When it comes to Mixed Martial Arts, former fighter Cameron Conaway thinks the New York Times got it right, almost.
I’m minutes away from boarding a sleeper bus from Mui Ne, Vietnam to Nha Trang up North and just caught wind of the latest New York Times MMA piece titled “The Fight Club Generation”. I was so impressed by Douglas Quenqua’s article that I had to do some writing about it.
As a college writing instructor I’m always happy with the quality of the NYT. However, as a former mixed martial arts fighter and current writer about the sport, I’ve often felt disappointed in their coverage. I felt (and still feel) as though the drama and margins of the sport have been covered exhaustively—the lawsuits, the movies, how churches are using MMA to lure more males into the pews—but I don’t feel like the sport itself has received adequate or fair attention. This has stirred emotions in me for two reasons. First, MMA is still, somehow, illegal in New York so it would be huge for the NYT to come out and support it. Second, I consider the NYTimes to be the top media source for informed and well-written news. Sure, we’ve got, among others, ESPN, Sherdog, Bloody Elbow and Bleacher Report covering MMA but the NYT could go beyond sport fans to increase MMA awareness in the public consciousness.
Quenqua’s article educates on what MMA is, how it is forcing boxing to the sidelines for many people and a bit about how it grew since 1993. Regarding the history, it should be noted that MMA did not come from nowhere in 1993. Athletes even in Ancient Greece participated in a sport awfully similar to MMA called “Pankration” which was featured in the 33rd Olympiad and was likely popular prior to that. Gurus like Jim Arvantis and our own Damon Young can likely expound upon this.
Particularly powerful in the NYT article was this statement:
“To this generation, who came of age alongside the notorious sport, mixed martial arts has come to represent everything that boxing once did to their fathers and grandfathers: the ultimate measure of manhood…”
Ahh, good ol’ manhood.
Boxing is often referred to as the sweet science. It’s a beautiful and technical game with the simplest of weapons: fists. In contrast, mixed martial arts is referred to as the complete science. Fights can end with armbars or ankle locks or kicks to the gut or fists to the face. Like boxing, MMA taps into the fight factors of intense discipline and heart. But it doesn’t stop there. The best fighters are absolute scientists while standing and while on the ground. They know the exact time to apply leverage, exactly how to shift their weight slightly to the left.
In this sense, I see boxing as representing the men of yesteryear. Perhaps simpler, or perhaps living the persona they thought manly. MMA represents the manhood of today—complex beings adapting and evolving to meet the times, strong enough to grind through grueling training yet strong enough to tap the mat three times to admit that a toehold defeated them.
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