by Matt Hill – MMAWeekly.com
Some are younger, others older. Some are rich, others underprivileged. Each comes with a distinct body size, body type and ethnicity. Each possesses a different style, a different political view and a different childhood milieu. Some come from blue-collar blood, others from royalty. They are farmers, mathematicians, college graduates, soldiers, lawyers, firefighters, Olympians and accountants… but they all fight.
What is it that makes these individuals – who come from many diverse countries, backgrounds and upbringings – want to step into a cage or ring and fight? This is the question that I hope to answer. Why do fighters fight?
I have contacted many different fighters with one question and goal in mind…I want to find out what makes a fighter tick. It takes a special person to lay down not only his body – but also his pride, image and family name – to step into a cage or ring and fight.
I have heard many people not associated with the fight game say that these men are nothing more than crazy. Some people think that these men must be barbarians who are mean-spirited with one goal in mind, to hurt other people at all costs. Other people view them as modern day gladiators who are willing to fight for a cause when they deem necessary.
After talking to a number of them, though, I have found that fighters fight for many different reasons. Much like in other aspects of employment, there is no set schema to go by that shows why some people are doctors, others teachers and still others are carpenters.
It’s the same in fighters; they fight for many different reasons…not just because they hate life, not just because they could do nothing else in life and certainly not just because they like to hurt people. While one or all of these reasons may be motivation for a handful of fighters – Tank Abbott comes to mind – these simply are not the norm.
There are numerous motives fighters give for wanting to fight, but here are a few: some fighters claim that they fight simply because they can. Others fight for the income, others because they love the martial arts, still others fight for the fame and the women that come with being a professional athlete. One man even said that he fights because he was coaxed to by a higher power…we’ll call this instance ‘divine intervention.’ These are just a few of the reasons men choose to be professional fighters, there are of course many, many more.
I would say that the biggest reason any of the men that I spoke with fight is that they are extremely competitive. Mike Swick said, “I fight because it’s the ultimate form of competition between two individuals…and I am a very competitive person.” This type of answer quickly became one of the most common of all the replies that I received. There just seems to be an innate desire in many humans to be competitive. Competition shows itself in many different forms, whether in business, academics or athletics. Some people just seem to have that intrinsic desire to take competition to the next level in the form of MMA.
Don’t get me wrong, though, not all of the people that take competition to another level do so in the form of cage fighting. Take Donald Trump for instance. Most everyone knows that Donald Trump ‘The Donald’ is a cutthroat businessman who no doubt has competitive juices running throughout his veins. Trump is a fighter; he just chooses to fight in a venue other than a cage. Think also of Bill Gates and his Microsoft empire. Gates must be one of the most competitive people in the world right now…you can’t be worth $52 billion and be the richest man in the world without being competitive.
As far as competition goes, higher levels in all athletics involves great amounts of it, so why do some people choose to compete as fighters instead of gymnasts…what makes some people turn to fighting for their avenue of competition?
Former UFC and Pride star Frank Trigg said, “I fight for the reality of it…I fight to show that my training works.”
Josh Burkman, former TUF star and current Team Punishment member said, “I love to compete! MMA is the ultimate form of competition. It’s one thing you can’t perfect, you have to constantly challenge yourself, and always push yourself. The sport is evolving so fast, constantly moving forward. It’s a great thing to be a part of. This sport also helps promote health, dedication, determination, self-control, self-confidence and so much more…not to mention, women love it!”
Newly crowned TUF Season 4 middleweight champion Travis Lutter has a slightly different view of fighting. He said that he fights, “Because I can.” He continued, “We are all going to end up in a rocking chair someday, it just all depends how we want to get there.”
TUF Season 2 welterweight runner up Luke Cummo said, “One way or another I am where I am now in my life and this is my job. The UFC writes my paycheck and I fight for them…also, I love the martial arts.”
As one could expect, the craziest answer of all that I received was from Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller. Miller gave fans some great insight on what makes him fight…divine intervention…
‘Mayhem’ said, “I fight because Jesus sent me an e-mail over AOL dial up when I was 16 and told me to, he was arm in arm with motivational speaker Tony Robbins, whose giant gums hypnotized me. Then it made sense, since I was already durable and loved losing my temper on the playground and was once hit by a giant metal playground toy directly in the headpiece doing 30 mph and was unphased. Now it’s a great way to make a living, because I’ve devoted my life to something I love and I’m getting paid more than I would working in a junkyard.”
I think ‘Mayhem’ said it all here…
These answers are a handful of the different responses I received from men on why they fight. As you all can see, not once was the response, “Because I hate people and want to hurt them.” To these men, fighting is a sport, an occupation and a way to better their lives with their own hard work.
To be honest, I’d say that the majority of the people in the fighting community, whether UFC, Pride, IFL, etc., are some of the kindest, friendliest people I’ve ever met. I know it may sound odd to those people that haven’t had the opportunity to meet some of these men yet, but guys like Randy Couture, Mike Swick and Georges St. Pierre are each down to earth and gracious people. They are not the ‘hooligans or ‘thugs’ that some people in the general public expect them to be.
And now the answer is finally revealed…
In this article I had really hoped to get one definitive answer to the mysterious question of ‘Why do fighters fight?’ In my research though, I found that there is no singular answer to this question. There are multiple answers…and they all are right. If I had to narrow it down to one though, it would be this…simply put, fighters fight because that is what they do. The same reason that teachers teach, singers sing and writers write. There is no strict design or elaborate coordination behind why these men fight other than they are fighters, and fighters fight. It may sound simple, but sometimes the best answers come in the simplest forms.
Josh Barnett summed everything up flawlessly when he said that he fights, “Simply because it’s what I am supposed to do. Being a fighter is who I am and without that aspect, I would be someone else.”