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The Stage: The Colosseum to Cowboys Stadium

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

MMA is somewhat of an unexplored territory amongst most contributors to First Off the Bench however it is a sport that has sparked a lot of interest and passion from this writer over the past few years. Those who like it like it a lot. To watch your favourite fighter or an exciting card on Saturday night triggers emotions from fans seen on only the largest stages of sports like football and soccer and I will be proud to say I was one of those fans in the infancy of MMA. That being said, here are few things that were on my mind today.

Park Place and Boardwalk combined.

On a card featuring their ace in the hole, almighty king Fedor, the Last Emperor as he is called (sick nickname I’ll admit), Strikeforce failed to hit their lofty attendance record of 13 000 filling just 11 000 seats. On the same day the UFC sold the remainder of the 55 000 available seats for UFC 129 at the Rogers Center in March in a matter of minutes as they went on sale to the general public. Clearly the divide between the UFC and all other MMA fighting organizations occurred a long time ago but we are now really beginning to see a monopoly emerging on the fastest growing sport in the world. Case in point, the very fight that will headline the UFC 129 card in Toronto will feature former Strikeforce welter-weight champ Jake Shields. Unanimously considered one of the best fighters in the world he recognized that the only way up was to run through the jungle and go where the most dangerous opponents were. Now he’ll be making a very heavy purse while fighting for the largest MMA crowd ever in North America for the king of organizations-the UFC.

Ali didn’t duck nobody.

For years the UFC courted the great Fedor Emelianko, tempting him with what they described as the highest offer they’ve ever made. While we don’t know what that means exactly we do know that it can be said definitively that overall the UFC is home to the greatest group of mixed martial artists out there today. While I can understand that perhaps Fedor had other options where he could make more bank, the best competition was presented to him on a platter; sign on the dotted line and come prove you’re the G.O.A.T. that they say you are. But he didn’t. He took his talents to Strikeforce (sorry bron, just sounded good). Now I will admit that just as the sport itself has grown so has my interest in it, I have been an MMA fan now for years however I didn’t have the opportunity to follow Fedor’s career and perhaps don’t have a necessary appreciation for everything he has accomplished. But I do know one thing. Ali didn’t duck nobody. If you are the G.O.A.T. you will fight anybody you hear might be even close to you in talent. You smash the best to prove you’re the greatest. If Fedor was the G.O.A.T. he had an opportunity to prove it to millions of new MMA fans tuning in just in time to see him scurry away from the big show only to eventually lose on the small stage. Twice.

Room on the bandwagon.

We have a rare opportunity in our generation to watch a sport come into fruition and grow to a global scale. Imagine if you could have been around during the first games played between the original six in the NHL. Imagine if you could have witnessed the merging of the NFL and AFL and watched as Bart Starr won back-to-back Superbowl MVP awards in the first two years of its creation. With the exception of the few Manny Pacquiao fights held every year MMA has already taken over boxing as the world’s choice in combat sports. Dana White, the president of the UFC claims argumentatively as always that eventually his sport will be the largest in the world and he makes an interesting case for the claim. Fighting is in our DNA, it is the most basic and most traditional form of competition. No balls or equipment, no teams or timeouts to cloud the basic fact that I want to dominate you. We in North America see soccer as the most popular sport in the world and wonder how it can be so widely enjoyed. It’s simple really; all you need is a ball. If you can’t afford dinner you’re certainly not aiming to buy a set of shoulder pads and learn how to run a 3-4 defence. But you can fight. And right before our eyes this fighting is becoming an art form complete with an organization that takes public relations to a new level of transparency. It’s an exciting time to be a sports fan and I urge all the stragglers to jump on the bandwagon, there’s always room.