Why I Love MMA

I’m a somewhat skinny guy, who doesn’t like blood, and is in really no hurry to get into any physical confrontations… so you would be as surprised as me to realize that I really appreciate mixed martial arts (MMA) combat.  Appreciate may be a bit of an understatement, a handful of years ago I joined a UFC training camp/team and recently have collaborated on some scholarly work on the sport.  It is fair to say, I have gone from a healthy skeptic of the sport to, in some small way, part of the sport.

This morning I was pondering why I seem to love MMA.  It occurred to me when I read an article about lag putting on the PGA Tour’s website.  I think Coach Immelman’s reflections are spot on.  In particular, “Strive for crisp contact and good speed control.”  What sticks in my craw is the term “lag putting.”  It strikes me that this is a term that is simply so ingrained in the culture of golf it distracts from player growth and development.

Sporting cultures can be so myopic, that growth and development is impeded.  When I spent time developing the sport psychology curriculum at the International Tennis Academy USA at the turn of the century this was made clear to me.  Players such as Roddick, Fish, and their peers trained and battled day in and day out on sun drenched Florida tennis courts.  Right next to the Delray courts was the Bucky Dent Baseball Academy.  At this time, the off-season home of Pudge Rodriguez.  I asked the tennis coaches about the baseball academy (which I drove by multiple times a day) and they did not even know it existed.  This was a surprise… the replica Green Monster about 250 yards away from the tennis courts was kind of tough to miss.  But if your world is tennis, why would baseball matter to you?  Like if you are a golfer, of course you debate and mediate upon lag putting – who wouldn’t?

A few years ago, I was privileged to eaves drop on a casual discussion among UFC contenders and coaches.  One fighter and former All-American wrestler was showing off a take-down that was one of his go to moves in college.  A couple of Brazilian Jiujitsu specialists watched in awe and excitedly thought about opportunities to add it to the MMA game.  After a few moments and some discussion, the move was nixed from the MMA repertoire (good for wrestling, but exposed the head a bit too much to punches in MMA).  Nonetheless, this interaction was terrific.  Walk into a collegiate wrestling room.  Travel to a Gracie Jiujitsu gym.  Watch Muay Thai training.  Experience a musty boxing gym.  All combat sports, but different routines, rituals, and cultures.  Yet in MMA these cultures not only collide, but seek one another out for growth and learning.

MMA competitors cannot afford to be myopic.  This is what I love about MMA.  Some sporting cultures forget that dynamic thinking and training about athletics exist beyond their well-worn playbooks and wisdom that has been passed down from generation to generation.  Looking outside to other sports takes the restrictor plate off of performance.

Golfers need to take more time on drills and in a mindset that develops vivid feel for the speed of a putt.  Just do not say the goal is to develop “L” word.  Such quality practice leads to good putts, no other term is needed.  Sometimes leaving the culturally created terms behind, put great player development ahead.

  • What sport do you need to take a pilgrimage (intellectual and/or physical) to in order to boost your player development?
  • What well worn terms or concepts in your sporting life do you use mindlessly?  Consider if they confine, constrict, and add little value.  If so, it’s likely time to let go of them.

Open your mind to a melting pot of sporting wisdom and enjoy it all.


1 Response to “Why I Love MMA”

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