MMA packs nice punch other sports cannot rival

By Dave Fultz

I was going to use my space this week to write about my many ineptitudes in the world of fantasy football, but last week something happened that I’m sure most of you missed.

Randy Couture – the UFC Heavyweight Champion – retired from the world of Mixed Martial Arts and few outside the rabid fan base of the sport even noticed.

Sure, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser gave him 60 seconds on “PTI” last week, but that was about it.

You might be asking yourself, “Why should I care about a guy I don’t know in a sport I don’t watch?”

Because Couture is a man you should know in a sport you should be watching.

MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world and some argue that it has surpassed boxing as the premier fighting sport. Some of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s recent Pay-Per-View events have rivaled even the most lucrative boxing matches in history.

The merger between the UFC and PRIDE Fighting Championships – the sport’s two largest promoters – has even been compared to the AFL-NFL merger.

Why doesn’t the sport garner as much respect and notoriety in the mainstream community as boxing? Many write off MMA as barbaric due to the extreme nature of the matches or the fact that the athletes in the UFC fight in a cage.

MMA has only one confirmed death – a competitor with a preexisting medical condition died after an unsanctioned bout in the Ukraine – while there have been more than 300 deaths in the world of amateur and professional boxing since 1945.

And multiple medical studies over the years have shown that sports such as horse racing, scuba diving, hang gliding and motorcycle racing are exponentially more dangerous than either boxing or MMA.

The history of the sport can be linked all the way back to the 1920s when the Gracie family started martial arts tournaments in Brazil where any fighting tactics were allowed to test the mettle of fighters from across the spectrum.

MMA gained widespread popularity in the United States with the creation of the UFC in 1993. The organization was created with the idea that by pitting fighters from different fighting styles against each other with few rules to stand in their way, spectators would be able to see what would work best in a real-world fighting situation.

In the last 25 or so years, the sport has grown immensely and has recently started to cross into the mainstream with stars such as Chuck Liddell, Fedor Emelianenko and Couture becoming household names within the fighting community.

This brings us back to Couture and why you should know his name.

Couture is the only five-time champion in UFC history and was the first man to win belts in two different weight classes.

The 44-year-old most recently became the UFC Heavyweight Champion last March by coming out of retirement to defeat then-champion Tim Sylvia. Sylvia is six inches taller, more than 30 pounds heavier and nearly 13 years younger than Couture.

He defended his belt for the last time this August and defeated Gabriel Gonzaga, another bigger and younger man, with a broken arm.

Let me repeat that. He beat a guy that he was an underdog to WITH A BROKEN ARM. If he played in the NFL, this feat alone would have turned Couture into some sort of a folk hero.

Simply put, within his sport, Couture is equaled by few and surpassed by even fewer. He is already a UFC Hall of Famer and is considered to be one of the most influential men in the sport’s history.

If someone of this stature in one of the big three sports abruptly retired while still at the top of his game, it would be front page news at every newsstand in the country.

Now, you may tell me that I’m barbaric for enjoying MMA and the world of professional fighting. I just think that as a fan of the MMA, I’ve got to tell you to give this sport a shot.

The men that fight in the sport aren’t barbarians. The truth is actually very far from it.

Liddell, the UFC’s most recognizable fighter, is a former accountant and a devoted family man. Couture is a former three-time NCAA All-American and three-time U.S. Olympic team alternate in wrestling.

In a sports world that is filled with liars, cheaters and criminals, we can’t let a sport that teaches hard work and discipline fall between the cracks just because its athletes fight in a cage.

Dave Fultz is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].