There May Be No In-Between

Prior to last night, I had watched several UFC cards thanks to a friend who wold regularly invite a small circle and order the cards on PPV. I found it interesting, some of the fighters well-trained and compelling, and even stuck up for the sport when Frank DeFord decided to take what I thought was an ill-informed whack at it a while back.

I watched bits and pieces of CBS’ broadcast of EliteXC matches last night, partially because I was interested as an observer and because Gus Johnson is a personal favorite as far as announcing goes (most of you know this.) I kept flipping back to movies on the pay channels because CBS seemed to treat the spectacle with more respect than the actual fight, so I missed most of the first couple matches. Then I saw Gina Carano take on Kaitlin Young.

I watched the whole fight and my stomach started to churn a bit when they showed Young with the gash on her left eye. I’m not sure what exactly prompted that reaction: latent sexism, cultural dictates about women’s roles, what. But I quickly flipped back to High Fidelity, sticking with a film until I figured I’d see a bit of this Kimbo Slice phenomenon, and I was able to see him getting beaten and winded repeatedly — and then, his opponent’s cauliflower ear bursting a bit.

I saw the fight get stopped, and I turned the TV off and went to the bar. I know EliteXC is of a much lower level of quality, but I still wondered about my reaction, even as my friends and I were talking about the fight at the bar (I live in a UFC-crazy area; Chuck Liddell is from these parts.)

This morning, I read MODI’s piece at SOMM about the card. I heard UFC’s Dana White debate the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell, who wrote a column decrying the emergence of MMA on network television — something in the vein that I knocked DeFord for a while back. But this time I wasn’t able to feel that he was wrong.  I couldn’t believe White’s equivalence with the violence in football — the ultimate end goal of football isn’t to beat your opponent up; it was a poor use of a rhetorical technique.

Then I watched parts of the WEC card on Versus (flipping back and forth between that and the Dodgers/Mets game) and saw a crisper fight, a better fight, technically more impressive, much more interesting in terms of athletic ability — something I’d been used to seeing, but I still was asking myself the same questions. I read the opinions — and there were numerous columns — stating that what made me nauseous last night was a bad display of the form and art, and as far as their case goes, I believe that part.

D-Wil at SOMM then issued his piece, as I was still trying to work out where my reaction came from.

At some level, I know I’m personally uncomfortable watching MMA — in the same ways I get uncomfortable with boxing sometimes; real-life violence, even when practiced by trained martial artists, is not pretty. But I find myself asking whether DeFord was right in the first place, and I would never have been close to doing that before Saturday night.

A lot of blogging is about what we think, see, and perceive. Now, I’m in the rare situation of not knowing where my mind will go on this.

(Note to MMA fans: I’m not looking to pick a fight or take sides. I’m just documenting.)

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