According to author L. Jon Wertheim, who wrote Blood in the Cage: Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Miletich and the Furious Rise of the UFC, in his interview with Michael David Smith of MMA Fanhouse, the intent of his book was to “explore the history of MMA through the lens of Miletich, who has been fighting professionally since 1995.” He stated during the interview: “About two years ago I said, ‘I don’t know anything about this, but we can’t ignore it anymore'” and “You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to dislike it, but you can’t ignore the numbers. So I did a story just on the MMA phenomenon, and that’s what the book grew out of.”
I think he’s right-on. Two years ago, most of my family and friends didn’t know anything about “this” either. Even though I tried to enlighten them, and explain why a mild-mannered, ladylike gal’ – that would be me – LOVED this sport, they still not only didn’t “get it,” but they didn’t like it. Didn’t like that I was part of it. I think it was due to their perception. I called it a sport. They called it “that thing that you do”. And it wasn’t a “real” sport, like football or ice hockey or baseball, right? Uh-huh. Well, that depends on the person!
Interestingly, slowly but surely, my family and friends, and other people I know, have started to become more aware of this phenom we already know and love called MMA. For example, one day my sister-in-law called to tell me she and my brother had watched “that MMA stuff you like on TV. Something called ‘EliteXC’ and this HUGE guy named Kimbo with a big bushy beard got beat up by this little guy! We loved it – it was GREAT!” I just about fell out of my chair. I mean, if you knew Mark and Nancy, you’d be falling out of your chair about now. But still, at least according to Wertheim, “There’s still a gap between reality and perception…” “I still have to tell people it’s not Toughman and it’s not anything goes. They still have some work to do demystifying their sport.”
Again…he’s right-on. I guess I’m one of the “they”, ’cause I find myself defending MMA all the time, trying to help people understand it’s NOT a Toughman contest, it’s NOT No Holds Barred, and it’s not as violent as it appears. (Of course – that’s another discussion. At least 100 Comments long…!) It’s an uphill battle, but it has become easier. I told a good friend a while back: when the time comes that we see Burger King sponsoring a UFC fight, this will mean MMA has finally gone mainstream. Well, that time has come and gone, and we still aren’t exactly mainstream, but we’re closer. And I realize I’m okay with that. Just the fact I’m here, at a time when MMA is experiencing so much growth and awareness, and I have a part in this phenomenon, little part that it is, is exhilarating. And enough – for now.
So I’m curious about others. Do you find you have to battle with your friends and family to prove to them that MMA is okay? That it’s a REAL sport? Or do they now watch it with you and can tell you the difference between a Kimura and an Americana?