- FIGHTING FOR RESPECT

January 24, 2007
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Editorial by James Hoy


“Boxing has been supplanted by UFC, with its cartoonish simulation of violence and warriors who ‘submit’ before they get hurt, then come back to fight again with no loss of honor or reputation. No ‘Ultimate Fighter’ will ever pay the price Ali did for his sport, nor will any of our sports ‘heroes’ of today ever pay the price he did for his beliefs. The only cause worth fighting for these days, it seems, is the shoe deal.”


Wow. So MMA is too safe? Now, I’ve heard it all.


To put this quote into context, it appears in an article by Wallace Matthews for the New York based tabloid Newsday. Find it here.


The article has nothing to do with MMA. It is a fairly interesting read on the disparaging of Muhammad Ali’s image written by a highly regarded boxing critic – nothing more, nothing less.


But for some reason, out of the blue, the writer decides to take the opportunity to attack the MMA. I suppose you have to give him credit for not taking the ‘it’s so brutal’ line but honestly, it’s not just a little pathetic, it’s completely inaccurate.


So Matthews thinks tapping is a simulation of violence? Well yes, frankly it is. But it is of course a very necessary one – would any sane person want to see fights end with broken limbs? Saying MMA is ‘cartoonish’ smacks of a lack of familiarity with the sport – or a mind numbed to violence from years of watching people knock each other out, wait a few seconds and the do it again.


The writer also insinuates that ‘ultimate fighters’, are in it for the cash. No doubt some of them are, but I think a ‘shoe deal’ is amusingly off the mark for the foreseeable future.


If Matthews and his ilk just took a little time to watch some of the characters fighting in the UFC, or if I’m really pushing my luck, other organizations like PRIDE, they would realize for some it couldn’t be further from the truth.


MMA has fighters from such incredibly different walks of life; the only thing that really ties them all together is the desire to fight. I’m thinking of fighters like Jeff Monson, who wears his anarchist politics on his sleeve. Tell him about standing-up for what you believe in. There is the now-retired Genki Sudo, who never leaves home without his ‘We Are All One’ flag. And what about the massive contrast between the backgrounds of fighter like Jens Pulver and BJ Penn.


Ask Randy Couture why he will come back to fight Tim Sylvia and he will describe an ‘itch’ to fight; he cannot get out of his system. Although more and more money is being poured into MMA, we are lucky enough to be watching at a stage in its growth where yes, fighters can make a living off the sport, but wages aren’t so extraordinarily that we start to see the prima donnas and mercenaries who plague virtually every other big sport – including boxing.


Why does the article bother me? I’m not interested in boxing vs. MMA. I’m certainly not going to argue we have a man like Ali fighting in mixed martial arts.


What I’m really worried about is that you would expect to see boxing journalists like Matthews to begin to warm to MMA by now, by his own admittance they realize the sport is overtaking boxing. MMA needs all the allies it can get in helping to improve its image in the eyes of the general public. If the opinions of Matthews reflect that of his peers, it’s just one more door organizations like the UFC will have to kick down in order to get the coverage they deserve.

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