Promoted from the FanPosts by Kid Nate.
First, the news (courtesy of MMA Mania):
Over the weekend, at the 4 Bears Casino and Lodge ("4 miles west of New Town, ND" - yeah, but where the heck is that?), an MMA card by the name of Beatdown 4 was held. It featured UFC vets Branden Lee Hinkle, and everyone's favourite internet wordsmith, the immortal Drew Fickett. Many would assume that fighters good enough to have danced on the big stage would mop the floor with regional guys; many would be wrong.
Hinkle, best known as the guy who beat up Sean Gannon at UFC 55 (and subsequently got demolished by Jeff Monson), actually appeared to be the underdog heading into his match. His opponent, Chris Tuchscherer, came in as a 15-1 legitimate heavyweight. His lone loss is unfortunately one that (a very few) people remember him from: he was decisioned by Travis Wiuff as part of the YAMMA debacle. But that aside, Tuchscherer has some skill, is a big man and trains with the suddenly-relevant Minnesota Martial Arts Academy (MMAA). He stopped this one in the 4th round, winning by TKO to run his record to 16-1 (6 subs, 6 T/KOs).
In the co-main event, Fickett, most recently in the news for dropping fights like flies and getting into giant pissing contests with promoters on the internet, dropped a decision to Nik Lentz, who also trains out of the MMAA, and who moved to 15-3 with the win. More on this after the jump.
Now the analysis:
For a small-scale regional show, there sure are a number of interesting story lines here. Let's skip Hinkle losing by TKO, because it is simply not all that surprising; he's shown to be a journeyman talent on his best days, but he's a throw back (like most Hammer House guys) to the days when you could win an MMA match by wrestling hard and being tough. That those days are long gone is news to no one outside of Hammer House. But in relevant news...
Fickett Loses Again
The graph attached to this fanpost by JCS_FM (which was my inspiration for writing this post in the first place) now has a new low point, and shows the shocking decline of Fickett. I think we are at the point with Fickett, much like with Ken Shamrock, that he has stopped being a punchline and almost become a punching bag. A rather limp one. It's too easy to beat on him, and the fun has gone.
Let's keep in mind, here, that his opponent, Nik Lentz, is no world-beater. This isn't a young guy out of nowhere who will set the world on fire in the future. Nick Lentz is the definition of a middle-of-the-road fighter. (This is not to bash Nik Lentz. I mean, he has 15 more victories than I do.) Fickett, on the other hand, was at one time one of the highest regarded welterweights in the game. He is responsible for one of only three losses on Kenny Florian's record, defeated Josh Neer and Josh Koscheck in the UFC, and beat Dennis Hallman back when it still meant something. Flat out, Fickett is too talented to be losing to Nik Lentz at a backroads casino show in North Dakota.
Suddenly, people are talking about the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy as a legitimate, or even top-tier, camp. Brock Lesnar turned a lot of heads when he refused to leave Minnesota for his training camp coming up to his bout with Randy Couture. The general impression was that Minnesota simply did not have the resources to put on a good camp, either in terms of expertise or in terms of simple numbers of actively training fighters. How quickly people forget that, pre-Greg Jackson, no one was flooding Albequerque to brush up on their fight game...
Fightlinker has a piece (that quotes the Wertheim article over at SI) that talks about Brock's reclusiveness, and his willingness to bring top talent to him.
It's absolutely true, too: prior to the Lesnar-Couture fight, trainers in my neighbourhood (Victoria, British Columbia) were getting calls offering to be flown down to Alexandria, Minnesota (not a direct flight, I imagine) to be part of Lesnar's camp. One of the side-effects of this that hasn't been mentioned is that those experts are bringing up the quality and capacity of training at the MMAA generally. Unlike in free market economics, this rising tide does seem to be raising all boats. There is a small but building buzz around Tuchscherer and some of the other prospects at the MMAA, though we have yet to see how much is also the hype that Lesnar brings with him.
Of course, Lesnar is not the only name fighter at the MMAA. Sean Sherk, Kaitlin Young, Nick Thompson and Brock Larson have all been training there for some time. But is just seems like Lesnar has brought some new life - and some new coaches - to the old "caveman workout" pioneered by the Muscle Shark.
To be sure, wrestling will remain the forte of the MMAA, but Lesner is a "name" champion in the UFC, a massive draw who is up against a ton of pressure for someone so new to MMA. So long as his camp keeps pulling out all the stops to bring in the best trainers that they can find, all of the pros (and amateurs) at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy will benefit. Tuchscherer is likely to become one example of a guy who really benefits from the new blood in town, especially given that he is the same general size and shape (read: massive) as Lesnar and is said to be one of his regular training partners. Add in the recent evidence of Sherk's willingness to strike and improved stand-up ability, and maybe it's time to consider that maybe MMAA really has made the leap to the top tier of training. I might even have been too hard on Nik Lentz. War Carnie.
Edit: New information courtesy of Nick Thompson (see comments). Apparently it's the same crew of coaches and trainers as before at MMAA, but that still doesn't change the buzz I'm hearing about that camp becoming a real force and the fighters at MMAA elevating to the next level generally. Which just begs the question: what's changed? I suppose we'll just have to wait and see...
What the Heck is the "SNBCMMA"?
Aside from a very messy acronym, that is. Apparently, the fight between Tuchscherer and Hinkle was for the SNMMA Heavyweight Title. If you are anything like me, your first thought was, "Oh great, another WAMMA." However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that "SNMMA" stands for "Sovereign Nations Mixed Martial Arts", while SNBCMMA is the awkward shorthand for a pseudo-athletic council that seeks to work towards improving and promoting boxing and MMA shows held on Indian reserves (or "reservations" for those in the USA). Huh. Now that's something to think about.
(Caution: read the rest ony if you're interested in commentary on the ins and outs of holding MMA events on reserves.)
In my other, other life (not the one where I get paid for being a research analyst for the government, but rather that of the aspiring academic), I'm a political theorist focusing on Indigenous peoples' issues and conflicts with neo-colonialism (I hear you yawning). This sort of development nicely wraps my two major interests together in one package. So, my (very brief) opinion on this: it has the potential to be a very good thing.
So long as reserves are exempt from many laws, they will continue to both provide the opportunity to put on smaller shows which feature newer or lower-tier fighters, as well as the opportunity for unscrupulous promoters to put on half-assed shows without athletic commission interference. The fact is that the majority of reserve communities simply do not have the infrastructure to put on a show by themselves, even if they have a facility. And those that do have the capacity - mostly those with casinos, including the 4 Bears (where this event was held) and River Rock Casino (in Alberta, home to most MFC events) - may still be open to low standards due to ignorance of the MMA game or to being manipulated by promoters. When a fighter was shot in the leg following a show at a reserve just outside of Vancouver about a year ago, many people immediately pointed at the reserve officials for failing to provide proper security. But this failure was only part of the problem; this argument ignores the epidemic level of violent gang activity on many reserves, ignores the poverty that prevents the deployment of full police forces or athletic commissions, and ignores that most tribal politics are incredibly small-scale meaning that band councils (tribal councils for the Yanks) are notoriously trusting of ventures that purport to bring money to the community for low investment. And no one at all talked about the outside business people who show up, cash in hand, and confidently tell the councils about the giant piggy bank that is MMA, without mentioning the difficulty of properly promoting and hosting a card. Something needs to be done to address this, because reserves have long played host to boxing matches, and MMA events are increasing in frequency on reserves across Canada and the USA.
It is constitutionally and legally impossible to impose state, province or regional athletic commission authority on reserves. I believe it is also ethically undesirable, but that's another argument; the simple fact is that reserves are bureaucratic "islands", largely disconnected from the surrounding jurisdictions. This leaves them in a regulatory vaccuum, and the nature of the North American political system is one that abhors a vaccum. The ideal solution would be for voluntary compliance with accepted protocols for putting on an MMA event - having enough medical staff on hand, pre-fight medical testing, post-fight drug testing, use of the unified rules, and so on - and for transparency in this regard. Voluntary compliance requires someone, whether motivated by pride, profit, or the need for something to do on a Sunday afternoon, to step up and pursue the issue. It also requires cooperation across band/tribal lines, because the only thing more frequently lacking than the capacity to put on top-shelf shows is the experience of doing so, and you simply cannot legislate that. SNBCMMA may be trying to accomplish this. Here are the Mission Statement and Vision Statement taken from their website:
The mission of the Sovereign Nations Boxing Council (SNBC) is to develop, promote and regulate the sport of boxing in a fair and professional manner to federally recognized tribes. (SNBC) will provide all participants involved with professional boxing the respect, moral and ethical treatment expected from a professional organization that is dedicated to serve as a role model for the great sport of boxing. (SNBC) will develop and oversee a
fair and ethical ranking system along with titleholders. Sovereign Nations Boxing Council brings to light the fact that tribes are sovereign nations and will re-enforce that fact throughout the existence of the (SNBC). (SNBC) is committed to serving the communities and advancing the lives and economic situation of all Native people, as well as, all professional boxers in a positive and professional manner.
(SNBC) seeks to become a major professional boxing organization uniting native tribes within the sporting community all the while maintaining its mission statement. (SNBC) is determined to have titleholders and rankings parallel with the established world boxing organizations. The (SNBC) will set up a crises fund to aid the professional boxers that are part of the (SNBC) with assistance to the best of its ability. Develop an annual convention to address recommended changes in rules and regulations for (SNBC) and participants. The annual convention will also serve as training grounds for potential boxing judges, referees, commissioners, promoters, and casinos entering the sport of boxing or MMA.
(The website also features several sections and statements directed specifically towards MMA.)
If mission and vision statements were worth money, the SNBCMMA would already be rich. As of now, there are only two or three partners in this scheme (none in Canada, contrary to hopes of the SNBCMMA), so it's impossible to say whether or not there is any potential here. But one can hope. I plan on making some phone calls and doing a full length article on reserves, regulation and MMA in the near future, and these guys will hopefully feature prominently. Unless they choose not to talk to me, which will tell me something too... I'm not getting my hopes up for now, but at least the idea looks good.
That's a lot of analysis.
All that from a small town show in North Dakota. There's no such thing as a slow news day in MMA!