Despite being reigning UFC light heavyweight champion for nearly two years, Daniel Cormier, a long time pro wrestling fan, is a heel. The crowd just do not like him. And he loves it. Jon Jones on the other hand, though not quite a face. The former champion has been known for using illegal moves inside the octagon. And despite being in various states of suspension for the last two years, is still a fan favorite.
The tension that exists between these two is not unlike the great WWE rivalries of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man or Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Played out across social media and press events for years providing a source of entertainment for fans and with it a huge level of anticipation. And now with their fight together finally set for UFC 214 in July that build-up will pay off big.
Hulk Hogan and Macho Man’s rivalry laid the groundwork for the future. Martial arts deserves to be talked about but does the continuing focus on massive press events where fighters trade snide remarks at one another damage the perception of the sport, or of martial arts in general?
The modern age of UFC has in many ways honed combat effectiveness of martial arts more than any format before. More people around the world have been exposed to these matches and the interest grows year after year. And since many martial arts began as supplemental soldier training systems this constant refinement of technique for pure combat could be viewed as a true return to tradition.
Though if a school or trainer teaches without trying to instil any of the philosophical tradition has the martial art lost something? Is this particular lack of discipline what leads fighters to trash talking with their opponents? And who cares, anyway?
As we know, these fighters are still great fighters and isn’t that the point? For some people yes. But there is something special to the idea that martial arts is about more than simply beating another individual. That there might be a greater mentality to it.
Forty four years gone and still influencing fighters today. Perhaps that sounds lofty but consider that Bruce Lee was arguably the most influential martial artist of the 20th century. He was more than just a kicking and punching machine. Though he starred in movies and generally held an air of cool about him in his book The Tao of Jeet Kune Do he speaks just as much about Zen philosophy as correct foot movement.
Although he died more than forty years ago, people the world over still know his name or have read his quotes or recognize his face. Isn’t that the kind of person that the MMA world should be propelling? Unfortunately it seems there are few who could adequately step into that role.
But the increasing profile of MMA through UFC or Bellator means that more people will become interested. They may join their local Muay Thai or Karate club and further down the line perhaps MMA. With so many new people joining perhaps in the future we will have another Bruce Lee.
The increased exposure is great news on the whole for the sport. But it’s up to instructors and coaches to make sure their students don’t become disillusioned with it. They can frame it with a trash talking spectacle, that maybe they should carry themselves differently.
There are positives and negatives to the modern era of MMA. Only time will tell if it becomes an ensemble drama with a revolving cast of fighters coming out during events to give pointed monologues against their rivals.