Stink Is A Weapon: 5 Facts Of MMA Fighting (Not Seen On TV)
Mixed martial arts -- once a disorganized, unregulated Fight Club that sold itself as (i.e. lied about) being "banned in 49 states" -- is now big, big business. The UFC alone is worth anywhere from one to three billion dollars, and secondary markets like Invicta FC and Bellator also do very well for themselves. But unlike juggernauts like baseball and football, MMA has been a public darling for barely a decade. As such, many people don't know a damned thing about it.
Piss And Shit Can Be Powerful Weapons
Like with all martial arts, MMA matches are divided into weight classes to keep them from becoming unfair "Master vs. Blaster"-type bloodbaths. And because it's obviously better to be the heaviest guy in a lower-weight division, many MMA fighters tend to be more obsessed with shedding extra pounds than your average supermodel. Only instead of throwing up lunches of ice chips and beef-scented air, they do something even crazier and never stop peeing.
"A very popular weight loss method is sodium loading/deloading," Chan explained. "Basically, about five to seven days before the weigh-in, you dramatically increase the amount of salt in your diet, and drink tons of water. Then three days out, you cut sodium completely and reduce your water intake. That has the effect of releasing tons of water by making you pee more than you ordinarily would." That last bit might be a bit of an understatement, because in extreme cases, sodium loading can cause you to piss away up to 30 pounds of extra weight in just five days' time -- we're talking about gallons of piss here.
"Can you write off bathroom salt-licks as a business expense?"
And then there are, uh, more direct ways to use bodily functions to your advantage: "A kinda mean way to get an advantage over your opponent," says Dallas, "is to not wash your shorts pre-fight, and train in them too ... Or, if you pooped yourself in the ring and somehow ended in a position where your opponent is on bottom, one quick shift will give them a nice whiff of what's in your shorts. Better than a knockout punch." Oh, you think he's joking? Let us regale you with the story of the infamous Sylvia-Silva match:
"In January 2006, Tim Sylvia had a bad stomach virus and couldn't stop shitting, and sometime during one of the exchanges, he involuntarily squeezed one out," Dallas said, painting us a disgusting word picture. "Assuerio Silva had to endure being in close proximity to another man's poop, and smelling every warm, moist bit of it."
Assuerio Silva: Officially less badass than new parents neck-deep in soiled nappies.
Sylvia (the one in the brown corner) ended up winning the match. And yet, somehow, we can't bring ourselves to declare him the "winner" in all of this.
The Training Is More Hardcore Than You Can Imagine
"A couple of years ago," says Terrance, "an instructor was applying a choke on me. The next thing that I remember is him standing over me. I think I'm in a fight, and I immediately attempt a takedown. I look around, and everyone in the gym is looking at me."
"We're not sparring, are we?" Terrence had asked. "No, we're not," the instructor calmly responded. "Did I get put to sleep?" "Yup."
A good training facility always keeps pillows and blankets on hand.
Still, the most Terrence lost in that instance were a couple of brain cells -- unlike the few cubic inches of bone mass he said goodbye to after his training partner hit him with a right cross that nearly obliterated his rib. "I'd never experienced a 10-out-of-10 on the pain scale before, but it was undeniable that this was it. I lay on the ground for over 20 minutes before I could even get myself to the side of the gym."
Doesn't matter how hard you train or how much you lift; breathing is still more important than everything.
Yeah, if you dream of stardom on the MMA circuit, then this is where it starts. A typical MMA match consists of two people beating the hell out of each other for 15 minutes (or 34 seconds if one of them is Ronda Rousey), which is actually the fun/relaxing part after the insane training both fighters probably went through. According to Terrence, "the training camp is an eight-week grind at the gym of being thrown against new, bigger opponents for up to seven hours a day."
"Fun" in this case meaning "Drive hours to the beach, dip a toe in, and then go home."
If that doesn't scare you off, you next need to consider the sheer cost. MMA doesn't seem like it'd be an expensive sport. A pair of gloves, a tribal tattoo, a gym membership, and you're golden. Right? Yeah, about that last one: "Most gyms charge heavy monthly membership rates -- especially for new recruits," explained Dallas. "At my gym, the rates are usually about $300 for the first month." Want private lessons? That's an additional $50 an hour. Now throw in another couple hundred dollars for the equipment.
Oh, and before you get anywhere near a ring, a doctor will first have to check you out and determine that your MMA career isn't in fact an elaborate suicide attempt. That shit cost Terrence $270 the last time, and it's all mandatory, so you can't exactly skimp out on it. For Terrence, you can throw in chiropractor visits ($340), supplements (up to $300), and healthy organic food (priceless, if it means you didn't do all that peeing for nothing).
Of course, you can take shortcuts, as with everything else in life. That's because ...
Cheap, Fraudulent Dojos Are Everywhere
With the meteoric rise in MMA popularity comes a natural side effect: greedy assholes profiting off naive kids who dream of being the next Ronda Rousey. Thus we have a plague of what legitimate fighters refer to as "McDojos" -- shady gyms where unqualified trainers accept absurd amounts of money to teach people ... well, nothing. As Will put it, "At my gym, we've had people that would train MMA/boxing/BJJ for a few months, then quit to become an MMA coach for one of these dojos. They often charge the same prices we offer, though they're obviously much less qualified."
If they're wearing flag pants, leave immediately.
Your black belt all but comes free with the gi (also available at Party City for way cheaper), and the techniques you learn -- if any -- will likely be rote, uncreative, and only good for getting your face cracked by a real fighter who knows what they fuck they're doing. Will recounts, "I visited one of these schools in my early days, and the way they get around not knowing anything is by showing as many nonsense techniques as they can muster, with zero sparring or rolling. Baffling the students with bullshit, basically. The 'coach' of the school refused to spar (or even lightly roll) with me, insisting that the techniques he knew would hurt me too bad, since I hadn't learned it his way."
"If you can't slap your dick on these things to the tune of 'Kung-Fu Fighting,' then stay out of my gym!"
This, of course, is bullshit. Anyone who isn't a novice knows that sparring involves holding back enough not to injure the other person, even if they're much bigger/stronger. "He should've known this, and even someone his size should've been able to show what he knows without putting me in danger. His hesitation was a huge red flag for me."
Even the Gracie family, one of the most respected names in MMA, is guilty of McDojo'ing -- or at least aiding and abetting it. The Gracie Academy doles out certifications via pseudo-senseis who take just enough seminars (some freaking online) to get certified, and then run off to relieve marks of their rent money in exchange for teaching them how to grimace menacingly (this is much to the chagrin of other members of the family).
"What's online? Cat GIF, cat GIF, proof I can totally kick Conor McGregor's ass, prank Vine ..."
Some guys cut out the middleman and straight-up lie, because printing out a forged certificate is the easiest thing in the cosmos. Hell, make yourself a Jedi while you're at it. But if you do it the right way and prepare yourself for years of rigorous training, the next thing you should know is ...
Flesh-Eating Infections, Not Broken Bones, Are The True Danger
For all the rules and regulations designed to make MMA safe and acceptable, it's still a fight. So nasty injuries happen on the regular. But it's not excessive blood loss or an Anderson Silva-esque leg snap that fighters fear the most -- it's staph infections.
A staph infection is a skin-obsessed bacteria that can spread via scrapes, cuts, and even sweat. Given those requirements, it's little shock that staph is extremely common in MMA circles. At best, it can cause soreness, tenderness, and swelling. At worst, you're playing Resident Nano-Evil, as the virus will eat literal (and gigantic) holes through your flesh, which can easily destroy both careers and lives. You can see some of the most infamous MMA staph infections here, but only if your stomach is made out of titanium.
For the rest of you, please enjoy this artist's rendition of the latest Pride card.
Neither Dallas nor Terrence have contacted staph (to this day, Terrence sadly pines over how he "never had the pleasure"), though both know it could happen at any time. Given their working environment, it's practically unavoidable. As Dallas told us, "These contagions usually are spread through body-to-body contact, which is both our main source of training and the whole point of MMA competition in the first place. Knowing that at any point you could get bled on by a complete stranger without knowing if they have something contagious, it's easy to become fairly paranoid."
Sadly, every fighter wrapped head-to-toe in bandages would only bring in ratings from King Tut enthusiasts.
In addition, even the cleanest gyms and fighters can become unwitting germ factories, because Mother Nature is malicious and gives no fucks about our soap and Clorox. Dallas elaborates: "Even at my gym, where the mats get regularly smothered in bleach, so many people are training on them during the day that it's hard to not eventually be in the nasty. Fighters are encouraged to shower after training sessions to avoid it, but most train a good portion of the day and may not be able to disinfect themselves in time."
And that's for clean, professional MMA people. Then there's the dirty, seedy, underground assholes in states like New York, where nothing is regulated, blood flows freely, HIV and Hepatitis C are more readily available than armbars, and anybody with the ability to say "I'm a doctor" can act as one at ringside. As Will says, "[Unregulated doctors] typically do the bare minimum, taking your vitals without doing any blood work, full checkup, or anything else that would ensure you're not infected with a contagious blood disease (as more than a few are). They won't do more than make sure you're alive. This, of course, is provided they even have doctors. Sometimes, the trainers just make them up."
You can tell they're fake doctors because their handwriting is legible.
Yeah, about that last part. Some doctors and trainers will just plain lie to get people in the ring, even in regulated states like New Jersey, where a trainer spent four years forging medical documents so his students could fight regardless of how closely their insides matched that of Patient Zero. In short: Whatever gym or ring you step into, there's a sizable chance you could come out looking like those hole-ridden athletes whose pictures we're not showing here because oh dear God no.
And once you've run the gauntlet of brutal training sessions, piss marathons, and nasty infections, you'll soon find ...
Success Depends More On Personality (And Social Media) Than Skill
Being good at punching people is certainly a key to success in the people-punching business, but it's just as important to make people want to see you punch people. After all, nobody is going to pay you to punch them for an evening in private, unless you're satisfying some millionaire's fetish. The money comes from strangers buying tickets to watch, and that means that you're now also an entertainer.
As a result, a fighter with a garbage record and weak style can easily talk their way to pay-per-view and title shots, while polite, respectful fighters will often get overlooked, even if they're bad enough dudes to rescue the president. "A quiet guy like Chris Weidman -- the current UFC Middleweight champion and currently undefeated -- had to pretty much beg for a title shot, despite being dominant as hell," explains Dallas. "Then there's Chael Sonnen, who despite a 29-14 record and no major championships ... was granted title shot after title shot after becoming a fan favorite based on his funny personality and ability to trash talk, rather than his actual skill."
The man once won the Pro Wrestling Observer's Best Interview award. That's really all you need to know.
And you don't just talk trash and yak smack in the ring or at press conferences -- you do it on the Internet as well. Fighters regularly use social media to insult, trash, or challenge opponents -- which, coincidentally, doubles as a great way to rise in the ranks before you truly deserve it. It's all about publicity. "It's like a pro wrestling cheap sell," says Dallas, "and many fighters have used this technique to gain opportunities above their pay grade. I've had guys that I'd beaten contact me through Facebook, talking about how they could beat me and that I got lucky. They would try to bait me into agreeing to accept a rematch to try to get their win back."
25 sets of 10 reps each, followed by 30 memes questioning the existence of the victor's balls.
See? We make it sound hard, but if you've got experience as an Internet troll, you're like halfway there.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at email@example.com. Jason Iannone is all of those things too, and his therapist assures him that makes him special. Reassure him over Facebook and Twitter.
Want to learn more about what being in violent altercations is like? Find out what being knifed is like in 7 Things I Saw As A Real Slasher Victim. Or find out what it's like to have your leg blown apart with a shotgun in The Gruesome Truth About Getting Shot (A First-Hand Account).
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