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Why I’m a fan of MMA

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To celebrate’s refresh, Managing Editor Anton Tabuena shares how he first came across Mixed Martial Arts, and why he remains a fan today.

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URCC Cage photo by Paolo Tabuena Paolo Tabuena

Welcome to the refreshed Bloody Elbow! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams and sports. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

So why am I fan of Mixed Martial Arts?

I grew up watching Filipino boxing icons such as Gerry Penalosa and Luisito Espinosa. I also dabbled in taekwondo at a very young age, and was always aware of the limitations of these combat sports’ rulesets. So as a kid, when I first saw old UFC re-runs pitting various styles against each other, it piqued my interest and curiosity.

I wasn't completely shocked when pure strikers couldn't handle even smaller grapplers. They are limited in that regard, after all. But when I saw an undersized Brazilian in Marco Ruas run through the tournament and chop down Paul Varelans — a giant polar bear looking heavyweight that also wanted to strike — that completely blew my mind.

It wasn’t just a grappler beating a clueless stand up fighter on the ground, or even the opposite, where a stand up fighter beats a clueless grappler on the feet. These were two beasts who ran through the tournament and were comfortable within the same ruleset. In my mind, neither would be a fish out of water, and if Ruas striked with him, the insane size difference was supposed to negate any perceived skill advantage. Except, it didn’t.

Ruas patiently picked apart the bigger man, setting up strikes and landing leg kicks over and over until Varelans couldn’t walk anymore.

That made me realize that there were levels to this, and there could also be that same massive gap even in these ‘similar styled’ killers who fight within their chosen strengths. That entire concept got me hooked.

IFL Chicago
Marco Ruas punches Maurice Smith, late in his MMA career.
Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images for IFL

Several years later, I somehow end up working for this very site. The sport obviously has completely changed since I first started watching, so why am I still a fan of Mixed Martial Arts?

While it has moved from style vs style to a stand alone sport, the technique is still constantly developing, and constantly changing. To me, MMA represents the true evolution of unarmed combat, and I am truly excited to see where it goes.

Some people just see violence — and they’re not exactly wrong. But the technical aspect of it all, and how everything still develops after years of high level competition? That to me is beautiful.

UFC 7 may have caught my attention all those years back, but every time I see innovations and artistry in the cage today — that’s what keeps me a fan of MMA.

What’s your story? How did you first like Mixed Martial Arts, and what makes you remain a fan of it today? Tell us your story, and you can win a $500 gift card to

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