As I age into my late 30’s, it gets harder to watch grown people my age and younger beat the snot out of themselves in contact sports. NFL players are retiring at 30, and players in so many sports from the not so distant past are suing their respective sports because they cannot function physically or mentally after they retire from their chosen sports.
On Saturday night, Bellator MMA did not set the “sport” back 25 years more than it proved that the “sport” and its promoters haven’t really evolved at all. The main event was a rematch of that very first UFC event from the early nineties when Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie shuffled to the cage for what can only be described as a sad ending for the careers of both fighters. Shamrock is 2-4 in his last 6 fights, he lives in an RV that he drives to fight locales, he has ten grand children, yet he continues to fight for one more pay day. Gracie is part of the preeminent jiu-jitsu family in the world, could make money for the rest of his life coaching, and was well past his prime during his last UFC fight almost a decade ago.
If you ever saw The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke, we know that the plague consuming retired professional wrestlers is that they were awful at managing their finances, and worse at letting go of the spotlight. MMA fighters are, apparently, that way too, but the sport has evolved some in recent years with tighter regulation and more informed officiating placing more emphasis on fighter safety. Still, Saturday’s Bellator fights took place in a cage, the canvas was blood soaked from previous brawls that night, and a 52 year old man lost to a 49 year old man in a fight that featured almost none of the grappling skill that can be present in the highest level MMA bouts. To make matters worse, the two men set up what could be a fourth match between the two when Saturday’s fight ended with a phantom groin strike.
I watched my last MMA bout on Saturday. Other than the Shamrock Gracie mess, Kimbo Slice and a lummox named Dada 5000 fought to a fat, sweaty, and exhausted 3rd round TKO when Dada could no longer stand. During the pre-fight hype show, viewers were treated to historical fights featuring the two brawlers. The fights, as you may or may not be surprised to hear, took place in backyards, parks, and on what looked like an airstrip. Current MMA is fought with much more skill and training, but just one look at Robbie Lawler and Rory McDonald after their July title fight (see below) reminds us that MMA is a savage
sport spectacle beyond which society has evolved.