As you’ve heard by now, the UFC is coming to Sioux Falls on July 13 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. It will be the first visit to South Dakota for the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion, and could spell potential for future events.
The news has already generated a ton of local buzz. While no announcements have been made yet as to the fight card, it borders on likely to say that a few South Dakota fighters could be on the ticket.
(For what it’s worth, UFC Fight Night, the event in July that will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), often sells out in hours.)
But for all the budding excitement about the world’s fastest-growing sport, it might still be worth looking at common misconceptions about MMA. I’ve already heard of plenty in the few days since the big news broke.
Before July rolls around, see if you can remove “cage fighting” from your lexicon. There was undoubtedly a time where its usage was accurate. In South Dakota, for instance, the era of unsanctioned MMA certainly had its share of “cage fighting.” The term doesn’t hold up to modern MMA.
Start with getting over the fact that most promotions feature a cage-like ring, a development that serves more function than flash. (Getting thrown over the ropes or falling through the ropes of a boxing ring, it turns out, is bad for your health.)
Then move on to the fact that many of the sport’s athletes come from time-honored disciplines such as boxing, kickboxing, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. The sport integrates all of the disciplines. Even if you’re not a judoka or all-American grappler, you best know how to defend a hip toss or takedown.
Anybody can be a cage fighter for a night, though I’d highly recommend they don’t. Far fewer can call themselves versed in multiple martial arts disciplines. That’s modern MMA. Throw cage fighting in the trash.
MMA IS A BRUTISH BLOODSPORT
The MMA foothold in South Dakota has grown at a remarkable rate since the 2013 formation of a regulatory commission, which also overseas boxing, kickboxing and sparring exhibitions. In its previous absence, relatively small-time promotions set up events across the state where any number of rules protecting fighter safety could have been (and often were) ignored.
Any sport in which an athlete’s head suffers a violent collision is going to present potential for brain injury. Sanctioned MMA presents dangers, which are well-defined if not completely understood – a status no different than for football, boxing and even soccer.
Unsanctioned MMA is dangerous. In May 2012, 26-year-old Dustin Jenson died six days after an unsanctioned event in Rapid City in which he lost via submission. The autopsy listed a subdural hemorrhage as the cause of death, the result of blunt force trauma suffered approximately a week before, which matches with the timeline of the fight.
It’s vital to note that the fight which preceded Jenson’s death was his fourth in less than four months. He was on the receiving end of a vicious knockout in his Feb. 24 fight. It’s common for state regulatory commissions to impose 90-day medical suspensions after such fights. Under those circumstances, Jenson would not have fought again April 21 and finally on May 18.
No one can flatly deny the dangers associated with taking kicks, punches, knees and elbows. But the practitioners at the high levels of the sport – and all the way down to youth MMA – take safety seriously.
MMA IS FOR MEN
It shouldn’t be that hard for a state like South Dakota to embrace women in MMA. One of our own, UFC veteran Shayna Baszler, has been a pioneer of sorts for women’s MMA. South Dakota is also a hotbed for wrestling, and as grapplers like Brookings sensation Ronna Heaton have proven, the girls can hang with the boys.
Take it from UFC president Dana White: “We don’t look at women the way we used to look at women. That is changing. You see now there’s a lot of women out there who will whoop men’s [expletive]. … I love these girls that are wrestling, training in martial arts, training in mixed martial arts.”
Fighter Ronda Rousey has done arguably the most to influence the popular imagination of women’s status in MMA. But the ram has touched the wall. There’s no going back – women are here to stay in MMA, and we’re clearly better for it.
MMA IS BORING
Do you feel the same way about wrestling? It’s awfully popular in these parts, and it’s rooted in grappling. The next time you happen upon an MMA bout and see the combatants jockeying for position on the mat, understand that – like wrestling – position is everything.
There’s a reason why fighters try to secure the “mount” position. Have you ever had an older sibling straddle your chest and rain down punches? Remember how hard that was to defend, to say nothing of the emotional scars it left? Joking aside, the positions you see fighters in are tugs-of-war for better positions – whether they’re used to set up strikes (punching and kicking people is good for the judge’s scorecard) or submissions (who wants a broken arm?).
Strange that a sport also unfairly demonized for being barbaric is at once considered boring.
To each their own, I guess.