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Mixed Martial Arts and the Cult of the Status Quo
Posted on Sat, Dec 4, 2010 at 9:08 am
by IDMA Editor

Recently, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons inspired an interesting discussion in one of his weekly chats where he coined the phrase "Cult of the Status Quo" in reference to the grief that new or casual fans receive when discussing sports with hardcore fans. The idea has gained steam in MMA circles primarily because of how full of angst supposed "hardcore" MMA fans tend to be, the general distaste for "casual" fans within MMA, and how this may eventually become detrimental to the sport. The problem when discussing the relationship between the "casual" and the "hardcore" is how people tend to dichotomize MMA fans.

Simply appreciating the damage that comes with a knockout punch doesn't equate to any true level of MMA fandom. The standard for what we consider an MMA fan to be, whether "casual" or "hardcore," should be predicated on devotion and appreciation of technique rather than level of consumption or depth of knowledge. Far too often opinionated individuals who simply people enjoy knockouts and submissions masquerade themselves as MMA fans and engage in pseudo-intellectual discussions on the sport where they foist their fight finishing preferences upon anyone willing to listen. Unfortunately, these are the people currently categorized as "hardcore" MMA fans, and that just isn't the case.

The difference between "casual" and "hardcore" fans becomes clearer when the likelihood of a spectacular finish decreases. For example, after his absolute domination of B.J. Penn at UFC 118, Frankie Edgar in some circles is considered a boring fighter. Not only was Edgar's performance this past August dominating, but it was one of the more brilliant performances ever in a UFC title fight. Edgar out-struck a respected striker, was able to score takedowns on a fighter who usually exhibits superb takedown defense, and outperformed Penn in his bread and butter positions (mount and back mount). But because it isn't in his skillset to load up on a big punch and knock a fighter with a granite chin out, his approach is deemed unwatchable even by people who are "hardcore" fans, by consumption standards.

The standard to which we hold "casual" or "hardcore" fans needs to be raised substantially. It is no longer acceptable to label someone a "casual" just for having a basic understanding of what the sport is. You don't become a "hardcore" soccer fan by simply understanding the concept behind goals, free kicks, corner kicks and the like, and so you shouldn't be considered a hardcore MMA fan just because you can identify a kimura, a teap kick, or rubber guard (perhaps you could make the case for twister side control).

The biggest misconception about combat sports fans is that they're all anti-social cretins who thirst for the blood of the participants. However, unbeknownst to the general public, there is a myriad of technique and an abundance of strategy being employed in every fight. Combat sports deliver more visceral satisfaction than other sports, and based on that fact alone, they have the ability to attract eyeballs. What people like Bill Simmons perhaps fail to understand about MMA is that those eyeballs don't necessarily deserve to be catered to.

Appreciating damage and understanding MMA on that type of base level simply doesn't equal fandom of any kind. Ironically, perhaps the biggest detriment to combative sports is the fact that they're simply too exciting.

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