FanPost

Updated: New Fan's Guide to Mixed Martial Arts

 

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Howdy.  My name is Justin Cave (though I go by Rundownloser here), and I imagine you might be here because of this whole UFC on Fox thing.  Sure you've heard of the UFC prior to this particular event, but something is a bit different this time.  For whatever reason, your interest is piqued and you have decided to investigate the topic with more diligence than ever before.  Thus, you have found yourself at Bloodyelbow.com (hereafter referred to as BE), perhaps unfortunately named but a terrifically informative blog nonetheless.  This is also the precipice, the last stop before the realm of the hardcore mixed martial arts fan.   As intimidating as that may sound, it should not deter you.  Not only is the MMA community a surprisingly edified lot, the members are generally jovial, agreeable, and (at least in my case) overwhelmingly handsome.

More importantly, MMA, especially at this stage, is a remarkable sport.  It is an everchanging landscape of techniques, skills, and styles, constantly evolving in the forge that is personal combat.  Even the tangentially related elements like contract negotiations and matchup speculation are open to you, given your interest.  And every aspect of the sport can be explored within the walls of this and other websites, except for MMAMania.com which is garbage.  This is partially because MMA, unlike most major sports, has had since the relatively early days a thriving online component.  This was especially true during the dark ages, when places like Sherdog.com and MMAWeekly.com were the only outlet for MMA content.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Navigating a new space, especially one with a dedicated fanbase, can be daunting in the beginning.  Therefore, allow me to assist.

I have written this Fanpost for I too was once a 'new fan'.  In the eyes of many, you will be part of at least the third or fourth generation of mixed martial arts fan (though seventh or eighth is probably closer).  The one previous in their minds will probably be those that began following more closely during the first five or so seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, a reality TV show which began on Spike in 2005 and is commonly referred to as TUF.  I am one of these, commonly referred to as 'TUF noobs' by folk whose genetics have not left their neanderthal roots.  If they have an eye for history, they may include another generation between yours and mine, who began following MMA after Brock Lesnar joined the UFC and before the UFC on FOX bit.  This is largely unimportant, but I've always erred on the on side of context.

Instead of drowning you with an endless stream of paragraphs too enervating to count let alone read, I will merely provide you with a bit of a primer and directions to other articles, sites, and content that you may continue to look into at your leisure.  None of this is truly necessary to enjoy this sport (as you already know), so investigate whatever headings strike your fancy.  Also, all this shit is free, outside the books and such.

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History 

It turns out that folk have been hitting each other for a good long while.  I'll leave you with that and direct you to the loads of great historical pieces that can actually do this area justice (unlike myself):

  • We'll kick things off with the MMA History series by BE's own Kid Nate.  That link will take you to the first installment, which covers the very beginnings of the sport we now know as MMA.  The series itself largely limits its scope to the time period between the early 90's and about the TUF era (roughly 2005).  Much of this is considered the aforementioned 'dark ages' and Nate brings together a lot of pictures and video from an era that can be difficult to find.  By the way, at the bottom of the article, you'll find links to the rest of the series.
  • Next we have The Forgotten Golden Age of Mixed Martial Arts by nottheface, an absolutely incredible commentator on BE.  The link will take you to the first article in the series.  Here are the links to parts IIIII, and IV as well.  There are two related articles,  James Figg: The Lost Origins of the Sport of Mixed Martial Arts and The Martial Chronicles.  Altogether, this series delves into the distant and obscure precursors of the sport.  Topics include Judo, Boxing, Catchwrestling, and Bartitsu and introduce a variety of interesting and important characters.  Occasionally a bit esoteric and/or indirectly related, it is remarkably well written and intellectually stimulating.
  • Next in line is the History of Jiu-Jitsu series by T.P. Grant, who is one of BE's grappling editors.  That link will take you to the first article, which covers the development of hand to hand fighting in Japan from roughly 900 a.d. to about 1850.  The series covers pretty much the entire extent of jiu-jitsu's history, with special attention paid to the Gracie family and their literal and figurative progeny.  Given Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's importance in the sport, this series has a lot of relevancy to the modern scene.  I won't link to all of the articles (since there are twenty-fucking-two), but here is a link to the 2nd most recent one, which has links to all the rest below.  The most recent article is a good read too, but it doesn't have the helpful links at the bottom.
  • You'll notice that I have largely stayed within BE for this section.  That's mainly because BE's diligent editors and thriving commentators actually do a remarkably good job combing through history.  Here you will find the MMA History section on BE.  This contains all the various history articles put forth by other writers, including pieces by staff members Mike Fagan, Fraser Coffeen, and Matthew Roth (to name a few).  I set aside these not because they are of lesser quality, but because they are generally one or two-offs rather than a full series bound by an ongoing thread or theme.  They can be a little difficult to navigate through, so don't be afraid to go here.
  • But that isn't to suggest that BE has a monopoly on historical pieces.  Keith from Fight Rankings has put together a very nice collection of articles about the early years of MMA.  One goes over the UFC, while the other goes over PRIDE (a rival organization that was the dominant Japanese promotion until 2007).  Each link takes you to the most recent article in the series (as of 11/12/11), but have links to the previous articles as well.

On the off chance you can't handle reading on the internet (a concept which immediately brings several questions to my mind), there are in fact honest to god books you can read about the history of MMA.  

  • Total MMA by Jonathan Snowden, a contributor at MMANation (part of the SBNation family, along with BE) and former BE editor, is widely considered the definitive history of the sport.  At roughly 250 pages, it won't take you forever neither.  If there is one issue, it was published in 2008 so it won't help you catch up on the immediate past (hardly an immense issue, but worth mentioning).  
  • Mr. Snowden also has another great book, the MMA Encyclopedia, which is pretty much what it sounds like and is just as informative.  It was published in 2010, so it's got a couple years on Total MMA.  To top it off, he's got another book coming out on the history of wrestling (olympic, professional, catch, etc.).
  • Kid Peligro's The Gracie Way covers the history of the Gracie family, the principle preachers and practitioners of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu over the last hundred years.  Hell, they even founded the UFC.  Peligro's unparalleled access leaves the reader with a lot of good info to digest.  It was published in 2003, so it isn't for those looking for recent stories.
  • Sam Sheridan's A Fighter's Heart isn't a classic history of the sport.  Rather, it follows Mr. Sheridan himself during his fighting years.  It covers a variety of topics, but there is some history in there.  It's also just a damn good read.  He even went on the best show in the world, the Daily Show, to talk about it.  Sheridan's other book, The Fighter's Mind, has been pretty well received too.

Finally two documentaries for those who just have yet to be impressed by my offerings.  

  • As suggested by BJJDenver in the original post, here are Renzo Gracie Legacy and The Smashing Machine.  The first link will take you to the official trailer for the movie about Renzo Gracie's life and fighting career, with interviews from top fighters, trainers, and others.  Renzo is a fairly important guy in the sport, both in terms of his fighting career, and his many students today.  The second link will take you to Part 1 of the full documentary about Mark Kerr's (aka the Smashing Machine) meteoric rise and calamitous fall, all in the early days of MMA.  It certainly ain't a date movie, but you'll learn a lot about a guy who folks still talk about as the archetypal cautionary tale in this young sport.  There are other movies, like Choke, but I haven't watched 'em.

    Rankings and Fighter Info

Unfortunately, there is a lot of bullshit in this area.  You can find a thousand different websites with another ten thousand sets of rankings.  There are no official rankings in MMA, for a number of different reasons, and so any asshole with a godaddy account can post whatever nonsense they feel like.  Additionally, the regional show records most fighters begin their careers on can go unrecorded or otherwise lost to the ages, sometimes radically misrepresenting a fighter's accomplishments.  Thankfully, there's help.

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  • To take this homerically, we'll start with the fighter info.  Without a doubt, Sherdog.com's Fight Finder is the one-stop-shop in this area.  Sherdog musters a heroic amount of effort to fact check every entry down to the tiniest event and compiles it in a massive database.  All you gotta do is type in a name.  Each fighter's page includes a variety of stats, pictures, videos and a full list of the outcomes of all past fights.  It is the single most important tool when playing six degrees of separation, and there are some priceless hidden gems buried deep within.
  • Fightmetric.com is another good resource for information.  They routinely put out breakdowns of recent fights unmatched in the amount of data presented.  They also have their own Fight Finder and a fun section of interesting UFC top-10 lists.
  • With rankings, there are a few different directions to take.  As far as traditional rankings, I prefer Sherdog.com here again.  They have the most educated and knowledgeable staff of any ranking website, and arrive at well analyzed positions, whether or not you ultimately agree.  On the other hand, MMAWeekly.com does what it can to make me laugh everyday, and that's worth something too.
  • You can worship our eventual mechanical overlords at Fightmatrix.com, who operate on computerized rankings, which are at least nominally more objective than traditional rankings.  Additionally, their system allows one to find rankings for any point in history, since it's an algorithm (or some other math thing).  Like Fight Metric, they have a bunch of cool stat lists.
  • Boy it's been awhile since I mentioned BE.  Well, wait's over.  They take a less traditional route in 'their' rankings.  For one, they partnered with the USA Today, so you can buy it for a buck fifty.  For another, they compile rankings from a select group of individuals from various outlets and shoot math at them until it results in a "consensus" view of of the rankings.  Unlike traditional rankings, these don't purport to say anything at all about any fighter actual ranking.  Rather, they show generally what the mma community believes the rankings to be.  It's telling that this is necessary, but as lamentable as that fact may be, it is a valuable resource nonetheless.

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Technique

This can be a confusing topic at first.  Although a number of arts are studied by fighters, not all of those techniques are directly applicable in the cage.  For example, while gi training is necessary for a serious study of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (no matter what some people say), a gi usually can't be worn into the cage.  Similarly, hundreds of hours must be devoted to boxing; however, mimicing a boxer's footwork won't get you much beside a big 'L'.  

Joking aside, do not fucking go out and work technique without having an instructor and insurance.  This goes for boxing, jiu-jitsu, and any other martial art worth its salt.  The instructor is necessary to get much of anything out of the training and the insurance is necessary because you will get hurt, no matter how nice your partner may be (you don't want to know what my uninsured broken arm cost in total, it makes me tear up).

  • If you are interested in technique to better appreciate fights, as opposed to performing any maneuvers yourself, the Judo Chop series on BE is excellent.  Its purpose isn't to teach you how, only what, as in "Holy shit!  What did Anderson Silva just do there?!"  Each involves an in depth breakdown, often with many pictures and gifs and teaches you everything you'd need to enjoy MMA on a whole new level.  The series is ridiculously long and has a number of different authors so I'd suggest you either go to the MMA Technique section or use the search function.  Don't forget you can use the power search to search for an exact phrase, like Judo Chop. (Note from Kid Nate we also tag all the Judo Chops with the phrase "Judo Chop" so they all appear here.)
  • After just about every UFC event, The Gracie Breakdown team of Rener and Ralek Gracie breakdown the action from the previous night's fights.  They do an excellent job of showing the move in question, its setup, and all the crucial details that bring a maneuver from a 20% finishing rate into a 80+% finishing rate.  Also, they made this video which makes me laugh everytime because I'm twelve.
  • Sherdog.com has to be mentioned again because of its Technique of the Week series of videos.  The videos are well produced and the moves are well articulated, often by known and accomplished fighters.
  • Grapplearts.com's Grappling Technique section is another great resource.  As their name would suggest, they focus on grappling, specifically Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  They put out a lot of great breakdowns, including both articles augmented with pictures and videos.  They're well-respected and have moves for different skill levels.  BJJ.org is pretty similar, and that link will take you right to their instructional video series.
  • Lockflow.com has a load of videos too.  Although they usually aren't as well produced, they do come from a variety of sources and cover a bunch of ground, including striking.
  • Many forums have sections devoted to honing technique.  I'm not gonna go and point out all of 'em for you, but here's Sherdog.com's for example.
  • Finally, a note regarding one Eddie Bravo.  If you listen to Joe Rogan for longer than about a minute, you'll eventually hear of the man.  He's a blackbelt with a controversial approach to grappling.  Some think he's a fraud, some a genius, and others a thief.  The best way to think of him is this: Eddie Bravo is to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as Joseph Smith is to Christianity.  If you see words and phrases like, "rubber guard," "the twister," or any other move with a name that sounds vaguely drug/sex-related, be warned.  You are now officially off the reservation.

You might notice that I have mostly posted grappling instructionals.  The reasons are myriad: 1) I take a punch worse than Lesnar, so I've focused on grappling myself and mostly know those sites, 2) BJJ has a lot of cool folk who don't care about making money off of every little damn thing so they post a bunch of free videos, and 3) Okay it was only two reasons.  But there are a bunch of great books too, and they have more than just hugging.

If you do decide to join a gym, read this first.  That author's website quite good overall.  He goes over technique, reviews gi's, and is pretty helpful when you're starting to train.  Sharp chap, this one.

 

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Community and Forums

This is largely a personal choice.  I myself prefer the erudition, elitism, and Game of Thrones gifs that are the core of the thriving BE community.  Also, few things are as bizarre and unique as the BE Night Crew, the folks who stay up late to watch the big international MMA shows (Update: that used to exist).  But I won't spend this space extolling the virtues of BE exclusively.  There are others.

  • MMA.tv's Underground Forums and Sherdog.com's Forums are the big men on campus.  They are by far the largest forums on the net.  I don't frequent either, so I can't tell you much substantive about them.  The one thing I know is that the Underground Forums seem to have more fighters and industry insiders, so your chances of ever talking to a fighter are improved ever so slightly.  It also ups your chances to talk to Joe Rogan about cheeba and DMT to 100%.
  • There are many combat sports sister sites to BE: HeadKickLegend (aka HKL), BadLeftHook (aka BLH), Cageside Seats (aka CSS, like the band), Gals Guide to MMA (aka GGTMMA), MMANation (aka the Borg) and MMAMania (aka garbage).  They all have communities of their own, and more than a few folks who could use a new friend like you.  HKL talks about mma and kickboxing, BLH focuses on boxing, CSS is primarily concerned with Pro Wrasslin, GGTMMA brings the MMA talk from the oft overlooked feminine perspective, while MMA Mania focuses on news and interviews in the MMA sphere, as opposed to BE's emphasis on feature pieces and analysis.  There is a friendly rivalry between MMAMania and BE, so I don't actually feel Mania is garbage.  They aspire to it.  MMA Nation is a little different, as that's where all the professional journalist types do they thang.
  • There are many more, but since I haven't spent much time on them I will avoid commenting.
  • "But come on, where are the fighters?" you ask.  Well, your best bet is joining a gym where they train, work your way into the more advanced classes they train in, and then tell them whatever stupid fan nonsense you think they don't already know to their face ("Dude, I'm telling ya Forrest: your chin sucks.  You really should work on your striking defense").  If that sounds like work or you don't have the insurance to cover what they'd do to ya, you could always get on the Twitter.  The UFC has been really aggressive in the social media domain and have pushed all their fighters to get on Twitter.  My personal favorite is Chael Sonnen, who routinely brings the level of showmanship of his interviews into bite-sized affirmations of awesome.  If you have a favorite fighter, odds are they have a Twitter, which you'll see prominently displayed under their name during the walkout.  If you don't want to wait that long, you can even go that fighter's UFC.com profile, and find it there.  Even Dana White has one, from which he often hints about or even breaks huge news.  Like new Jakks action figures.

News, Interviews, and Analysis

I'm slowly realizing that this article, originally meant as an primer, is getting pretty damn big.  So I'll try and make this quick.

  • You see those links on the left of the main page?  Check those out.  I'd add MMAFighting.com (Update: which has now been subsumed by, guess who, the Borg) to the list, but before you freak out from info overload, remember the internet is nothing if not an echo chamber.  You can plug one into an RSS feed and rarely miss a beat.
  • If you prefer auditory intake, there are several radio shows too.  BE has one, and that link will take you to the most recent as of 11/10/11.
  • BE's editor emeritus and MMANation's beard-in-chief, Luke Thomas, has one too.  His ambient masculinity is a poor man's TRT and his analysis is consistently on point.
  • Sherdog.com has by far the most radio content of any site.  The quality varies with the Jordan Breen Show being the cream of the crop.  Every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET Mr. Breen drops knowledge on emailers, callers, and anyone else who puts a topic in front of him.  There really isn't a sector of the sport he doesn't know more than you about.  Sherdog's work on Roundtable and Beatdown after the Bell shows are stellar as well.
  • Fightlinker has a podcast as well.  It's gonzo radio work and as such, is best consumed as a chaser to a great deal of alcohol.

Before I go, this is a Fanpost, an article written and posted by a commentator.  They ain't difficult, and if you would like to make your own consider taking a look at this link.  It's a Fanpost about how to make a fanpost.  It's so meta it makes Aristotle blush.  It is a bit dated, but one day you'll learn to appreciate that.

As far as the comments, if you're new, go ahead and start asking questions.  Consider this a safe zone.  No one will judge you and there are free hugs.  If you're a regular, after the requisite gifs and puns, I invite you to post anything you think I may have left out.

And a big 'Thank You' to Mr. Broussard for taking a look at this for me before I published it.  Your assistance is much appreciated and just so you know, you're the most underrated staff member on BE.

Willkommen image via www.isifiya.com

History of Violence image via www.movieposterdb.com

Rankings image via pharmacytechblog.org

Capoeira Kick image via soulcapoeira.org

Sickness image via www.howtogetridofstuff.com

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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