Convicted Artist Magazine

May 14th
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mma-boxingWhen the MMA explosion first took root about 10 years ago, there were many predictions as to how it would play out.  Some of them were just outright predictions for the sport's future, in and of itself.  Others related the sport to boxing, and how it would fair against it, below it, or joined forces with it.  In the last ten years, we've seen many attempts to pair the two, to divide the two, and most of all, to compare the two.  There are many lessons the powerful could learn from one sport as it translates to the other, but rarely are the good lessons (in the fan's minds anyway) the ones that are learned.

The UFC has been the entity to stand the immediate test of time.  That was the first major concern from most fighting sport fans.  We'd seen this before.  The kung fu explosion of the early 70's, the karate explosion of the 80's, and the kickboxing boom in the early 90's.  Many predicted that MMA would go the way of the other "fighting fads", and never match boxing in dollars or star-making potential.  The UFC made great strides and laid a foundation for what would work.  One recognizable name brand with most of the top fighters, along with a farm system to bring up talent.  A network deal, and a PPV presence would also be essential.  They also targeted exactly what the name suggests, all martial artists who knew two or more disciplines could have success in the cage.

As time has passed, however, boxing promoters have only gleaned most of the negatives associated with this format.  They do not make it easy with networks or a farm system (although there are attempts at this practice), instead they have learned the lesson of exclusivity... the one thing many MMA fans wish Dana White and the UFC would relax on.  Ronda Rousey and Fedor were made stars outside of UFC, and it cost a pretty penny to include them.  This lack of exclusivity was one of the best things about boxing... Don King could make millions off fighters that were not his... co-promotions were the rule, not the exception.  However, with the recent Top Rank and Golden Boy feud, it seems Dana White's loss is no one else's gain.

Two surprising things have not happened to MMA.  One positive and the other negative.  There have been no major medical incidents as a result of the brutal knockouts often displayed in a MMA bout.  This lends credence to what boxing fans have considered common knowledge... that sustained beatings are what causes major brain injury, not one-punch KO's.  However, MMA has also yet to produce a cross-over star.  Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz before him may have become names within general sports' fans mental database, but the average man on the street does not know who he his.  Even Ronda Rousey has not completely crossed over, yet that leads to the final point.  

MMA has been slower to warm up to women in their sport, namely in the UFC, much as HBO will not acknowledge women's boxing.  Women's boxing is splintered, with very few ladies in it for the long haul... at least in the USA.  However, Rousey may be the face of MMA soon, which will have many boxing promoters looking to find a similar face.  Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, and Ann Wolfe all retired before any could face each other.  Mia St. John and Christy Martin fought on too long, and were never good enough to carry a sport.  Rousey is winning, and in the same way every time.  Her eventual toppling will garner huge ratings, as will every fight until it happens.  Good move.  

Either way, I hope the merging of cards, and the merging of fans leads fighting sport fans to acknowledge the sports differences, without denying the similarities.  there is no need to reinvent the wheel, when something has already worked.  From the ring to the cage, or vice versa.  Its usually worth a shot.

Chris Strait

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