Frankie Edgar takes down Benson Henderson at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan. Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting.
In an often friendly article, Douglas Quenqua put forth to the readers of the Fashion & Style section of the NY Times the rising popularity of mixed martial arts among the younger generation of sports fans and participants. The article opens with a February Ring of Combat event featuring Tom DeBlass, the #3 Light Heavyweight Prospect from the 2012 Scouting Report.
Despite bumbling the fact that DeBlass is already a professional MMA fighter, Quenqua accurately depicts DeBlass's leglock method of victory and goes on to quote some of Bloody Elbow's familiar faces, while building the case that MMA is a very real sporting institution across the United States.
Quenqua gives some of his valuable column inches to Kid Nate:
Nate Wilcox, a public-affairs consultant in Austin, Tex., and writer for Bloody Elbow, one of many M.M.A. blogs, became an instant fan of the sport in 1995 when someone showed him a tape of the 1994 match between Royce Gracie and Kimo Leopoldo from Ultimate Fighting Championship III.
"I used to play in a punk band, and someone brought a tape to practice and was like, ‘Nate, you are going to love this,' " he said.
No word has been forthcoming on either side whether Kid Nate's affection for hats dates to this punk period or is a more recent happening. Either way, we now reap the rewards of the dark ages tape-sharing and hopefully, most here are grateful that this nameless person sparked the desire for controlled multi-discipline pugilistic violence in Nate.
Hit the jump for more Bloody Elbow-related quotes and some discussion of Quenqua's article.
Chris Groves, one of the more prolific members of the Bloody Elbow community, managed to get a very nice summation of MMA's appeal across in the article. Unfortunately, they misspelled his name and left the correction to the web edition without actually correcting the article:
"I would say that if boxing is the sweet science, then M.M.A. is the complete science," said Chris Jones, a 19-year-old student at Pasco-Hernando Community College in, Fla. "It's all aspects of the fight. It's a full fight. It's a real fight."
Despite these well placed quotes, attending a fairly good regional MMA event and having a wealth of online and off-line resources for fact-checking, Quenqua still throws out mistakes and awful metaphors while glossing briefly over the long and complicated history of the sport in recent times. In the aggregate, the article does an average job of bopping through some of the cultural benchmarks the sport of MMA has achieved, yet either space constraints or Quenqua's own newbie status prevent any serious analysis or context from being delivered to readers of the article. Furthermore, the absurdly reductive passages like
It's like a boxing match crossbred with WrestleMania, presented in the middle of an Insane Clown Posse concert.
might actually be counter-productive to Quenqua's intent to present MMA as something that the NY Times Fashion & Style readers should pay attention to or check out on their own time. Visions of small hordes of ICP fans inciting and performing acts of skilled violence are unlikely to calm the hysteria-mongers or reassure the NY Times-reading parents of impressionable youth that MMA is not going to ruin their children.
Quenqua does quote Robert Thompson, a professor over at Syracuse University, who provides the headline hook by speaking about Fight Club and presents the best image of MMA fans in the entire article.
The fascination with the sport has even seeped into the walls of academia. Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, said that many of his male students wanted to write papers about mixed martial arts. And they are not always the students you would expect.
"People who don't know these sports very well think their fans must be these kind of crazed, people-on-the-verge-of-a-breakdown, violent kind of thing," he said. But the students he sees who are most interested in the sport "tend to have really good grade-point averages and be really fine students," he said. "This is not something that smart young people look down their noses at."
He agreed that the impact of "Fight Club" could not be discounted; it became a manifesto for a generation of boys who felt estranged from their masculinity. "It became this kind of magnum opus, and it described a certain culture of this kind of sport," Professor Thompson said. "This was their thing, and they defined themselves accordingly."
The cult popularity of Fight Club is significant, yet the sport of MMA was present long before Chuck Palahniuk and David Fincher ever put their stories together. Our own John Nash and T.P. Grant have documented that thoroughly in their separate historical article series. Furthermore, the sport did not truly explode into the American consciousness (and financial lucrativeness) until roughly 2004 or 2005 - five or six years after the movie had come out and settled into the youth of that time. It is a good hook, despite its likely misapplication by Quenqua and could get a few new eyeballs to the sport.
Quenqua does do a decent job of getting input directly from fans in attendance and in making this article link to a photo gallery that shows the passion the fighters, families and fans all bring to MMA. Credit should be given to him for recognizing that passion and attempting to make it work as an article.
In short, this NY Times piece is not the article that the ardent MMA fan should be sending around to fence-sitters or those new to the sport in hopes of conversion. However, it is generally positive coverage in the most respected American newspaper running today and thus worth covering here on Bloody Elbow.
Big ups to the fighters, organizers, promoters, fans, Bloody Elbow readers and writers who are working towards getting this sport and its related disciplines to an accepted state in the mainstream consciousness. We are getting there.