By Nick Wagner
I’ve watched pay-per-view fights at a variety of different watering holes, seen my fair share of local fights, met a lot of local fighters…and a lot of wannabes.
Mixed Martial Arts is relatively new, drawing many different personalities, some of whom think they’re tough after throwing on a Tapout shirt.
Thank goodness there are a growing number of people in the F-M area who take this sport seriously. Just because someone watches TUF on Spike TV every Wednesday or plays UFC Undisputed doesn’t mean they know how to fight, it makes them a fight fan.
Don’t get me wrong. My own affair with MMA started in 2005, watching Fedor Emelianenko crush his opponents in the Japanese promotion, Pride Fighting Championships. I enjoyed watching MMA so much I decided to seek out a gym and train. Hey, how hard can it be to arm-bar, take down or hit someone? Fedor made it look easy enough. Actually, my first experiences with MMA were brutal, especially walking into a gym with the preconceived notion that I knew how to fight.
Now that I’ve gleaned a little more experience and have a handful of fights under my belt, it’s easier for me to pick out the different levels of fighters. And there are a variety of fighters with unique skill sets at different levels in F-M’s MMA community.
There’s the “walk-in,” the guy who walks into the gym during training, asking for a fight. Usually the “walk-in” doesn’t want to train technique, but instead spar and hit people, or he only wants to practice Muay Thai and ignore Jiu-Jitsu, which defeats the whole concept of MMA. Simply put, individuals with this attitude aren’t going to be very successful. Success requires hard work and dedication; it has nothing to do with a wardrobe.
Having a fight doesn’t always make someone a fighter. At one time I believed that stepping into a cage and throwing fists was proper qualification.
There are plenty of people who shouldn’t be fighting, but they do. Being a fighter is a culmination of many different things. A fighter doesn’t just fight in the cage, a fighter has to juggle everyday life and responsibilities with training. A fighter has to put up with nagging from parents and girlfriends. A fighter fights to eat healthy, wake up early to work out, and train MMA every day. The sacrifices leading up to a bout determine whether someone is a fighter.
Some fighters have been competing locally since MMA became available, up to the present, racking up a ton of fights. These are the “journeymen,” fighters like Bruce Nelson, who has close to fifty fights and fought the likes of UFC’s Matt Hughes. They’ve been around. Some train, others are too busy fighting. They are known for fighting anyone and everyone. Another example: Travis McCullough fighting Nick Thompson,the Bodog champ and UFC veteran.
There are also the local “up and comers,” like Pablo Garza and Dane Sayers, both of whom train seriously leading up to a fight. These are the guys who fight, but end up treating each match like a career move, where a win can bump a fighter up, while a loss can be a setback. Sometimes it takes skill, natural talent doesn’t hurt, being tough will get somebody far, but I believe it all comes down to dedication. If a fighter is doing all of the right things, success is only a matter of time.
Don’t forget the “barroom brawlers,” stationed across the FM area. Pay-per-view fights, combined with alcohol and douchebaggery have created many a volatile situation. Don’t be fooled, these individuals aren’t fighters, they may claim to be sponsored by Tapout and call themselves UFC fighters, but really they are wanting to be a part of something without sacrifice. A real fighter doesn’t go out every night to show off to his friends, but is in bed early, regrouping for another day of training.
Just as some people fight without training there are plenty of fighters who train without fighting. People don’t have to step into a cage and get their faces broken to benefit from a fighter’s lifestyle. I know plenty of guys who enjoy kicking pads and grappling. For them, learning self-defense is just another benefit of a great workout.
It’s okay to be a fight fan, but if you wear a gross amount of Tapout, you may need to check yourself before stepping out the door. Fighting people on the dance floor of the Hub isn’t cool either. You will get a lot more respect in the MMA community if you put some work in, and leave it all at the gym. Find a gym that fits you and have fun, but remember, a logo on your t-shirt doesn’t make you tough.
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