This past Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of hosting a PPV screening of UFC 91 (a/k/a Couture v. Lesnar). This PPV gathering was not my idea, and I have very little knowledge of all things MMA/Ultimate Fighting since I last watched UFC 9 (a/k/a Ken Shamrock v. Dan Severn)* on a VHS tape I rented from my local blockbuster in 1998. Nevertheless I watched intently on Saturday, whiskey-ginger-ale in hand, wrapped up in it all. I cheered on the visceral and primitive (i.e. brutal) poundings, intelligently applauded the technical skill (rather, pretended to ‘know’), and recoiled in shock and fear a handful of times, fairly repulsed at the violence/brutality. I was especially excited when Dustin Hazelett came out to the ring to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”, which not surprisingly turned out to be the only non metal/nu-metal entrance all night. Plus he totally one with some sweet armbar hold type thing that looked really brutal. All in all, it was a very good time for not having any interest in said event until I found out it was being hosted at my apartment**.
One of the key lessons I took away from this viewing, aside from how painful closed fists to the face can be (see picture below), was how important energy conservation is within athletics (especially fighting). Of course, conservation tactics are nothing new (e.g. Rumble in the Jungle/rope-a-dope, yo, and probably going back to the dawn of time, or something), and most of the UFC 91 fighters were particularly skilled at not wasting punches or effort most of the time, with the notable exception being the Jorge Gurgel v. Aaron Riley fight, who sloppily slugged it out the whole time despite a certain contender (Gurgel) having tons of Brazilian Jujitsu training. Whoops.
So the next evening I’m simultaneously watching Cowboys v. Redskins on Sunday Night Football, and am flipping back and forth between that and the Jean Claude Van Damme film Bloodsport (1988). For those who don’t know, Bloodsport is the ‘based-on-truth’ tale of American Ninjitsu fighter Frank Dux***, who goes to Hong Kong in the early 1980s to compete in the Kumite, “an illegal and underground, freestyle, single-elimination and occasionally deadly full-contact martial arts tournament to which the world’s best martial artists are clandestinely invited every five years.”****
One of the semi-featured fighters***** is an African fighter credited as Ricardo Morra. Morra is one of the more memorable fighters in the Kumite tournament, not only because he gets particularly far (losing to Pumola by bear hug in one of the later rounds), but because he hops around the ring, jumping up and down and doing somersaults.******* This is memorable for a few reasons. For one, it’s incredibly racist to have the African fighter acting like a monkey in a style of fighting that is in no way shape or form “real”, but also because it’s absolutely ludicrous how much energy he is wasting with all his showboating/style. The point is, in light of recent UFC watching, Morra is not a particularly good energy conservationist, and is thus not reaching his maximum potential. It’s no wonder he monkey-hopped his way into the crushing arms of Pumola, he was probably so fucking tired from rolling around on the ground that he couldn’t do anything else, or escape when eventually locked in that mighty Asian-Sumo-grip.
While NFL players over the years have gotten increasingly obnoxious in their individual celebrations, I’ve never been one to mind. I like the energy and enthusiasm, though it does at times seem a bit silly to celebrate after making a nice hit but giving up like, a 10 yard run. But I digress. Changing the channel back from one of Bloodsport’s many synth-driven Kumite montages to certain members of the Cowboys defense indulgently celebrating and engaging in some general ‘hoo-ha’ and towel-waving-grab-ass after inconsequential tackles, everything started to make sense. Our favorite African-Monkey-Style fighter Ricardo Morra, and the rest of the NFL, could take some lessons from MMA and/or boxing for that matter. It’s like, I know you just made a sweet hit/sack/tackle/gorilla-somersault-leap-attack, but you’d really be better off relaxing a bit and using your strength and speed when it matters, not in the manner of decadent, Atlas-style flex poses, jumping, running, and screaming after Clinton Portis just took your team for 7 yards.
*Not coincidentally, my interest in UFC wained after watching what is now often cited as one of the worst MMA fights of all time. Thanks to a certain Arizona senator (hint: John McCain), closed fist strikes were outlawed just prior to this event. Shamrock and Severn circled each other for almost the entire 30 minute match, and ended in a Severn victory by decision, despite nothing really happening.
**Not my idea, but I gladly went along. I imagine the fond memories will continue until I have to pay the extra $50 on my Comcast bill next month.
***Played here by JCVD, with a curious French accent, obviously.
****[source: Wikipedia, lol]
***** Bloodsport is full of racial (racist) stereotypes of ethnic fighters, including but not limited to the aforementioned African “monkey-style” fighter Ricardo Morra (Eric Neff), the fat Asian Sumo fighter Pumola (David Ho), the motorcycle-loving and brutish American Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb), the South American Muay Thai kickboxer Paulo Tocha (Paulo Tocha), and so on and so forth.
******* Video of Morra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpTNH1hbbF0