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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-26-2010, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
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British MMA dealing with misconceptions

Despite the success of Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, Terry Etim and Michael Bisping in the UFC, British MMA has been caging it's possible growth.

It may have been a long time since mixed martial arts was considered ‘human cock-fighting' in the US, but just across the pond MMA is just attempting to shake of the shackles of the public's misconception of the sport.

Although the UFC broke it's European attendance figures when it attracted almost 17,000 people to Manchester's MEN Arena in November, that is a drop in the ocean compared to what most people in this country still think of MMA. I should know, after all it was only 18 months ago that I was one of these ill thinking people.

You see, I sort of stumbled into a ‘love affair' with MMA. Embarking on my final year of a sports journalism course in university, it was required of me to construct a 16 page magazine on a sport of my choice.

Now everyone in this country likes football, (or soccer as you will undoubtedly know it) your choice of team is like a birthmark and I couldn't go doing that along with everyone else. No I needed something different, or even better, something controversial.

MMA, or as I knew it, cage fighting, fitted the bill perfectly. I wanted to show that this sport was just an excuse for high school bullies to get into a cage and throw. I planned on getting some juicy interviews from people with a poor opinion of the sport, and burying it.

Now, don't forget, over here there is very little MMA on the TV apart from the UFC, which isn't hugely advertised, and the main media outlets do not openly cover MMA. In fact the only prominent sports journalist who covers MMA is Gareth Davies, who you may be familiar with from MMA Live.
I'd heard a few names, but ultimately I knew very little of the sport, so the first interview I did was with a Brazilian jujitsu coach named Gary Savage, who is a student of Wolflair's BJJ coach Mario Sukata, who holds a loss to Eddie Sanchez at UFC 63.

I thought that I would go to his gym and find a bunch of tearaways and juice heads, so imagine my surprise when they picked me up, dropped me home, treated me with respect and even offered me to join them to train (which I politely declined.) Gary explained how MMA had transformed the lives of his students. I suddenly saw MMA in a different light and my whole project changed into a pro-MMA magazine.

18 months on and I'm hooked, Il watch anything I can on TV and the internet, and I am keen to learn as much as I can as possible about the sport. I see now why I prejudged MMA, it is quite clear. Let me take you back to those two words I mentioned earlier, cage fighting.

It is the moniker which MMA still regularly goes by in the United Kingdom. It is a moniker which organisations such as Cage Gladiators and the now defunct Cage Rage went by and one that they are trying to now shed (Cage Gladiators has now been rebranded as Olympian MMA Championships.)

Ultimately it is a moniker which threatens to keep the success of MMA in this country on a leash.
You see, the simple name cage fighting gives the notion that it is just two men or women fighting in a cage, no holds barred. It implies there is no skill, or no art, to the sport. It is the equivalent of calling boxing fist fighting. MMA on the other hand promotes an entirely different idea, one of skill, art and competition.

Until the UK's MMA world promotes itself as martial arts, and that is starting to happen, the major media outlets, the newspapers, the BBC and Sky Sports, will stay away. Convince them to get on board, and watch this thing fly this side of the pond like it has done in the US.

The UFC is trying it's hardest to make that happen, with the Ultimate Fighter Team US vs UK and events over here, but they need to get themselves on the mainstream channels to make it really happen, and those channels won't touch it until they are convinced of MMA's authenticity as a sport.
Other promotions, such as Strikeforce, would do well to tap into the UK market before the UFC is too comfortably established. Failing that, our own MMA promotions could try to push for new television deals.

With the retirement of Joe Calzaghe and the decline of Ricky Hatton, the only high profile boxers Britain has left to pull for are David Haye and Amir Kahn. Dan Hardy and Michael Bisping could prove to be heroes in this country if only the masses knew who they were.

MMA is making up some ground in this country, but it still has a long way to go yet before it is accepted into our mainstream of sports. A lot could rest on the shoulders of Hardy (however improbable) when he meets George St. Pierre at UFC 111.

We may be quite a few years behind the US when it comes to MMA, but we are catching up, fast.

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-27-2010, 06:55 PM
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this is a very accurate artical, as iv found in my experience, that if say "im training muay thai and MMA" you will be greated with blank looks of guessing this is down to the fact as the artical points out, that term cagefighting in great britain, jus brings about images of fat old men from the bars an pubs scrapping the same as they would after a drunkern night out, but this time, just in the confines of a cage.

i think with the rising popularity of the ufc, an a lot of MMA clubs springing up around the country, hopefully this will change an the general public will begin to respect the skill talent an dedication it takes to do this, even if they odnt choose to enjoy the sport.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-27-2010, 07:35 PM
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Very good article.

I think it will take a few more years to really take off here in England. The UFC has a TV deal with ESPN to show the big PPV events and shows like UFC Unleashed while Channel 5 (on free TV) has some UFC highlights on a few weeks after big events. This is all a step in the right direction, as a couple years ago we had to watch the big events on a 24 hour tape delay with hundreds of adverts crammed in.

Getting the media to recognise the sport is the biggest thing. The Telegraph has Gareth Davies who is very good. I think The Sun and The Mirror cover MMA on their websites but I'm not sure if they have anything in print.

But things are slowly changing and I'm sure in a few years if I mention MMA I won't be greeted with a puzzled look and a, "What?"

The day I see MMA on Sky Sports News is the day we've won the war.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-27-2010, 08:34 PM
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Good read, you have some really good points, and i think the UFC is def trying to reach the UK fans.

I also think thats why they gave Hardy, Swick to face GSP.

That was a really cool story on how you wanted to right bad about it, and ended up falling in love with it!

Thats awesome! I heard a guy that wrote a book about MMA on Inside MMA that had a similar story.

He started to write about it because he thought it had a lot of controversy and he wanted to exploit it.

And then fell in love with the Technical side of it, and then wrote a book about how MMA isn't just two guys just beating the crap out of each other... There is a lot more to it then that, its more of an Art.

I like how cotoure put it when he said, "Its a Human Chess match" i couldn't agree more

I wish i remembered the name of the book, that's sick though everyone that looks into the sport falls in love hehe

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-30-2010, 12:26 AM
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I think it's the interdisciplinary nature of the sport that many people find so fascinating.

If someone's smart enough to put aside the "oh it's so violent" attitude, or at least realize that many much higher-profile sports are just as violent, they start to be intrigued, to learn, and then it's self-perpetuating.

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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-30-2010, 08:26 PM
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Excellent article.

Since I'm just a poor student I still live at home (cant wait to finish University and get a job) and when I decided to take up kickboxing 2 years ago my parents thought "great thats a good sport" and had no problem with me competing. Now 6 months ago when I said I had started training in MMA aswell, as soon as I said MMA they gave me this "uh?" look and so I made the error of saying "you know... cage fighting." Big mistake, my Dad bviousley didn't mind since he likes it too but my Mum went nuts gave me the old "no fights like that whilst I'm under her roof" blah blah blah

So I've kept it quiet I have a fight in a few weeks, which kinda sucks cause it would be cool if they could make it to watch
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