Physics is pretty cool. I have always held that statement to be true and to this day I still believe it. When it comes to everything else involved in this story, I’m less convinced, so I’ll hold on to the physics. It will be my constant on this retrospective journey through my entry into MMA fandom.
It was the summer of 2009, I was reasonably young, reasonably in shape, I probably had a job, I was definitely a student, and like many students, I loved vodka. All but one of those statements remains true today. Transparent liquid gold, you promised so much. I believe it was a Saturday so being the nerd that I was (am) I was home alone, enjoying some of the aforementioned liquid wonder. It was after midnight, I was all set to watch a documentary on black holes. It was on one of those channels no one ever watches so I was undertaking the arduous journey to number 452 or something, I never made it that far. On a little known channel at number 407 I came across something I had only heard of in legend. Two dudes were standing in a cage and beating the fuck out of each other.
“That’s ridiculous!” I proclaimed to no one.
Of course, I never changed the channel and I had no idea that for better or worse my life was about to change forever.
I found out later that I was watching a rerun of Cage Rage, a now defunct British MMA promotion that actually had some serious talent at times, including Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva. The event I found myself watching on that fateful night had neither of those guys on it, at least I don’t think it did, I really had no idea what I was watching but I found myself oddly fascinated by the whole thing. I had another drink as the next two fighters entered the cage (the place where the rage happened). Fighter A was uninteresting but fighter B, for the most innocuous and pathetic reasons, was immediately ‘my guy!’ His fighting style wasn’t wrestling, or kick boxing, or muay thai, no. It was “ghetto style.” This Dave Lister looking motherfucker was simply a street thug with an interesting hairstyle who managed to take advantage of the fact that there wasn’t much MMA talent in Britain at the time. If you could take a punch, you were in.
I was transfixed, I had another drink.
I wish I could remember that crazy fucker’s name. Alas I have tried and failed many times to find out, but I cheered, oh how I cheered. Of course he was going to win–he was a bad ass.
I guess the nicest thing I can say about him was that he certainly wasn’t finished in the first round. Not for lack of trying on the part of fighter A, mind you. Fighter A beat the living hell out of this guy for as long as I can remember, somewhere in round two I found nature calling with a vengeance and upon returning to my glorious sofa, two new half naked dudes were throwing them bungalows. It didn’t matter, I was hooked on what I essentially though of as a freak show. I managed to find it again on various weekend nights and watched as much as I could, traditionally with vodka. I was fascinated by the ground game, always anticipating a brutal knock out and I even found certain elements hilarious. The cage announcer Mark Aplin never introduced a fighter without making a mistake, statistically you would think he would get at least one right, but he never did. It was misplaced genius comedy. I would later come to remember him as sort of an anti-Buffer. No make up either. I think he’s dead now.
I began to follow certain fighters. There was no doubt who my favourite was–one reverse elbow into Tony Fryklund’s face and Anderson Silva was my new hero. He inspired me enough to Google him, and three letters seemed to be very prominent in the results: UFC.
By now the forgetful year of 2009 was slowly but surely giving way to the warm breeze and misplaced promise of a better 2010. I had watched all of the Anderson Silva fights youtube had to offer and was cautiously exploring the world of UFC. One thing initially put me off, it wasn’t the America-ness of it all, the ridiculous hype train roaring behind each and every fight. It wasn’t even the fear factor guy going ape shit. Oddly enough it was the production value, it was too clean, Buffer never even made a mistake and no one was fighting “ghetto style.”
It almost seemed as if these fights were fair and even. It would take an adjustment period. If I could pick one fight that was probably the turning point it would have to be UFC 107, B.J. Penn vs. Diego Sanchez. When I witnessed that crazy little Hawaiian fuck open up a titanic gash the size of a small country on “The Nightmare’s” face, I was hooked.
It was a long and slow process before I could really call myself an MMA fan or a student of the game. Things like appreciation for jiu-jitsu and fight strategy are really an acquired taste. It’s been a crazy ride ever since. I never thought of myself as the stereotypical MMA fan. After all I’m a nerd who was supposed to be watching a physics documentary on black holes. I have come to realize that we really are all nerds. Well, the hard-cores are. The less said about the oft mentioned casual MMA fan the better.
I was just a young man who wanted to drink alone in peace and learn about black holes. Instead I stumbled upon another phenomenon from which I can never escape.
5. http://buzz.bournemouth.ac.uk/history-of-british-mma/ (Daniel Welling, 2013)
8. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/655855-mma-knockout-of-the-day-anderson-silva-knocks-tony-fryklunds-head-off (Sal De Rose, 2011)
12. http://mmajunkie.com/2009/12/ufc-107-play-by-play-and-live-results (2009)
13. http://mmajunkie.com/2012/10/fowlkes-when-it-comes-to-mma-what-do-you-really-know-and-what-does-it-matter (Ben Fowlkes, 2012