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It's necessary to do all the talking we do about TV ratings, pay-per-view buys, stupid tweets, banal fighter interviews and so on. But when it comes down to it, nothing quite compares to a great night of fights. While many of us (myself included, obviously) have grown fond of the day-to-day newsgrind and even to the over-analysis of every little thing, it wouldn't be worth it without nights of violent conflict between great athletes.
Despite the fact that UFC 139 isn't likely to break 300,000 pay-per-view buys, continuing the rather disappointing trend for the UFC in 2011, I can't bring myself to talk about it. This despite low buyrates being something I couldn't help but focus on with the tremendous UFC 136 card.
It all probably boils down to the human factor. While UFC 136 was a card where one could focus on the skill, UFC 139 is a card filled with potential violence. Not an unskilled, toughman-esque, forced "let's get Fight of the Night" dishonest kind of violence, but men who made careers at the top of the game through beautiful displays of savagery.
Men like Mauricio Rua and his time in PRIDE as a whirlwind of fists, elbows and feet, Dan Henderson unloading his right hand on the jaws of his opponents, Wanderlei Silva smashing everyone in his path, Brian Bowles and his go-for-broke go-for-the-finish style...these are the men who create the emotional reactions. Hell, even Stephan Bonnar and his Micky Ward impersonation (middling talent prone to wars and the occasional meaningful victories and frequent letdowns) is making an appearance on the card to add the necessary splash of blood to the canvas.
It's something we often shy away from embracing to the fullness we want to. There's the worry that the Bob Reillys of the world will see it as some sort of validation of their antiquated (and politically motivated) stances.
It forces us to hide behind "but the skill!" and "these are great athletes!" and it's true, the sport at its best is a showcase of skill and athleticism. But so is Olympic boxing and you couldn't pay me to sit through 2 hours of Facebook fights, an hour on Spike and three hours of a pay-per-view to watch that display of athleticism.
An appreciation of skill is important, but so is an embrace of the violence
Saturday night is going to be a night that reminds us of the "other side" of our fandom. The one we all know exists but that we hide away out of fear of judgement.
But it's time we embrace it vocally. Mike Tyson didn't become a star because of his great trunk movement, Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo isn't a classic fight because of footwork and angling and the Thrilla in Manila wasn't a great fight because Ali and Frazier both threw punches correctly. The specific moments we remember forever in the fight game are those where the skill involved gave way to violence and passion.
Embrace the violence, MMA fans. Because I have a feeling we're going to see a lot of it Saturday night. And it's going to be great.