The Real Poop
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Have you ever watched a boxing match and thought, "All this pummeling is nice, but I really wish they'd take things up a notch"? Is judo less of a hobby for you and more of a complete obsession? Do you watch Bruce Lee or Jean Claude Van Bleep films with a frequency that your parents, best friends, and high school guidance counselor all describe as "alarming"?
If all that is the case (and you're impervious to pain), maybe becoming a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter is the right choice for you.
Then again, maybe just smacking yourself with a frying pan two-hundred times would lead to the same outcome. As long as they're paying you, right?
You may have watched an actual MMA fight on pay-per-view and thought it'd be fun to bounce around like that on the mat, locking horns with other competitors. We'll see if you still feel that way after you've taken a few hundred hammer fists to the sternum. Maybe you think you'll be doing this for millions of dollars, but in reality you'll be lucky to pull in the average $45,000 for all of your punching and kicking (source).
If that all sounds bonkers to you, that's because it is. It's okay, millions of people aren't cut out for it; go ahead and get yourself a business degree or something. You can still watch it on TV.
Any profession with the word "fighter" as part of the name is bound to be a dangerous choice. When you consider the virtually no-holds-barred nature of MMA fighting, multiply that danger by a ten-count.
Choke hold? Legal. Yanking an opponent's leg? Legal. Hyper rotating your opponent's arm until they either submit or pass out? Legal, and expected. In a sport with perfectly legal moves named guillotine choke and neck crank, such maneuvers are the rule rather than the exception.
Changes have been made to the format in recent years in an attempt to protect fighters and legitimize the sport, but you're still basically trying to pulverize the other fighter into submission or unconsciousness. It's hard to accomplish that lofty goal without getting at least a little messy.
This is how we show our love. (Except not, 'cause it's prohibited in the MMA.) (Source)
MMA fighting has some pretty deep roots, along with influences that range the world over. The sport itself draws from ancient Greek wrestle-boxing called Pankration (source). From there it's a hodgepodge of numerous fighting skills, from karate to krav maga to capoeira (source). One of the positives of the sport is the incredible diversity in fighters and fighting styles—who would have thought violence would bring people together?
While mixed martial arts means fighting in matches anywhere from a cage in a decrepit bar to a judo competition in the Olympics, we'll specifically look at it in the context of the most popular American version: Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In a UFC bout, two competitors meet inside a large, eight-sided enclosure referred to as "The Octagon"—kind of like the Pentagon except all of the actual fighting takes place there and not thousands of miles away. The two male or female competitors—yes, there's a women's division, but no tag teams—then go at each other for a predetermined number of rounds with one-minute breaks in between.
The match is decided by knockout, by tapout (submitting to your opponent's painful hold), or, if both fighters remain standing at the end, by judge's decision. Those determined by judge's decision aren't as decisive as knockouts or tapouts, but at least you get your money's worth.
Once you get to a certain level, other people will take care of all of the important things while you're busy trying not to get your last brain cells punched away. A fighter's promoter or manager sets up the fight and makes sure that the fighter gets paid—after taking their own cut, of course (source).
They may also coordinate whatever other business deals you may be involved in—endorsements, commercials, pay-per-view bonuses, etc. A fighter might not be able to handle this stuff on his or her own. And not just because of the brain cell thing either; who really wants to get into fights and do their own math?
As with any professional sport, the promise of glory, the validation of one's physical prowess, the prospect of major paydays, and the time in the spotlight can be tempting considerations to anyone who doesn't get squeamish at the sight of blood or limbs folded in entirely the wrong direction. It's all about you—alone—and nothing else.
However, as with any professional sport, the chances of realizing your goals—or of being happy and wealthy even if you do—are slim to none. The truth may hurt, but probably not as much as a haymaker to the side of your head.