In favour of the fight
So last weekend the UFC got back at it again with a fresh card full of good stuff. I had to watch the event cause I generally watch all fights of Francis Ngannou and the winner of the fight Ferguson/Gaethje will be up against the one and only Khabib Nurmagomedov. Gaethje put up a surprisingly calm and intelligent fight and defeated Ferguson with a TKO in round 5. While Ngannous opponent Rozenstruik went to sleep after sucking up one of Ngannous famous super strong swinging blows. In the first seconds of the fight Ngannou absorbed a low kick then fainted a jab and stormed towards Rozenstruik swinging left and right, simultaneously maintaining 0 defence and losing balance for split seconds in between each miss. Split seconds are quite long in the sport of boxing and an ambitious, well-trained boxer knows how to punish such an offensive all-out boxing strategy. It was undeniably clear that Rozenstruik was a very ambitious man — the fight only happened because he challenged Ngannou after all — so he made use of his ambitions and dodged, stayed within reach and looked for the counterpunch.
I’ll give him credit for that, but Ngannou is one hell of a fighter, strongest puncher of the UFC who’s knock out force is rightfully comparable to that of Mike Tyson. If someone like him approaches you in the early seconds of a fight, clearly wanting to knock you out as soon as possible, you got to be careful. Rozenstruik should have gone out of reach after the first miss and internalised Ngannous body movement in order to reflect upon an adequate counter method. But his ambition got the best of him. He dodged once, twice, thrice and the fourth took him down. He lasted 20 seconds. In a way it reminded me of the clumsy responses some governments had during this pandemic. There may be a way of getting it all under control or at exercising damage control but if you got a situation that has shown itself to be very explosive. You need to first get out of reach, learn the dynamics and prepare the counter.
I know its corny asf to bring up these martial arts analogies, but this sport above all others is an excellent intellectual exercise. Physical combat is the ideal analogy of power and resistance, speed and strength, endurance and movement. Just look at the hit and run tactics of some fighters against power players who totally dominate the ring. They echo the political strategies of the many forces of resistance, throughout human history, fighting the status quo. I know other sports can be seen as such metaphorical reflections but its mostly the overcomplicated rules (endless amounts of penalties, point-systems, etc.) and tools (balls, lines, hoops, sticks, posts, etc.) that stand in the way of an accurate analogy. They make the sport complex in a way that only a not so smart, smart person appreciates.
The art of physical combat exceeds this one plus two complexity through its simplicity. Its disposition is strictly minimalistic and therefore explosively pluralistic. An endless list of ancient and recent schools of fighting accumulate within two opponents who have only their bodies to put to use, while the ring is an almost completely meaningless space. It’s the purest form of physical competition. It’s a game that plays along the limitations of the human body and mind and in order to understand it you must view it along the lines of chess or yoga.
Now the Mixed Martial Arts live up to this ideal way more than traditional boxing does. Traditional boxing has these huge thick gloves, a ring that’s a square (?) and this upper- body-only limitation. I always felt like traditional boxing originated in more rigid times in which the fighting was clouded to a certain degree to cover a reality many people find hard to come to terms with: violence. In the entertainment industry all significants of violence are subverted. The wounds intentionally don’t look like real wounds and the sounds are never the actual sound of what, whatever actually sounds like. And that’s what struck my mind more than anything else this past weekend. The fight happened in the midst of this pandemic therefore there was no audience.
A dark gigantic empty stadium with maybe 25 people surrounding a brightly illuminated octagon. The strong presence of the roaring crowd was gone. So when the fights began you could hear the fighters. Their heavy breath, their panting, all the groaning and moaning. You wouldn’t associate these noises to a fight if you’ve never seen one in real life. I was oddly surprised when I heard the stomping of their feet on the ground. Somehow I always thought of the octagon, embedded with the iconic Monster energy logo, as synthetic yet it sounded like it was out of wood. The sound of the kicks, elbows and knees was the clashing high-pitched tone of sweaty skin bashing sweating skin. Two people beating the crap out of each other in almost complete silence.
Now before I tell you what I like about this, I must tell you what I dislike about the UFC and that’s all the promotion, macho, lowlevel, proliferation of petty arguments and humiliating bullshit. The UFC is selling this elegant sport like some action movie trash, backyard, dullfuck nonsense. These embarrassing press talks, the advertisements that highlight transgressive behaviour outside of the ring and trashtalk. In conclusion one gets the impression that most of the crowd is there for exactly that. They’re not there to see a good fight but to see somebody get fucked up. Therefore all the good punches and kicks are always underlined with the crowds cheering and wooooing like they were watching gladiators fight in a roman colosseum. And last weekend it was silent. We were confronted with the honest reality of physical combat, with a sport that exposes vulnerability, highlights determination and articulates the struggle in form of two human bodies striving for victory by pushing their mind, muscle, skin and flesh to the limit. Something that to me — glorious.