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UFC 140 Highlights the Gentrification of Mixed Martial Arts Featured

Over the weekend at UFC 140 the two featured bouts of the evening saw exciting finishes by two of UFC’s bigger stars. Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir took the fight to another former [Interim] UFC Heavyweight Champion in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, surviving being knocked out by quickly reversing a choke and applying an armlock and promptly breaking Big Nog’s arm. Current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones put on an equally as impressive finish after recovering from being outpointed on his feet to working the challenger Lyoto Machida over with elbows on the ground before he was able to corner the challenger and apply a neck chancre that rendered Machida unconscious.

As a fan, it is hard to complain about fights at this level being finished in thrilling fashion. So, while it may be hard to complain about the fights being finished in a dramatic, decisive fashion, there are some other, much more troubling trends in both of these fights that have gone largely unnoticed amidst the excitement. Behavior of fighters has changed, as fans have noticed over the past few years, with both of the featured fights this weekend making light of this. Big Nog suffered a broken arm at the hands of Frank Mir, Nog still laying on the mat while Mir quickly pulled on the gear from his sponsors and celebrated. Jon Jones claimed that he “knew” Lyoto Machida was out cold, but quickly let go to strut off while Machida fell head-first to the mat in a heap.

It is a matter of respect and concern for the opponent’s well-being that seemingly melted away over the past few years, being flaunted on-air at UFC 140. It is a paradigm shift that has occured in the rush to help “legitimize” MMA as a “real sport” in the United States.

Continue reading about "Bushido."

 

 

Those trends make light of the divergence of eastern and western philosophy within the sport of Mixed Martial Arts as a whole. Part of what made the development of MMA as special and interesting as it was revolved around the core beliefs and ideals that served as the base of the sport. The sport was founded as a mixture of many forms of Martial Arts, and Martial Arts largely follow a set of rules for conduct. To many, these concepts of bushido, or the warrior’s way will not be unfamiliar. The “Martial Way” as it is called is a code of honor that Martial Artists adhere to, not only in combat, but also in their day-to-day lives. It involves respect for everyone, including opponents and things, handling one’s self in a respectable manner and many other basic laws that very much reflect the “golden rule” that we all [should] know.

Even a fallen samurai in battle was given the option of an honorable death by the hands of the better man, and dishonored men were given a chance to regain their honor through self-sacrifice in many parts of the world. “Honor” is a large part of eastern cultures such as Japan, one of the true birthplaces of MMA. It seems that as Japan’s dominance begins to fade in the world of MMA, so does that honor that was instilled in it. Frank Mir was able to capitalize on the grave mistake of Big Nog going for a choke, allowing Mir to clear his cobwebs and secure a kimura lock. While Mir did mention Nog in his post-fight speech, there was no on-camera interaction of Mir making sure that Nog was alright, knowing that breaking his arm has possibly taken a year off of his career in the twilight of such a decorated career. After the fight at a press conference, Mir discussed the possibility of him stepping into another possible match with Brock Lesnar or even yet another title shot if the contenders bout between Alistair Overeem and Brock Lesnar does not live up to its hype. This happened while Big Nog faces future surgeries and almost a year’s worth of recovery time before he can resume his training. Frank Mir’s actions may have abruptly ended the career of another fighter, something that should make Mir reflect on his methods and actions.

Jon Jones not only thanked his lord and savior, Jesus Christ on Twitter before the fight, but made sure to afterwards in his interview with Joe Rogan. In this same interview, Jon Jones made sure that it was clear he was absolutely certain that Lyoto Machida was out cold before he relinquished the hold that sent Lyoto crashing head first to the mat as his body went limp. Jones, of course, went over to Lyoto who was being attended to by a medical team to shake his hand, but only after his coach, Greg Jackson was heard trying to get the Champion’s attention, urging him to “make some fans” by checking on the battered contender. Jones seemed to not be concerned with the six foot one Machida tumbling that six feet to the ground when he let go of the hold, instead he seemed content to confidently strut away to celebrate in a display that has become the equivalent to an end zone dance in football when a player scores a touchdown.

What is telling is that these actions do not seem to really be bothering that many people. When one of the true legends and pioneers in the sport of MMA in Erik Paulson goes on record to condemn these actions, you know that there has been a paradigm shift within the sport. What might be even more telling is the throngs of posters on larger sites like BloodyElbow who seem to consider the lack of sportsmanship to be considered all a “part of the game” and that there is nothing alarming about it. When Shinya Aoki showed a serious lack of sportsmanship two years ago, breaking Mizuto Hirota’s arm then flipping him and the arena off, media in Japan were quick to shame Aoki for his actions, as were Western journalists, pundits and fans. Now, almost two years later there are two similar (although not as extreme) actions on the same card and fans are finding ways to quickly dismiss said actions and chalk it up to a part of the sport.

If anything, this highlights how the “eastern allure” that Mixed Martial Arts once held, that the honor, the conduct and the Martial Way has been slowly expunged from the sport to make way for the showmanship and intensely competitive, un-bushido-like behavior showcased in some western sports. It seems that in the rush to “legitimize” MMA as a sport that it had to be gentrified to fit into the mold of the west, and that fans can expect more in the way of in-ring “touchdown dances” than signs of brotherhood and respect.

Top photo credit of the amazing Esther Lin.

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Dave Walsh

Dave Walsh has been covering MMA and Kickboxing since 2007 before changing his focus solely to Kickboxing in 2009, launching what was the only English-language site dedicated to giving Kickboxing similar coverage to what MMA receives. He was the co-founder of HeadKickLegend and now LiverKick. He resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he works as a writer of all trades.

His first novel, the Godslayer, is available now

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