Warning. At one point in this article you will see someone discussing a grisly injury. If this is something uncomfortable for you, please accept my apology.
The thing about MMA, in and of itself, is that it’s based upon a combination of extreme levels of violence and also extreme levels of skill. To participate in the sport and be successfull, you can’t be the stereotypical bar-brawling tough guy some of MMA’s critics have decried the common-day MMA athlete as being. But in that same vein, you have to have both a high pain personal threshold and an equally high pain tolerance for your opponent. Simply put, you have to be willing to suffer as much as you are willing to make your opponent suffer. That brings us to this weekend’s Ronda Rousey vs Miesha Tate fight from Strikeforce.
Now I know when you saw it, you probably thought how gross it was that you could see an arm broken in combat sports.
Some of you might have even believed, like and But here’s the thing: in every form of grappling, whether it be Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, or even college wrestling, you are taught that if your opponent is unwilling to tap out or verbally submit while they’re in a hold you don’t let go. You force the tap. That’s what Ronda Rousey did. She forced the tap.
Also, Ronda Rousey is the kind of franchise player women’s MMA needs. She checks every box. Grappling cred? She won an Olympic Bronze in Judo, and medaled in several other high-level competitions.
Now I get it. I truly understand why broken limbs in a sport can trouble you. But if it troubles you this much, I ask you one question. Why is football so popular, so adored? It’s the same kind of violence and skill level meld as MMA, albeit the violence is higher and the skill level is lower. And, MMA is far safer than football. Admittedly, the research isn’t nearly as detailed as I would like it to be but it does pass the eyeball test. But think about this. For a football game, every player collides with the force of small adult killer whales on every play. For 3 hours. And the culture inherent in football makes it so that you can’t stop, can’t quit, and most certainly can’t feel pain. You have to keep going or otherwise you’re not a football player or something to that effect. The entire culture of football is built around the idea that you have to be tougher than the next man, that you have to ignore pain.
Without sounding like a biased MMA head, the truth is that MMA protects its athletes to a far greater degree than they are given credit for once competition starts. The culture also helps with this. It’s from a grappling culture that is about fighting with all you have, but just as importantly, understanding when to submit.
The knowledge that MMA is still condemned as being overly barbaric, while football is as American as apple pie and the flag, is terrifically confusing. Maybe over the course of the next few weeks I’ll get into this. If that is something you are interested in, let me know in the comments.