Bam! You just got punched in the face.
Did it hurt? Did it feel like a two-ton truck just ran over your ugly mug? Good. Now get used to it. Mixed martial arts isn’t going anywhere. Actually, it’s going everywhere.
Two weeks ago, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) — which, like the NBA or NFL in their respective sports, is the head honcho of the fighting scene — inked a seven-year deal with network juggernaut Fox. The mega deal includes four fights a year on Fox and the reality television show “The Ultimate Fighter” airing on sister channel FX.
Ouch. It hurts so good.
For the few tree-hugging sissy pacifists out there who haven’t gotten wise to the world’s fastest growing sport, let me make something clear: This is a huge deal. It means MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is validated. It means the UFC has arrived.
Just nod your head and throw a steak on that eye. It’s starting to swell.
The landscape of mainstream culture is going to shift dramatically from here on out. MMA is no longer buried on Spike and Versus, secluded from the world like some sort of savage secret. It’s right out in the open now. The gloves are off.
Imagine: In between cartoon comedies and medical mysteries, there’s now going to be neck cranks and gogoplatas (which is a very painful choke hold). After “So You Think You Can Dance?” there’s going to be “So Do You Think You Can Dodge This Crane Kick to the Mouth?” Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre are going to be the new LeBron and Kobe.
Sounds like good, clean, family fun.
And it is, which it what some people can’t seem to get a handle on. Yes, MMA is brutal. It’s bloody. Occasionally, it can be downright barbaric — I’m looking at you B.J. Penn, licking his opponent’s blood off his gloves — but it’s also poetically beautiful. It’s a dance with pain as the theme song. It’s a chess match where bodies topple instead of kings.
There’s a reason they’re called mixed martial artists, after all.
They’re geniuses of their crafts, just like any other professional athlete. They do what grounded mortals can’t, what thunderstruck plebeians only dream of — which is the point of watching sports in the first place, to see the absolute pinnacle of human achievement.
And what’s more fascinating than a man who can leap off a chain-link cage, knife throw the air and roundhouse kick his opponent in one deft move? Yes, MMA will do just fine next to football and break dancing.
But back to the deal for a moment.
The first fight airs on Fox Nov. 12, and will be headlined by a showdown between heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez and top challenger Junior dos Santos, two supremely skilled, atomic bomb-throwing young bruisers.
A match like that could cost $50 or more on pay-per-view, depending on the fight. Here, the UFC and Fox give it to you for the cost of obtaining a television. Because they care. Because they want to make a meteoric impact with the first ever UFC show on network television.
Because they want everyone to get that this MMA thing isn’t a flash in the pan, that it might be, could be, the greatest sport in the world.
You just got sucker punched by MMA. Did it hurt? Did it feel like a piano falling on you from the top floor?
Good. Because if you didn’t see this coming, this colossal deal that has pushed MMA into everyday consciousness, then you simply weren’t paying attention.
And, for that, you deserve to bleed.