers to pick up the figurative pen and start scribbling about mixed martial arts.
Sam Genovese, MMAConvert:
Around 2007 I was listening to 106.7 WJFK in Washington, D.C. and Luke Thomas (now of SBNation) was on the air doing his weekly MMA radio show. I had been a casual boxing fan but had never really checked out MMA. After hearing him talk about a guy getting his ass kicked and then submitted, I figured I would check it out. Casually, I would watch MMA when I could, but it wasn’t until Kenny Florian took on Joe Lauzon that it really clicked for me. I’m still not sure why that fight was the turning point, but after that I couldn’t watch enough MMA. I bookmarked BloodyElbow and Sherdog and checked them out every day. When I was offered the opportunity to get paid to watch fighters beat the fuck out of each other, I jumped on it. At my very first event as a writer, I saw Jose Figueroa turn Artiom Damkovsky’s face into ground beef at M-1 Challenge 24 and I knew MMA was for me.
Sean Beanblossom, MMALinker:
Although it is currently my favorite sport, I actually didn’t begin following MMA until the Chuck Liddell/Randy Couture/Tito Ortiz era. I grew up a boxing fan. I can remember as a child watching boxing pay-per-views. My grandfather’s favorite boxer was Oscar De La Hoya so he ordered every card he fought on. Naturally, I began following boxing. I also remember watching Bloodsport as a kid and having no idea of what all the different martial arts were. I remember how electrified the soundtrack of that movie made me feel. Jean Claude Van Damme became my hero. As I got older I remember how motivated and inspired I would become after watching the HBO Boxing 24/7 series. I think I watched every Mayweather vs. Hatton episode at least 50 times. One day I was at a friend’s house and we caught the end of UFC 66. The first UFC fight I ever watched was Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 2. I look back on that experience now realizing how lucky I was to be able endure the thrill of that being my first MMA fight, due to how historical that fight was in terms of UFC history. Since then it’s been MMA all the way. I’ve grown to love the sport. It’s amazing how many different disciplines are incorporated into a fighter’s skillset to be able to destroy an opponent. The complexity and diverseness of each discipline is so unique, it’s amazing. MMA is like a culture developed by each nation’s history and combative teachings. Writing about it doesn’t even seem like a job because I’m writing about my passion. I was born a boxing fan, but I will die an MMA lover.
Joe Lisnow, FightLine:
Watching the early UFC tournament pay-per-views, it was about the violence of this somewhat new sport. Those early fights were brutal and it was a change from boxing. As the competition evolved further from a brawl and more into a fight, the interest grew. Everyone was watching the “Big Four” sports and my eyes were glued to wrestling, which segued into MMA. Seeing two people fight with the better one leaving the victor was the ultimate sport of brains and brawn. And don’t forget the unpredictability. Any bout, on any card, could be Fight of the Year. Take Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice for example. Anything can happen in the fight business.
I was first introduced to mixed martial arts when I was 10-years old, watching UFC 3: “The American Dream” in 1994 at my neighbor’s house in Chino, C.A. Needless to say, seeing two grown men duke it out bare-knuckled was extremely startling to a 10-year-old boy whose exposure to “fighting” at that point was gloved boxing and choreographed pro wrestling. My hands trembled as I saw Kimo swing away with all of his, and “Jesus’”, might at Royce Gracie while holding his gi like it was a hockey fight, legitimately thinking someone was actually going to die in the Octagon before my eyes. My mind immediate took me back to the times my older brothers would purchase “Faces of Death” tapes and remembering how my heart nearly stopped watching this footage. At this point in my life, I had boxed for about three years, never actually sparring, only hitting the bag, learning techniques on the mitts and working on my cardio. After quitting boxing for several years, not really sure why, I had joined a karate class at a local recreation center. It was probably the biggest waste of money my parents had ever spent on me. I essentially learned nothing and yet I had a yellow belt, whatever that meant. After moving to Vegas, I started wrestling in high school and after renting several other UFC events at Hollywood video, I realized that perhaps I too can do this. I had decent stand-up skills with my boxing background and I had wrestled in my high school days. I asked myself what’s next? Well, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu of course. And then it was on. After I had stopped following MMA (NHB) for a couple of years, I started renting these UFC tapes in 1999. After that I was totally hooked, following the UFC on their website, which when using Windows 95 was extremely slow. I visited SemaphoreEntertainmentGroup.com every other day to see what event was coming up and the results, as the UFC was not on pay-per-view at the time. I’ve followed MMA ever since, purchasing PRIDE’s 2000 Open Weight Grand Prix in 01′, a whole year after it took place. Nonetheless nothing has diverted my attention away from MMA to date, even though I still follow boxing extensively. In short, MMA has captured my attention enough to never follow any other major league sport ever again, with the exception being perhaps soccer. But my experiences in boxing, wrestling, and BJJ, all while relentlessly following the UFC, PRIDE, King of the Cage and even Grapplers Quest, has gotten the sport embedded in my life to such a degree that it has led to me now write about it.
Casey Hodgin, MMALinker:
I’ve always approached MMA in a very unique sense. While most fans would care about the recent drama going on between fighters, and arguing about who is top P4P and who would win in a fight between Anderson and Fedor, I was thinking about other things. For me, it’s all about the match-ups. I’m fascinated at what it would be like to play Joe Silva for a day, and create match-ups that I, as a die-hard fan, would absolutely love. I first started writing about MMA on MMALinker. I was approached to join their blog team and I loved it.
John Petit, Fighters.com:
I worked in music, I played in bands, and was almost always surrounded by artists in my personal time. No one cared about sports, and the few people who did always trounced all over MMA. It was my dirty little secret for a long time. Each fight, one after the other, had the potential to be a display of glorious violence. One person would stand victorious and feel like a god while the other would feel as defeated as a person could be. That dichotomy, that drama, and that possibility for each fight is what drew me to the sport. When all of those things line up perfectly, there is no purer sport and no story more dramatic to chronicle.
Jake Berezansky, MMAConvert:
I actually was hugely against MMA in the beginning. My grandparents are Soviet immigrants, and my grandfather was a pretty good boxer for the Soviet Army team. Anyhow, I was brought up as a boxing fan, and I saw MMA as threatening boxing’s top spot in combat sports, so I hated it for that alone. Well in all honesty, I admitted to myself that boxing sucked ass ever since Tyson fell from grace, so I figured I’d watch MMA and give it ago. UFC 70 was the first one I watched, and I truly only watched it because it was free on SpikeTV. After I watched that event, I was hooked. MMA is clearly superior to boxing in every way, and it dawned on me as I saw Mirco Cro Cop taking a snooze compliments of a Gabe Gonzaga kick. Ever since then I’ve been totally hooked. I bought UFC 71 on PPV, and I have probably missed like eight events ever since.
MMA became a passion for me because of the “unexpected” factor. In other major sports, there is always a time the game is set to end. You know when the final chance to win or lose will go down. In MMA, a fight can end at any given moment: a thrilling knockout, an unexpected submission. The amount of work these athletes put in is incredible, and the passion with which most of them compete/prepare is out of this world.
Ben Bieker, CagedInsider:
I got into the sport of MMA because, unlike most sports, the action is constant and entertaining. There are no time outs, no half time, and the only breaks taken are from fouls. Plus, even if fights are boring, you know they are only going to last 15 or 25 minutes instead of a whole game. At its core, MMA the most basic form of testing a human’s capabilities, which means all those people that dislike wrestling do not understand the game. If you are not the best fighter in the cage you will not come out the winner, and that is what interests me the most about the sport.
My journey to MMA journalism was three-fold. I’d like to believe my initial interest in the sport came from watching martial arts movies and professional wrestling as a kid. In each, colorful characters were pitted against one another with opposing styles. From there, I eventually got a little older and encountered the UFC, where fantasy became reality. However, though I enjoyed the bouts, the real catalyst for my current passion was the first season of TUF, since it not only was a great educational tool but introduced mixed martial artists as intelligent, interesting people rather than the brutes society so often portrayed them as.