Are we too hard on UK MMA?
Now I have to confess I am a man of high standards. Whatever I do I will always strive to do it the best I can and I expect that of my team in my day job and I think this has crept into my expectation of UKMMA. I am also one to analyse and critique and it has led me to consider whether I and a section of the community are a little too harsh on our young sport. I'm not talking about the standard of the fighters, but I am referring to their training and competitive environments. We all hope for the day we have a mainstream recognised sport where we can speak openly without having to justify and educate about mixed martial arts. This is a good thing. It shows ambition and the sport's growth will attract new influential followers who can assist in achieving the proverbial dream.
We have only just witnessed the first generation of UK fighters hang up their gloves and boy how things have changed since their beginnings. Guys like Lee Hasdell and Ian Freeman for example, were competing under pre-unified rule sets and had to travel the world to get a decent scrap and a few coins. Nowadays there is a choice of promotions to showcase one's skills and you probably won't even have to travel more than an hour...in traffic! My personal opinion is that there are too many shows, certainly too many that are poorly run and project a negative image of the sport, but that's subjective. However, the beauty of the UK is that it's a free, democratic country that encourages enterprise. This equates to choice for a fighter and more importantly spectators, as without paying customers the final whistle will be blown. This enterprise has also encouraged the opening of scores of gyms. Again, no formal qualification or commission prevents this so every Karate dojo, Muay Thai club and weightlifting gym probably host an evening where future hopefuls try to work out a double leg counter. This infectious intrigue in the 'complete fighter' surely aids the coverage of the sport? In a way, it's great that individuals are broadening their combat horizons, but on the other hand there are legitimate training centres with stables of successful professional fighters in the next town. These training centres may have started on the bare boards of a squash court, but now have not just mats, but fences, s&c areas, expertise in numerous disciplines and in-house injury specialists. All this in a little over 10 years? Nice work!
Let's celebrate the promotions again for a second; UK MMA has been televised on ITV4, Sky Sports and soon to be on Channel 5. Oh and even the BBC gave MMA a look with their documentary into women's MMA! That's a lot of homes. You won't find that kind of coverage in France and they've enjoyed success in traditional martial arts for years.
But for all this positivity there are some glaring issues. The Ultimate Fighting Championship debuted in 1993 and was first commissioned in 2000. We started putting on shows around 1998 and are seemingly a way off 'commissioned' or 'governed' events (exception of the UFC in the UK). So we are lagging behind. What we do have though is a growing number of high profile and successful fighters winning internationally. We also have expert referees, judges and profit generating promotions. Underpinning all of this is a community of fans, geeks, fanatics and media luvvies that are determined to see the sport succeed in the eyes of the mainstream audience. Even more impressive is that nearly all of these persons will have made tremendous sacrifice and not yet profited financially or otherwise. It would be unfair to name individuals as there are so many, but these people are key to the development of our sport. It's glaringly obvious that we have grown, albeit in a few different directions, so now we need to consolidate and take advantage of our horizon and potential synergies. This growth is positive as it will have helped us learn (sometimes through mistakes) and attracted attention. The next step is crucial before the fragments turn into chasms. In an ideal world maybe UKMMA should consider itself as more like Team GB and if you cheat or misrepresent then you do so at the annoyance and remonstration of your peers, fellow sportsmen and 'team'. OK, so it's a little unrealistic and fluffy, but we all play a part and should at least continue to educate both within and outside lending our respective expertise to help one another, all the while aiming for that hallowed cohesion within the sport.
To end on a positive notion lets consider the current landscape in the UK - one that has made good progress over the last decade or so. It's time to thank our talented, tenacious fore-fathers and celebrate just how far we have come. The future looks a little brighter now, right?!
Image 1 by Little Red Creative.
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Published by Boogeyman - Wed, 29 Aug 2012 15:38