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SCHMIDT: Win first, then go to war

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Put two men in a cage, and you get to see exactly what they’re made of.

Forty feet of twisted metal imprisoning a cold, blood-spattered canvas, spandex compression shorts hugging expertly trained appendages designed to decapitate human beings, fierce gazes and thumping hearts and tiny 6-ounce gloves.

But when it comes down to it, it’s really just two men, alone.

And when the bell tolls and the sweat dries, the better man always gets his arm raised in victory because luck and fate carry no weight in mixed martial arts. Heart, passion, preparation, dedication; those are the traits that make a man.

Welcome to the ultimate ground for the modern day gladiator — a sport of primal rage and pinpoint precision that cuts a fantastic swatch in the athletic landscape.

Welcome to the Bellator Fighting Championships.

An upstart promotion founded in 2008 by longtime fight guru and businessman Bjorn Rebney, Bellator is a company quickly rising in the MMA universe. Currently the third largest American fighting promotion in its sport behind Strikeforce and the juggernaut Ultimate Fighting Championships, the Chicago-based company has been turning heads since its opening season.

Whereas the UFC thrives off its brand recognition, Bellator’s strength lies in its talent pool and uniqueness.

Unlike the majority of other promotions, Bellator utilizes a tournament-style format to determine its champions. There are three rounds of blood and madness, and if you come out alive, you can have 15 pounds of gold wrapped around your waist. That’s it. No politics or ethics or economics involved. Win and fight another day, lose and lick your wounds.

It’s survival of the fittest, just like Darwin intended. A real, pure test to find out who truly is the baddest man on the planet.

“I wanted to do a mixed martial arts organization where a tournament format controlled where everyone went, where fighters controlled their own destiny,” Rebney said. “I believe with all my heart and soul that any other way is inherently unfair. In any other sport it doesn’t matter if you’re the best looking or have the best back story, all that matters is if you win.”

The all-or-nothing format seems to be working so far. After a surprisingly successful first season, which saw Bellator crown four champions, the promotion will be broadening its fan base on more commercial stations like NBC, FOX Sports Net and Telemundo. And, of course, the MMA mother ship landed in Milwaukee for the first time last Thursday at The Rave.

It was Wisconsin’s first televised professional MMA event, an inaugural bash celebrating brutality and beauty, a whirlwind night of head kicks, spinning elbows and smothering slams. It was a sight to behold.

Perhaps sensing the grandeur of the moment, the Milwaukee natives put on a dazzling display in front of a rowdy home crowd. There were four fights involving homegrown talent, and a Milwaukee combatant won all of them.

In the opening fight, undefeated local Kyle Weickhardt produced one of the nastiest knockouts you’ll ever see. After exchanging feeler punches with opponent Luis Ramirez for 30 seconds, he delivered a topsy-turvy left head kick that shut off Ramirez’s electricty. Half a minute into the night at Milwaukee’s first church of MMA and I was already baptized in violence. Hallelujah.

Rebney stressed that Bellator is a promotion that relies on the talent of its fighters, not shiny gimmicks or smoke-blowing trash talk. Several of Bellator’s champions are among the very best in the world, and Rebney boasted fearlessly that he would bet his house on current middleweight champ Hector Lombard beating UFC titleholder Anderson Silva, who is perhaps the most gifted fighter in MMA history.

Rebney’s bravado is maybe a bit misplaced — Silva could beat most superheroes in a fist fight — but Lombard certainly is a force in the ring, maintaining a winning streak that dates back to 2007 and consists of an astounding 20 fights.

Other current champions, like wrestling prodigy Ben Askren and the nuclear-powered Eddie Alvarez, are also top tier fighters; high energy dynamos that can churn and motor their way to victory against nearly anyone in their divisions, proving that sometimes elite talent can exist outside of the all-powerful UFC.

But to those who witnessed Thursday night at The Rave or have watched Rebney quickly mold Bellator into an indomitable force in the MMA world over the last two years, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Fighting is all about winning and losing, clashing with another person who has the exact same fears and dreams as you do. Bellator, with that dynamic tournament format, is the only promotion that brings that to life.

Win and move on, lose and go home. It takes a special kind of person to make a career out of such dire circumstances. It’s no wonder that in Latin, Bellator means “warrior.”

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “SCHMIDT: Win first, then go to war”

  1. R.W. Wright on September 21st, 2010 4:48 am

    Mr. Schmidt, does anything actually happen at Marquette that would qualify as a topic for this “column?” Last week it was your boredom with soccer. This week it is your fascination with mixed martial arts.

    If you open your eyes and do more reporting, you will find relevant “column” topics on or around campus, perhaps some even involving people who attend, teach or otherwise work at Marquette. There are also many issues and events that are actually related to Marquette.

    Good columns are the products of hard work that often includes strong, thorough reporting. The best columns are written by those who know and understand their readers.

  2. Brock on September 21st, 2010 1:56 pm

    This is a column about Wisconin’s first ever MMA event, which took place a few blocks away from Marquette at the Rave. But I guess that’s not relevant. Stop being an ignorant troll RW Wright.

  3. Brock on September 21st, 2010 1:58 pm

    This is a column about Wisconin’s first ever MMA event, which took place a few blocks away from Marquette at the Rave. But I guess that’s not relevant. Stop being an ignorant troll RW Wright.

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