UFC: The Ultimate Evolution

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“There are no rules!” – the original tagline that attracted the first UFC viewers.

I have recently started to get in on the often hyped and controversial extravaganza known as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and I have found that I am getting quite addicted for better or worse. Watching the UFC from the very beginning when it started in front of a minuscule crowd at McNichols Arena and seeing its evolution (I’m up to UFC X so far) is quite amazing. The multiple personalities and stars that emerged from those first fights is what gave the event sheer life, what gave it hope and something to shoot for. When you watch or come to a UFC fight, you immediately look for the stars and big names, if you know anything about the history of the sport. It’s good to see new faces as well and watch them work their way up the ladder towards MMA glory, going from unknown to superstar sometimes in the blink of an eye.

I feel that it’s quite hard for me to get interested in an entirely new sport without seeing it develop from the very beginning and getting to know some personalities, which is why I have mildly suffered through some laughable moments early on including Rich “G-Man” Goins’ weird announcing gimmicks (saying the last name twice) and fighter info being mixed up, not to mention the tacky on screen graphics.

Those shorts…

The UFC has been going on continuously since its founding in 1993 and has recently hit a surge in popularity with the rise of superstar fighters such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Junior dos Santos. I have to say I already know more about the old school UFC than the modern and can only name a couple of names off the top of my head. Some of the legendary names from what seems like the ancient past are Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Tank Abbott, Big Daddy Goodridge, and of course Art “one boxing glove” Jimmerson, the only man to wear a boxing glove to a UFC fight. The first person to lose a UFC fight will always be known as Teila Tuli, AKA Taylor Wily, who had to leave after taking a foot to the face and losing a tooth. The fight lasted less than 30 seconds. That is one famous tooth, which was likely lost somewhere around the announcer’s table and swept up later on after the fight. That tooth would be worth millions today if sold online. Tuli was in only one UFC fight, the first. You can now find him playing Kamekona on the reboot of Hawaii Five-0.

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Royce Gracie at UFC 1

What was once quite an obscure sport slinking in the shadows of mainstream status transformed into a global sensation, but not without its controversy. Way back in UFC 9 of May 1996, as the UFC was just finally starting to get its bearings, Senator John McCain stepped in and declared that the bouts in the Octagon were like “human cockfighting”. He was successful in banning the event from many cable stations, thus stopping people from watching the upcoming pay per view, giving it a bad reputation. If this so called sport was going to survive, mixed martial arts would have to clean up its act. If you want to point the finger at the person responsible for making the UFC too sanitized, polished, and boring, point it at McCain. But on the other hand, if you want to point the finger at the person responsible for discussing the elephant in the room, the fact that this was teetering on the edge of being quite illegal, and motivating the sport to change for the better, point it at McCain.

Since a unified set of rules have been set in place for MMA worldwide, something that took decades to achieve, McCain has gotten off the UFC’s back, letting it grow and thrive into what it is today. It used to be quite a brutal sport, that while quite entertaining to watch because of the no-holds barred action and unpredictability, was quite barbaric and dangerous. Now its still quite a spectacle to see but a lot safer and fairer for both competitors in The Octagon. While I’m quite new to the whole sport of mixed martial arts, I seem to understand now why this has become such a popular attraction. You’ve got the Octagon girls, the merchandise, the video games, Fight Pass, TV, the Hall of Fame, reality shows, and numerous other things to check out. It’s quite the well rounded experience and takes the experience to the next level.

The creators of the original Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view event never in a million years thought they were going to create an entirely new sport: modern mixed martial arts. They most certainly probably never thought they’d be contributing to the evolution of a 10,000 year old activity in just two decades: fighting. That first fight was supposed to be a one time thing to see who would win in a fight. A wrestler vs a boxer? Karate vs jujitsu? It was like randomly drawing two disciplines out of a hat and seeing what came out. Now 300 something fights later and that idea has been developed to a level 100 times greater. The old and modern UFC can be divided along one point: before Dana White and after Dana White. He has greatly contributed to the development of the sport and the overall marketing  The evolution is still unfinished though. The next step is seeing if the UFC’s business model is truly sustainable for the long run.

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Fierce

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My eyes are fierce

The tears fall down

Like waterfalls of fire

I fall into a portal of heat

And see the world through fiery licks

The battlefield is fierce

I trudge on ahead

Through the smoke and gunfire, shrapnel falling at my side

Until I arrive at my noble chariot and briskly ride away towards the golden city

Fierce

Am I in a Movie?

My family and I were in Lansing on the twelfth of February – my sister Emily’s 18th birthday – and heading over to the CSL Plasma center to donate for some money like we’ve been doing for over 2 years now, excluding her and my dad. Not the best way to get by but it helps out a lot since we are so cash-strapped and can’t even afford a new dryer. It was supposed to be a great day for my sister – I mean, this is her last day officially as a kid and will soon be able to do anything she ever dreamed of, except drink yet, of course, which isn’t a big priority for her anyway.

First, my dad pulled into the Speedway/Sunny Day gas station to, you know, fill er up. It’s usually a stop and go, normal everyday situation. But today I sensed something different. For one thing, Dad was slower than usual, and he is pretty slow anyways; he was in the store for quite a while. Finally, he came out of the store with a receipt, crinkled it up, and threw it in the trash. We were making jokes about him being slow and a putz and other jokes about Charles and Al, two lovable buffoons, who didn’t go to donate today. The commotion broke out as my dad, Bob, was pumping gas. I was in the middle seat, thinking away absent-minded, and heard some shouting behind me. Then I heard a gunshot but was oblivious to the moment, didn’t know exactly what was happening at first and didn’t react immediately. Then a grey SUV backed up into another behind a gas pump and smashed its front bumper up pretty good, pushing in the front end of the car like an accordion. The damaged car turned around and fled, the driver obviously pissed. We thought at first that a riot was going to break out and this was some sort of dispute. But then Emily and my uncle Jack, who saw the action from the backseat, believed it was an undercover cop after they saw a man in a brown coat running after the criminal’s car. The details were murky from my point of view but all the undercover cop did was shoot the guy’s tires; I thought someone got shot and was lying on the ground; It could have ended up much worse. The criminal fled in his car and jumped over a snow bank.

Later on, behind the snow bank, I saw a couple of men chasing the fugitive after he ditched the car which either crashed into something or was cornered by the police. The guy was obviously wanted and had been staked out perfectly at the gas station. As we were finally getting the hell out of there another grey SUV pulled into the gas station and seemed to drive over the debris left over from the collision as if the driver didn’t notice it was there. I thought “how stupid can this guy be?”

I guess it’s a good thing we weren’t in the middle of the commotion or dad wasn’t walking towards the store as that SUV backed up into the other one. We should have ducked our heads when that gun went off but I guess we’re not so used to situations like this. It was fairly controlled and the cop knew what he was doing and obviously had some backup to stop the criminal from getting away. Still, though, shooting a gun off in broad daylight in front of innocent bystanders is a bit risky. Jack had this crazy idea afterwards that it was a scene being filmed for a movie and the people at the gas station were extras. It sure seemed like it because I’ve probably been to gas stations a million times and nothing like this ever happened. It was like an action scene from an old Bruce Willis’ flick or an episode of COPS. Either way, it was surreal.

Dad was so slow getting out of there, just taking his merry time with pumping the gas; Mom and Jack were yelling for him to hurry up, and it is funny when my uncle Jack gets nervous because he sounds like a little schoolgirl with his voice getting high. A blue-shirted employee of the Sunny Day convenience store came out and looked around like “What the hell?”

In front of us was a brown car at the pump and an African-American man near it with a winter hat and a red plaid, Paul Bunyan-esque shirt on. He was just laughing like what just happened was no big deal. Yeah, I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of eruptions in the cruddy city of Holt-Lansing.

“Just another day in Lansing” I said.

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and then…

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Another thing like this happened on July 7, 2007. 7/7/7. Supposed to be one of the luckiest days ever but not for an unfortunate driver in Detroit. As we were heading out from Detroit at night from a 14-inning stint with the Red Sox, the Tigers winning by the way of a walk off double, we came upon an intersection on MLK Boulevard. We were about to cross it when a car came zooming by from the left and hit the side of a car coming from the road in front of us, smashing in it’s side door and spinning it around several times. The other car just kept on going through the intersection and never looked back, the driver not stopping and facing up to their reckless, life threatening mistake. This night was another lucky break for us, being in the right place at the right time. Dad called in the accident like a noble Samaritan would.

Afterward, back in 2014, we donated and got our money and left the strange city of Holt-Lansing where there are shoot and runs, people just nonchalantly walking out into the street full of cars, and poor beggars on every corner. As day turned to night, we arrived at Ruby Tuesdays in Okemos to eat dinner. A fine restaurant with a nice salad bar that really upped the meal I got (a slice of hickory bourbon chicken with a side of onion rings). We had a young waitress that looked like in she was in her 20s, blonde and kind of ditzy like a pre-Penny at the Cheesecake Factory. I thought she was kind of cute and I smiled at her and tried to get her attention and it worked quite a bit. Even walked by the section where she and the servers were and then walked right around the middle bar and stool section. So silly of me, I thought afterward.


DP