Monday, February 21, 2011

Taking Up for the UFC

The brutality of the sport cannot be denied.

Competitors of all ages have been swept up in its violence. In recent years, some of the youngest athletes in the sport have been severely injured and even killed because of traumatic blows to the head and chest. Unfortunately things aren’t any better at the professional level where drunken fans have started fights with athletes and many of those athletes are so hopped up on Performance Enhancing Drugs that virtually every accomplishment in the sport sits under a cloud of suspicion.

But enough about baseball, this blog is about Mixed Martial Arts.

I’ve been a fan of MMA, more specifically the UFC, since the mid 90s. Since that time, the UFC has become one of the fastest growing sports organizations in the world. It has also found itself in the crosshairs of many groups. Some Christians have added it to their naughty list right along side electric guitars, Mickey Mouse and blue jeans.

As a Christian pastor, who happens to be a huge fan of the UFC, I’ve become very familiar with the shots being lobbed at the sport from my brothers in the faith.

“It’s too violent.”

I’ve never understood this one. Sure, it would make sense if guys who regularly watch The Sound of Music while finding accessories for the next days outfit were the ones making the argument but this is rarely the case. Instead, it’s guys who are quick to voice outrage at a UFC event on a Saturday night only to rush home from church to watch football games all day Sunday.

I love football. In fact, I can’t even decide whether or not I like it or MMA more. I go back and forth because both sports are great. My intention is not to add another sport to the ban list but simply to show the inconsistencies of some. Many have voiced outrage towards a sport where the goal is to break another man’s leg. This is no more true of MMA than it is in the NFL. Sure, there are rogue athletes (and fans) that are out for blood but, as anyone who is familiar with either sport will tell you, athletes that are fueled by blind rage usually aren’t too successful for a long period of time. The best fighters in the UFC aren’t trying to kill or even injure their opponent. Winning means being smart, not being angry.

If you ever find yourself in an MMA fight and your arm does happen to get broken, your problem is pride, not violence. When a fighter finds himself with his arm wrapped around his leg and his elbow touching his ear, all he has to do is tap his hand and the fight is over. It is in this regard that MMA promotes humility and punishes pride perhaps more than any other sport.

“I don’t need to smash some guys head in to prove my manhood.”

Good. Join the club. No one does. The UFC isn’t about proving that you’re a man but the fact remains that men like head to head competition. It’s why you see us standing around the parking lot before church on Sunday mornings talking sports and actually playing sports on Sunday afternoons. Playing and even being good at sports does not make you a man. Sports history is littered with the names of men who were giants on the field of play but toddlers off of it. Guys love competition. Most of the time it’s silly but it’s still what we do.

I’ve never seen a commercial where the UFC has tried to get me to buy a Pay Per View by saying that it would make me a real man. I have on the other hand enjoyed watching the UFC with guys who I would consider real men. I can’t speak for the character of most of the athletes in the UFC or any other sport for that matter but by watching the UFC with other men, I’ve come to know their character.

Guys like Shane and Jacob that probably don’t care too much about the UFC but would join a group of us every month to figure out who to cheer for. These guys aren’t real men because they watched the UFC a few times. They’re real men because they boldly serve their Lord while loving and providing for their families and because they know that it’s important to be around other real men. For them, the UFC was not the fulfillment of some strong lust for blood. It was an opportunity to get together with friends and watch some of the best athletes in the world. I’m a better man for their company.

Matt and Jamie, Joe, Joey and Brandon joined me for the last UFC Pay Per View at my neighbor’s house. These are real men who are trying to live out the gospel as they deal with things like a slow economy and their kids having major surgery. These are men who serve as examples to the church that I pastor that the gospel isn’t primarily about finding something to be against. They are men who are growing in their belief (along with their pastor) that they need the gospel every day because they aren’t good enough to please God but Jesus is.

Just before the co-main event started that night at my neighbor’s house there was a crash outside. We went out to inspect and found two young girls pulled over and cursing the fresh ding in their bumper. A few feet away the source of the ding was still alive, kicking in my neighbor’s front yard. It was a beautiful deer that apparently wasn’t quick enough that night. The two girls in the car were fine but were busy cursing at somebody on the other end of their cell phones. Chris Rock would have told them to calm down with the language.

So I asked myself, “What exactly does one do with a slowly dying deer in the front yard at 11:45 at night”.

The blast from a handgun gave me my answer.

Watching the UFC does not make you a man.

But watching the UFC while killing a deer makes you the man.

I can’t wait until the next Pay Per View.

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