Put that pitchfork down sir and put out that torch madam. Hear me out.
Not too long ago, as many other athletes in both MMA and many other sports do, our newest UFC champion Benson Henderson dedicated his fight and his hard fought victory to the Man Upstairs.
That same scene has played out in our screen multiple times now-- the winner, engulfed in a feeling of privilege by the odds being supernaturally stacked in his favor, makes sure to give props to Him who is due. Right besides him, pacing around the small semicircle his entourage contains him and his disappointment in, the defeated fighter looks down and up, often silently asking the very same deity what exactly did he do wrong to deserve this bitter test.
One can wonder, in a world dealing with never ending famine and war, what is God’s actual role in MMA’s modern human prizefighting?
Let’s look at 4 reasons why we could argue He cares and 4 more reasons why He may strike the next champ’s belt with lightning from above right there in front of Bruce Buffer.
Before we begin, let’s set boundaries. As many an atheist author will happily inform you, we are all atheist towards most deities (most likely, you ask nothing and care not for Zeus and his thundering ways nowadays). So we are talking about the Judeo-Christian God and referring to His good book for some context. The intention is not to get preachy, but if you find me a way to ask Him the questions mano a mano, hook a brother up.
Let’s figure this out together:
4 REASONS WHY GOD CARES FOR MMA
1. Athletes are good role models
Let’s start with the big picture- does God care for sports and athletes? Cousin, yes he does, and we can quote Him on it:
"No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules." (2 Timothy 2:4-6)
In that golden era without TRT nor pot and other performance enhancing substances, athletes were a great example of adhering to a lifestyle as strictly as possible in order to reap the results at the end.
This is still true, of course. The discipline, focus, commitment and sacrifices required by modern athletes, certainly including MMA fighters, is a continuous example of pursuing your goals through hard work. Of course, there's a lot of disappointments today, but hey, who checked those runners up and down back in the day before hitting the tracks, youknowwhatI'msaying?
2. MMA training is good discipline
The apostle Paul apparently had a thing for races and runners. If somebody needed some counseling and Paul wasn't around, apparently you could find his ex-persecuting persona screaming at the top of his lungs in the tracks.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training." (1 Corinthians 9:23-25)
From exercising your body to its peak performance, to making your diet serve your body and not just your appetite, to the time taken away from family and friends, fighters give up a lot of good things and take on a lot of pain to touch the glory of victory.
You can't fake it in MMA. Well, yes, you can, perhaps you're a guy who knocks every mother out there who crosses your path, but once you start climbing the MMA ladder to the big leagues, whatever you lack in your game, whatever it was you skipped in your training, it is going to come up and bite you in the body cushions. Today's MMA demands your body to be fit, your mind to be in the right place, your striking game to be K-1 quality and your grappling to be ADCC material.
Whatever your values, the principles of hard work, sacrifice for your goals and being thorough in preparation for your challenges stand the test of time. MMA fighters, the good ones, do this everyday.
3. MMA provides unique opportunities to make an honest living
Let's say MMA is working out for you. You decide to move closer where the gym or the fights are happening, and in this new town you find a new place to get your Christian on.
As you come in and inevitably are singled out as a newcomer, there are far, far, far worse things you can say to that nice old lady greeting you at the door than "... and I'm an MMA fighter." MMA fighter certainly comes out a lot nicer than porno actor, for example.
Or perhaps, it doesn't need to be about cleaning up your act in any way, but simply about making a decent living. MMA fighter is a great step up from working three jobs and watching your bronze Olympic medal collect dust. It is definitely much more rewarding and full of possibilities than garbage collector.
For many men and women who might have been stuck running dojo, or being part of the staff of a larger gym, MMA is now providing them independence and opportunities that did not exist before. No full-frontal nakedness required.
4. Furthering cultural understanding
It's not going to come from the People's Champ of course, but MMA is furthering the regular guy's understanding of cultural differences and, hopefully, reducing a bit of cultural prejudice.
If you've been paying attention, perhaps you now know the best BJJ is going to come from Brazil, and you might want to lose some of the preconceptions about the place and go there to learn from the art's masters. Or perhaps, Pearl Harbor and all, you've surrendered to the fantastic displays of judo from Rousey and Akiyama and are now booking a ticket to spend a few days in the Kodokan institute, or to bring Kosei Inoue stateside. Your striking needs polishing? There's a lot of lovely people waiting in Bangkok and The Netherlands waiting to make your shins bleed.
What MMA is doing to fighters and fans alike is making sure you get out of your bubble and look at the big wide word around you. You cannot bear prejudice and survive in this new game. Literally, spew some racist BS in pretty much any MMA gym and you're getting yourself mangled most likely. There are many arts and many philosophies waiting for you to embrace them, take what you like, and make them your own. The champions of the world understand this, travel or go from gym to gym as much as they can to expand their minds, further their technique arsenal, become better athletes. Understanding your fellow man, or as The Man said, "loving thy neighbor" in any context can only be a good thing
4 REASONS WHY GOD DOES NOT CARE (and perhaps secretly roots for the Culinary Union)
1. "Thou Shall Not Kill" and all that jazz
No, as far as contact sports go, MMA does not have the worst record in injuries nor deaths, and it doesn't present a greater danger than, say, professional football and its multitudes of brain damaged veterans.
But see, we don't even have to get there. It's a hard pill to swallow, but all indications in the Good Book are that violence doesn't really fly The Man's boat. Point in case:
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, `Thou shalt not kill,' and `Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.' But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment..." (Matthew 5:20-22)
The mere intention of harming your opponent is going to win you a big frown from the Almighty, basically.
See, a popular criticism of our modern times is how desensitized to violence we have become. You can go to certain places in the world wide web and be confronted with gore, just to see how much of a stomach you have.
Our level of what is acceptable for public consumption, violence-wise, is always on the rise. That is in stark contrast with how acceptable to The Man violence between ourselves is. After all, as the story goes, He took it in the face and did not counter punch, didn't even bob and weave. Ridiculous notion, too much to ask from mankind today? Maybe. But can we defend our appetite for violence sitting in the pews?
Not a chance.
2. He could not care less if you get rich or not
MMA may not be boxing, as far as the size of the prize for fighters goes, but right now it is making a lot of people rich, in whatever version of rich you want to think of.
Many a time, those men and women coming into the sport come with a feeling that He's going to give them every good, nice thing there is available for the taking because they have done good, they have behaved, they have been responsible, they have put in the hard work, they have have remained honest and, therefore, He should-- heck, he must, he must answer back and lay the right opportunities in front of them leading to the promised land of riches.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven...'" (Matthew 19:23)
Not a popular verse that, I know, but it's out there and it won't go away because we're tired of this Not Having A Bentley lifestyle we were awarded.
This doesn't mean being affluent is sinful. It isn't in any way, remember those Job and Abraham dudes were basically the Bill Gates and Carlos Slims of their times.
But the fact you have been a good boy or a good girl, and that you've put in the hours to train and make sure to lift your hand above after every win and/or verbally give Him props means absolutely nothing to your bank account my friend. Our modern, dot com IPO and ponzi scheme world and its definition of success differ greatly from, say:
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:7-9)
3. Brain damage
Maybe we're the natural progression of the stars, which is a fascinating notion. Or maybe we're special, like our mothers told us.
Whatever the case, the body we get is one, and He wants you to take care of it. We might argue the property angle, but once the knees give out and the KOs start coming quicker and easier, all you are left with is this bag of bones our mamas gave us.
Above all things He cares for, however, is the brain. The "heart", as you will find it referred to in the old book. The seat of the mind and personality, or as your spiritual leader will likely tell you, what really matters.
Here's some on it:
" Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23)
Out of all the parts in the machinery, the brain always receives special consideration. Thus, the conflict with a profession where it becomes one of the main targets.
Mmafighting.com's own Ben Fowlkes illustrated this brilliantly in his new series The Hurt Business focusing on the changes to an MMA gym during the course of a year:
Or here was Verno Phillips, probably the most famous boxer Wittman worked with. Verno, who gave him his start. Verno, who won the WBO title with Wittman in his corner. Verno, who haunts these stories like a ghost with nothing better to do.
Verno used to piss blood after just about every fight. It became as normal as the repetitive locker room conversations Wittman never fully got used to having with him. Every time, it was some slight variation on the same theme.
Did I get knocked out?
No, Verno. You won a decision. Remember?
That’s right. I did win. I remember. Hey, why is the floor so cold out there?
It’s a hockey arena, Verno. They had a game here last night.
That’s right. I remember. Hey, did I get knocked out?
Tomorrow Verno would be better. His brain would return to whatever its new normal was. Everyone could go back to ignoring the slightly terrifying reality staring them in the face.
Boxing and pro football have already started to tackle the problem of brain damage in varying degrees, obviously the sports cannot stop, the money machine cannot be halted, but things are promised and some are done to minimize sending an athlete to retirement only to become a shadow of his own self.
MMA, a relatively new sport still, is only now starting to even speak about as veterans such as Big Daddy Goodridge take the daring step to acknowledge the problem and come forward. What can we expect down the line with all of those fighters from the first UFC generation? What can possibly be the results of taking on multiple fights in a lifetime, where a single one of those fights can represent multiple concussions?
Fighters are adults, most of them family men, and they choose what to do with their bodies and how to put food on the table. But from all looks of it, The Man would rather you not leave your loved ones with only a shell of your old self, unable to recognize them or partake in the memories that (hopefully) gel a family together. What kind of life is that, anyhow? Moreover, what kind of spiritual relationship can a broken mind ever hope to establish?
4. Image problem
Skulls and monsters, scantily clad girls, profanity, blood and broken bones, and a constant validation that violence trumps all. Sounds ready for a post-worship Youth program, huh?
The UFC and MMA as a whole enjoys a certain image that has helped it appeal and hold on to their target demographic. That same image has raised questions about its ability to become mainstream, and they were brought up again and widely discussed when they signed their landmark deal with Fox Network. Is it good or bad that there was no blood in Velasquez vs Dos Santos? Is the general public going to squirm at the sight of blood or will they go TUF 1 and viewers will call their gore-friendly friends on the phone?
Beyond the question of readiness for the big leagues or lack thereof, can we somehow marry the current image of the sport to that of a Christian lifestyle? Well, let's see. If your spiritual leader comes for a surprise visit and knocks on your door during UFC 146, do you change the channel? Sit him down besides you and watch as Chandella walks around the Octagon and later Frank Mir breaks someone else's elbow and shoulder?
MMA and the UFC are many positive things, but as far as image goes, and as perhaps Chris Lytle is now finding out after ditching the MMA fights for political fights, it doesn't send an image of wholesomeness out there. To carry a message of being like Him who is meek and spend your days hurting and bloodying your fellow man is, well, a bit funny.
So, what is the answer? Can fighters really expect any help from above in kicking their fellow man in the head for money? Or are they just soothing their own consciences in doing so?
We gave you the reasons, let us know how they hold for you. Have your say in the comments or hit me up on twitter, we'd love to know what you think.