Back when I first started watching the UFC in 1994 (I was 13, you couldn’t pay me to wear anything other than green sweatpants, and I had a mullet), I thought it was pretty fucking horrific. And awesome. Like the majority of other middle-class suburban kids, I had never seen anyone get the shit kicked out of them for reals. So this stuff was pretty damned hardcore and I was thankful my dad didn’t know from the box that this wasn’t just more pro wrestling.
I was instantly hooked. God knows I couldn’t beat up that little bitch Tina down the street, but I could fantasize about it while watching these events. So over the years I put together a nice collection of tapes by copying rental videos over two VCRs.
I knew that mixed martial arts came from Brazil, but for the first while, the only Brazilian guy they showed was Royce Gracie and he was a wuss. Okay sure he won a lot, but I hated his fucking guts. He was the cocky little guy who’s family owned the company. He barely punched anyone and I simply wasn’t all that impressed with his style. Never mind the fucking cheater used his gi as a weapon. Fuck him.
It wasn’t until I saw the Battlecade videos that I got a taste of some serious violent Brazilian Vale Tudo. Mario Sperry, Conan Silveira, Ralph Gracie, and Allan Goes all taught me that Brazilians were not to be fucked with. All of a sudden I had visions of Brazil as a place overflowing with no holds barred tournaments just like in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie. And to a degree, I guess that’s how it was : people still talk about the infamously violent IVC events held in the dirtiest, sleaziest bar on earth.
Fast forward to now. People are fucking flipping out over “Rio Heros”, which attempts to step away from the MMA label and return to the original concept of Vale Tudo: Anything goes fighting. The show is just a bunch of guys going at it over the course of the night, with the only rules being no biting, groin shots, or eye gouging (too bad if Chuck Liddell wanted to compete here).
For me, this isn’t my cup of tea anymore. Call me over the hill, but I’m just not into the brutal aspect of fighting any more. On the other hand, I really couldn’t care at this point what other people are doing in some dank basement down in Sao Paulo. Whatever happens there isn’t going to stop MMA from growing. You can’t kill MMA with this kind of thing any more. We’re past that.
And regardless, this kind of thing was going on in Brazil for years and years. I’m really hoping that the majority of the people against this are only talking the talk for the sake of appearances. To hear Wanderlei Silva say he ‘watched it and cried’ is absurd considering his roots.
Yes, I know: we must distance ourselves from this kind of stuff, just like we want to distance MMA from cockfighting, dog fighting, trans fatty acids, fight clubs, and everything else bad. But let’s be honest here: this is what MMA used to be. And MMA will always be a form of fighting, no matter how hard people try to market it as something else.