Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is the UFC getting its due?

Football, baseball, and basketball are America's major sports and deserve the majority of the media coverage, of course, but it is astounding to me how little play ultimate fighting, an enormously popular sport among young men, gets in the mainstream media. (ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd continues to rail against ESPN and Sports Illustrated for ignoring the UFC; he makes the salient point that it is not the media's job to promote sports as much as cover events that are of interest to people.) Among combat sports I find boxing more aesthetically intriguing, and I tend to agree with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach who told me recently: "It’s painful to watch these guys punching like girls. When they get on the ground it gets boring and slow and they get tangled and it's slow. They don’t have good [boxing] technique. The sport, I just can’t get into it. I don’t know, but it's probably because I have been in boxing so long." Roach is a boxing man through-and-through yet he has trained boxing to mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters and knows the sport well enough to realize that MMA attracts large crowds. I must admit I prefer boxing, too, but I have grown to appreciate ultimate fighting. When I reported a piece a couple years ago for TIME (check out Robert Gallagher's excellent photo essay from the story) about the UFC I came away impressed; I was given a lot of access to the fighters and management, and I studied the fighters in the dressing room doing their pre-fight routine and I watched some bouts ringside (UFC legend and current heavyweight champ Randy Couture graciously sat with me and explained strategy), and I thought the fighters had decent athleticism, and the passion and intelligence of the fans went against the prevailing attitude that the sport's spectators were blood-hungry grunts. Boxing still has the lore and it can capture the public's imagination in spurts (the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight on May 5, for example), but it has become, sadly, a complete mess. The UFC is well run and the other day it bought out Pride, its main rival, which will only make the sport bigger. There is obviously an audience for the UFC, which has made light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and Jenna Jameson-dating fighter Tito Ortiz into household names. Can you name more than two belt holders in boxing?


Blogger sirshannon said...

Most MMA fighters are as skilled at boxing as pro boxers are but the first "M" in "MMA" is for "Mixed". A boxer in MMA won't last very long because in MMA, a clinch doesn't stop the fighting like in boxing, a clinch forces a change in tactics. Of course, most MMA fighters wouldn't last very long in a pro boxing match, either for the same reason.

MMA fighters have to be more rounded and have to be skilled in boxing, wrestling, submission, kick-boxing, etc. Today's better fighters recognize their weak spots and work to improve on them.

For an example of this, watch this Saturday's UFC payperview: a rematch between 2 guys (Diego Sanchez and Josh Koscheck) that fought a couple years ago when they were both wrestling/submission fighters. Both have tremendously improved the rest of their game; Sanchez has been working on his boxing with Oscar De Lahoya.

Oh, and I am guessing that punching in boxing vs. UFC may be affected a bit by the 4oz gloves in UFC. I wonder what a boxing match between a 4oz gloved UFC striker and a pro boxer would look like if the boxer had his normal gloves on. I'm guessing those "girl punches" might sting.

I am big MMA fan. Most of the reason for that is because I do like MMA.

But some of the reason for that is because boxing just isn't as great as it used to be. There are good fights occasionally but I would rather see 5 boring minutes of 2 MMA fighters on the ground than 12 boring rounds of 2 boxers throwing a punch, grabbing each other, getting broken apart by the ref and then repeating until the fight goes to the judges to decide.

2:04 PM  

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