Having watched MMA for over 18 years, I’ve watched hundreds of fights. From the big names like UFC, Price, Strikeforce, and Bellator to the local events and countless grass roots organizations that drive talent into the big promotions. Throughout the years, the fights and fighting styles have been diverse to say the least. So have the fighters. In the early years, fans only got to see a tiny glimpse into the lives of the fighters. Maybe 30 seconds of promo footage if the fighter were in the main event. Most of the time, it was just hype video to sell the fight. Now that MMA has progressed into a mainstream sport, the evolution has also mirrored itself in the coverage of the personal side of the fighter and sometimes, even their training camps. All the major fighting promotions are spending a lot of time helping tell the back story behind the fighter. Helping the fans make a more personal connection. The UFC has taken up it’s own version of a very successful genre of show that gives you a weekly peek into the lives of it’s top fighters as the days count down to a title fight. Shows like TUF (no matter how creatively edited they might be), feature the personalities behind the fighters just as much or more than the fights themselves.
The one thing that perplexes me about the whole thing is that there are just as many different personality types that make up the world’s elite MMA fighters as there are ways to hurt an opponent. These fighters range from the almost reclusive introvert, all the way across the spectrum to the most outlandish and over-the-top personalities on the planet. There are some guys that wouldn’t squash a spider outside of the cage, that absolutely destroy their opponents inside it. There are guys that talk a bunch of talk, then come in and back it up. There are also a lot of guys who just live a humble life and then perform like gods in the ring.
I guess the real question is, what is the common thread? Motivations are different. For some it’s just money. For others it’s all about fame. Still yet others just want to be the best, even if nobody was around to notice but them. Arrogance runs right beside humility. Emotions lose out to calm and vice versa.
What makes a guy take a huge shot in the nose, or a devastating kick to the body, and then continue to walk forward? What drives a person to train for 12 hours a day? How does one stay motivated to put their own bodies through hell every week?
After all these years of watching, I still don’t know the real answer to those questions. But I can tell you this, if there were a pay-per-view ticket offered that would allow me to step into a championship fighters mind during a fight, I’d sell my kidney to buy it. And if I knew the answers to all of these questions (or how to recognize it in fighters), I’d be making millions in the fight game.