Mixed Martial Arts is now more popular than ever. The UFC was just sold for $4 Billion, it has superstars like Ronda Rousey that have gone mainstream, and it is now legal in every state in the country.
Yet most people I know don’t care about it. I think I know why.
The core of my love of MMA is the mix of story and action. Professional MMA fighters are athletes at the top of their fields, but many of them come from humble beginnings. Winning or losing has real stakes in their lives. For some at the very top of the sport, the difference between victory and defeat is millions of dollars. Even for those in the middle of the pack, a single win or loss can make the difference between setting up your family for a life of comfort or potentially going into debt due to training costs. Beyond the financial stakes, these are professionals whose reputations are on the line. This adds drama to every fight.
There’s also the action. MMA combines the sweet science of boxing, the nuance of jiu-jitsu, the strength of Maui Thai, and the tradition of wrestling. Leonardo da Vinci was obsessed with the human form. He found it beautiful in its dimensions and movements. I agree with him and find watching MMA as a flowy manifestation of it.
There are myriad reasons why most people around me don’t follow MMA. Most are not exposed to it or understand how it is regulated now (and is not the no holds barred cage fighting spectacle it was advertised as a long time ago). More than those things, I think that the people around me only see one part of the equation. The only see the action. If you only see the action, I understand why you wouldn’t “get it.” Knowing the story behind the fighters makes the experience three dimensional. There are redemption stories in MMA, stories of people who have triumphed despite personal loss, and stories of dominant athletes who have worked their entire life for that moment.
Take Conor McGregor for example. Months before he joined the UFC, this Irish fighter was on the dole and working in construction while he trained on the side. His powerful left hand and brash style of promoting fights gained him local attention. This ultimately led him to the UFC and into superstardom.
When I try to expose the people around me to MMA, this is the part I try and emphasize.