Was that a win, or was that a WOW? Ronda Rousey’s 14-second demolition of Cat Zingano in last week’s UFC 184 clearly showcased the sharp upsurge of Mixed Martial Arts as the spectator combat sport of choice today. Ronda was so impressive with her signature armbar move that fans all over the world are gobbling up video tapes of this bad-ass lady like crazy. And the other MMA marquee fighters are benefiting from her rising popularity as well.
MMA has indeed arrived. And nothing, not even the Mayweather – Pacquiao Fight of the Century – billed as the biggest fight in boxing history – can stop its steady climb to the top. People today, particularly the younger generation, are lapping up mixed martial arts fights, and they talk about arm bars, axe kicks, elbow strikes and leg locks with more familiarity and ease than they would uppercuts or hooks, straights or jabs.
I asked a young MMA fan what the hell it was that was making MMA more appealing to their generation. She just shrugged and offered a guess: “Maybe it’s just a natural progression of things. You watch boxing, judo, jiu-jitsu (yup, it’s not jujitsu, folks), wrestling, muay thai, karatedo, etc, and you just want to see all those disciplines melded together.” She added: “And with the internet and social media utilized to the max by MMA practitioners, our generation can understand the nuances of the sport much easier.”
Makes sense to me. Of my 4 kids, 3 have been following the MMA fight scene; while none seem interested in boxing, despite the immense popularity of Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines.
But I venture to add that there are other factors that have contributed to the growing popularity of the sport. For one, MMA comes closest to street fighting, hence the appeal to the young ones who must come up with ways to defend themselves, should the need arise. Then there’s the presence of such colorful poster boys and girls like Ronda, the infamous John Jones, the steady Brock Lesnar, the clean-cut Chris Weidman (who dethroned the popular Anderson Silva), the blood-and-guts Randy Couture, and Gina Carano, a looker from a few years back.
Also, the lack of highlight knockout action and the lamentable non-fights in the boxing world brought about by promoter animosities have really disenchanted a lot of fans and hurt the sport of boxing. Another youngster, Gian, adds: “I guess some young folks think MMA is more indicative of the overall hand-to-hand combat skills of an individual. Maybe it’s also because of the allegations of bout fixing in boxing.”
Here in the Philippines, MMA is also slowly but surely gaining ground on the combat sports map. Only recently, a new entity has stepped forward to provide more mixed martial arts competition, albeit with a different angle. The iFC promises to provide opportunities for new fighters, especially those coming from the provinces.
Led by two visionaries in the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) scene – Tony Reyes and Ferdie Munsayac – iFC intends to come up with a multi-sector approach that will include a grassroots development program to popularize the sport. iFC plans to reach out to new frontiers; to find, train and prepare new talents for the sport.
Very soon, iFC will have – for its inaugural offering – a Battle Series featuring hidden talents from local gyms. Proceeds of the first-ever presentation from iFC will go to a good cause. It will go to the families of the SAF Fallen 44.
With a noble cause to boot, and with its advocacy to develop the sport in the hinterlands, Filipino Martial Arts is surely here to stay as well.
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