Friday, May 05, 2006

MMA and Boxing - Cousins

It seems that a lot of people think that MMA will surpass boxing in popularity - I am one of them. I've stated a number of times that the best thing that was done for the sport in the U.S. was to put it on free TV. In addition, changing the rules to make it more of a sport and less "gladitorial" makes the average viewer identify with it as a less "barbaric" sport. This is a very interesting piece on the attitudes about MMA, particularly withing the boxing community. Read it.

Cousins from Different Cultures

... Nonetheless, there are still many boxing people who even today either don't understand, still fear, or even want to ban mixed martial arts. Much of the disconnect has to do with the unfamiliarity of many boxing people with the fighting techniques used in the mixed martial arts which come from grappling disciplines such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and judo.

Speaking right before the IFL event got underway, Commissioner Hazzard said, "What happens most of the time with boxing people is that they understand, they can identify with this as long as the fighters are up. Up position. It's what happens when they go to the ground is where they get lost. And this is where they lose interest. They don't understand the grappling aspect of the mixed martial arts. And until they become a little bit more sophisticated with what goes on on the ground, then I think that the sport will begin to garner even more fans."

Others are just concerned that the growing popularity of these events - the last two UFC pay-per-views each reportedly got at least 400,000 buys - will come at the expense of boxing.

“Boxing people don’t have to worry because this particular sport has cultivated its own fans,” he stated. “But, it’s not that this sport is trying to take boxing fans away. Boxing fans I think will always be boxing fans. Mixed martial arts fans – they’ve cultivated their own fan base. And when you really look at it objectively, the fan base that is being cultivated I think is one that will have a longer lifespan because they are cultivating a young fan base.”

Hazzard also pointed out that the rise of mixed martial arts comes at a time when boxing is in decline.

“As you know, the sport of professional boxing is losing its fan base, because of a lack of competitive bouts, talented fighters,” he stated. “When boxing fans associate or try to differentiate between today’s boxers and compare them with the fighters of yesteryear, there’s no comparison. There’s no comparisons to the Muhammad Alis, Joe Louises, Sugar Ray Robinsons. Even when you come closer to the 1970’s, your Sugar Ray Leonards, and your Spinks brothers. These fighters today don’t compare to them. So boxing is losing its fan base. This particular sport [MMA] is cultivating an entirely new group of fans, including females. And it’s a young fan base. So I think that this sport is going to be around for many, many more years to come – not that boxing won’t be around.”

And, as he put it, “There are two different cultures.”

Like in most distinct, self-protective, narrowly-defined, and parochial cultures, few can exist comfortably in both boxing and mixed martial arts. The key to understanding how to do so is to realize that they are both actually cousins, just different branches of the combative sports.

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