– FOX NEWS: “Ultimate Fighter Good for America”

Fox News – Mike Straka
The Ultimate Fighter Is Good for America;
Monday, October 31, 2005
By Mike Straka

Lessons in the Octagon

OK … so you’re not a fan of Ultimate Fighting or mixed martial arts competitions.

I can’t say I blame you. Fighting is not for everyone.

But if you can get past the scariness of witnessing two athletes going toe-to-toe in the middle of a ring called “The Octagon,” you might find a lesson worth passing on to your kids, or one for yourself.

Last week, on Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality show that puts the word “real” back in reality television, aspiring professional fighter Sammy Morgan, a 23-year-old Minneapolis landscaper and nightclub security person, stepped into the ring with one of the most talented and fierce fighters the UFC has ever seen, a completely unassuming guy named Luke Cummo.

Luke is pretty much a dork.

He meditates, eats the weirdest concoctions of food and has a unique way of training. What everybody learned after seeing Luke fight is that what may look unconventional for some can be the secret to success for others.

Luke is one of the baddest, smartest fighters this side of Matt Hughes, a UFC veteran and also a coach on the TV show.

When Sammy and Luke squared off, viewers and fight fans were treated to a round-one action reminiscent of the legendary bout between Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonner from last season’s finale show. Round two brought a different reality, however.

Luke knocked Sammy out cold with a knee to the side of the face.

Why am I telling you this? Bear with me one minute.

Last week, I read a story about an apparently wealthy New Jersey family that is suing New York’s famed Plaza Hotel because the hotel cancelled a Bas Mitzvah for the family’s daughter.

The Plaza is undergoing a massive renovation and the place has to be shuttered during a time when the party is scheduled to take place. So a few days after making the booking, the hotel called the family and broke the bad news.

The Plaza subsequently refunded the family’s $12,000 deposit on the estimated $21,000 party (a Grrr! in and of itself), and also covered $2,060 for the family’s costs for invitations, pins and a family photo montage.

But that wasn’t good enough, so they called a lawyer.

You see, the parents were both engaged and married at the Plaza, and the wife’s brothers and sisters all celebrated their coming-of-age parties at the Plaza as well.

It’s a family tradition that they were understandably looking forward to sharing with their daughter. Most people can reasonably understand their disappointment.

But a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for “humiliation, indignity, distress of mind and mental suffering”?

The place is undergoing renovations, for crying out loud. These things happen. Start a new family tradition. Take up the Four Seasons. How about the Ritz? Surely there are other lavish places in which to begin new traditions.

What, the New York courts don’t have other things to deal with — like prosecuting white-collar criminals and drug dealers and murderers and hit-and-run drunk drivers — that this family wants to help out the local justice system with something to occupy their time before dismissing this ridiculous claim?

It’s shocking, to say the least.

But what does any of this have to do with Sammy Morgan getting knocked out? It goes right to the heart of what’s wrong in our great nation — a nation of coddled citizens who throw tantrums in the form of lawsuits every time something doesn’t go their way.

Morgan was competing for a six-figure contract to become a professional fighter in the UFC league. The UFC is sanctioned by state athletic commissions and holds pay-per-view and live fighting events in Las Vegas, Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida and other states.

Sammy is looking to make his dream come true, and with that comes sacrifice. It means leaving his jobs to train. It means going to bed early, exercising like a madman, lifting weights, eating well — in other words, working hard for a better life, something fewer and fewer of us are doing to live the American Dream.

These days, we simply expect that dream. We act like being born in this great country means we deserve of all the things it stands for, without the sacrifice.

When Sammy got his wits back after being knocked out, the realization that he was out of the competition and back to the drawing board hit him harder than Luke’s knee.

“I didn’t make it,” he said. “I didn’t make it.”

And then the muscular fighter with the heart of gold and steel at once, a quiet man with an eye of a tiger, a man you’d want by your side in any dark alley anywhere in the world, cried his eyes out. He buried his face in his gloves and cried.

He then sought out his opponent and congratulated him on the win, and stood with his head high in the center of the ring while the ref announced Cummo the winner.

Sammy had class.

All the way across the country, in what is a world away from Sammy’s reality, a wealthy and successful family is suing a storied establishment because their daughter won’t be able to have her lavish party there. What kind of lesson do you think those parents are teaching their daughter?

I feel sorry for her. I’ll take Sammy’s way any day of the week. Nobody deserves anything, and when things don’t work out, lick your wounds and find another way. Come on!