The World’s Sport

I have always had an appreciation for martial arts, and I have aged and grown more disenchanted with American football I have begun to immerse myself into the world of global MMA. I never would have anticipated being allowed to write on this subject for school, but I was given that permission and I have fallen in love with the world of combat sports. When I started this blog I really only knew of the UFC, and now I have collected a knowledge of men and women who gave pride to their countries and produced millions of dollars doing something our government wanted to have outlawed.

There was more to following global MMA than just trying to learn foreign names. Asia and South America both televised and drew money by putting on full contact fights, they also both used different models for making stars and putting on events that would be tolerable to all audiences based on their culture.

The Brazilians have the longest bare-knuckle tradition and were all about bragging rights and proving that their style was supreme.

The Japanese fought for honor and to promote traditional styles of sport, where losing was nothing to be ashamed of as long as you fought with your heart and mind.

It is exciting today to see the promise of international promotions and their ability to bring more and more talent and viewing options to an audience desperate to know they are viewing the best the world has to offer.

Magomedov v. Yan

Today nearly 50 countries are represented in the UFC. While the stigma of full contact fighting still prevails throughout a large part of the United States population, it is largely due to our country having a combat culture with traditions based on guns.No other sport offers a venue for athletes of all sexes from any country to prove that their style is the best above all.

genki-sudo-we-are-all-one

 

 

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Will One Championship, Mean More Champs

Five years ago in Singapore, ONE Fighting Championships debuted their starting roster of fighters. This list would be completely foreign to American MMA fans, with the exception of recognizing one Gracie from the famed Brazilian fighting family.

To Asia and its nearly 4 billion people that did not matter, they were there to make their mark on MMA without bringing in the used up names from UFC. This model has worked for ONE FC and their names may still be unfamiliar to the western viewer but the action is everything you could ask for. Through building their brand and stamping all the major Asian cities with events and fighters they can cheer for they have become the largest sports promotion in all of Asia.

This is so important because the rest of the world and Asia specifically does not view Martial Arts the way many do in the United States. Many in the East view martial arts and competing in this fashion is a traditional path of purpose where honor and potential outweigh the perceived malice. This in turn means more Eastern sponsors and not just companies exclusive to that hemisphere. Blue-chip companies that do not go into the MMA waters here, see an opportunity in Asia.

Disney, Facebook, Sony, Under Armour, LG and Canon.

When there are bigger sponsors, there becomes bigger payout, which is what sent the UFC into its dark period of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. While the shine of being a star in The States always has the biggest allure but the size of the pond over seas can become hard to ignore for athletes competing in the only major sport without collective bargaining.

With the UFC being purchased by the Wanda group for a reported 4 billion dollars it will be interesting to see if this bodes well for ONE Championships or if this means more UFC events finding their way east.

The only thing for sure is ONE championships are making their claim to the world’s largest market with their most traditional competition, first.

Why should I be interested?

These days in professional mixed martial arts your window on top can be very small. Fighters in the UFC format, which was at one time, “Western” or Americanized before they absorbed a majority of the competing promotions, have an extremely short leash on fighters when it comes to getting second chances after losses.

The American MMA viewer is conditioned to anticipate undefeated and up and coming fighters throughout all of their events. With the retirement of Dan Henderson at the UFC 204, the days of fighters with extensive records seems to be over.

Those who are interested in combat sports, but still criticize the UFC today, often use the revolving door of talent as UFC’s biggest failing.

Your average American does not know the names of any of the UFC champions outside of Connor McGregor and feels no reason to become invested because there are so many fighters to know, since guys are constantly fading from the spotlight. Then on the other hand the only guy out their in the spotlight is the man with the biggest personality in the sport.

UFC of course would argue this is because they want to put the best fighters out their competing and they have such a long line for guys thinking its their turn at a shot, other critics say the UFC would be more popular if they used interesting characters regardless of record to get fans and hopefully new fans invested in the UFC program.

This was the original model of Japan’s own Pride Fighting Championships.

They built their shows based on men with established reputations and accomplishments in other combat arts. They built a show for the whole world, it featured fighters from over 4 Continents designed to give fans of anything in a ring something they were looking for. The Pride FC 1 show featured a kickboxing match, a predetermined fight similar to Shooto, 2 fights featuring stars from UFC and a main event featuring one of Japans most popular wrestlers Nobuhiko Takada and Rickson Gracie from the worlds most famous martial arts family.

Pride dropped the predetermined fights, finally added some time constraints and judges. However they continued their model of using UFC stars whether they won or loss mixed in with other global talent who had gotten the fans attention throughout fighting events and consistently made more money than UFC in the late 1990’s.

The interesting thing is that during UFC’s “Dark-Ages” from 1996-2001 this model for setting up fights worked for Pride and they were able to pay entertaining UFC stars, which fight fans knew globally, more to compete in Japan and built up bouts with the established stars of Pride FC.

Then when UFC was bought buy the ZUFFA company and owners and investors with an interest kicked UFC promotion into full swing and due to having more funding they finally were able to absorb Pride.

Now all of a sudden in 2007, UFC does not have any legitimate competitors in MMA and have a massive pool of talent. When the pool of talent is this large there seems to be no room to build up stories and rivalries, because all that matters are wins and losses. However, the UFC fan base has become stagnant and has no real way to attract new fans except when someone’s personality eclipses the sport. In a time when their two biggest stars Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar can not seem to pass a drug test, The UFC has to look somewhere.  If personality and storylines attract the most people and money, why should UFC wait for the stars when they could make them on their own?

American as Red Bean Pie

Today the United States has virtually claimed Mixed-Martial Arts as its own through corporate buyouts and media power.

 

There are hundreds or MMA promotions around the globe, and many that I will cover in the future are gaining ground in markets where fans seek out more traditional and nationalistic matches.

 

While The Ultimate Fighting Championship made the technique of “mixing” full-contact martial arts a global phenomena, the pioneers of combat disciplines had been toying with this idea nearly a decade prior.

 

Even before the Japanese went full force in televised combat, a professional wrestling promotion named UWF, or Universal Wrestling Federation began flirting with the idea of seeing how interested the public would be with unscripted fighting.

It did not hurt the UWF that they had two of the most famous wrestlers in the world to stable their new promotion.

 

In 1983 Japanese icon Antonio Inoki was possibly going to be released from New Japan, a company where he was the brand, and the biggest celebrity in all of Japan.

The idea of Inoki’s departure rattled TV Asahi and the radical UWF had its shot at capturing a TV audience.

 

The UWF looked to eliminate the showmanship stigma pro-wrestling had attached to it and brought in American Karl Gotch to train their new athletes.

As usual, conflicting philosophies and business models brought UWF under by 1985, but one man’s dream would not be deferred.

 

In 1985 after leaving UWF, legendary Pro-Wrestler Satoru Sayama, internationally know as Tiger Mask, started Shooto. This was based on the style of Shoot-fighting.

The Japanese were the first to implement “real” combat into their professional wrestling, where they truly validate an athlete’s career based on toughness and accomplishments outside the scripted world of wrestling.

For those confused, in today’s professional wrestling the worlds biggest star would have to be Brock Lesnar. Lesnar, has held world championships in college wrestling and Ultimate Fighting.

 

The figureheads of Japanese wrestling knew that they could build their biggest stars through putting the spotlight on “Shoot” matches. This traditionally had gone through Sumo championships and Catch-Wrestling.

 

Two Organizations blossomed in Japan before UFC and created the international market for full contact sports with no decided outcomes.

 

The true precursor to UFC was Japan’s Pancrase promotion formed by wrestlers who wished to be judged on their skills and not their acting. Pancrase itself was named after the ancient Olympic sport of Pankration. This was one of the first live events where winners were determined only by submission or knockout

Then, one karate practitioner in Japan decided to mix a few of the most respected striking disciplines in Japan and formed K-1. The K-1 Grand Prix in 1993 saw the worlds best Kickboxing, Karate, and Kung-Fu experts compete before 12,000 people live and even more on television.

Only a few months before the debut of Ultimate Fighting the seeds had been planted for a market thirsty for combat, however it would be another 4 years before they had a true MMA promotion to call their own.