In the ever evolving sport of Mixed Martial Arts the lines are sometimes blurred when trying to tell the difference between a good athlete competing in MMA and a true martial artist. As the latest version of UFC Primetime has shown that we cannot judge a fighter simply because he is brash and has an interesting choice in hairstyles. Dan Hardy as well as others have shocked the MMA community proving that their persona's do not match up with their martial arts evolution.
It is a common misconception to judge someone by their appearance or the fact that they are new to the sport of MMA and not consider them legitimate martial artists. Several fighters have been accused of being good athletes but not legitimate martial artists but the big question is what is the distinction? The list of serious martial artists is long and distinguished with backgrounds in Ju-Jitsu, Karate, Muay Thai and several other disciplines
Two fighters come to mind when the question is asked who is a true martial artist? The two fighters are Royce Gracie and Lyoto Machida.
Royce comes from a long line of talented Brazilians who adapted the traditional Japanese style of Ju-Jitsu so it could be implemented by a smaller and weaker opponent. Royce proved that the bigger, stronger opponent does not always get the victory. Royce and his family compete to show that their style is superior and that it has added to the current sport of MMA.
Lyoto Machida is possibly the most pure martial artist competing in MMA today. Machida started his Karate training under his father Yoshizo when he was born. Lyoto has added BJJ and Muay Thai to his repertoire but Karate is his true style. Lyoto’s Karate is considered sacred to him and each win under his belt brings honor to his style and his family.
On the opposing side are the fighters that are still striving to become well-rounded mixed martial artists. Many of these fighters have a good base style but still need to evolve and add more to their game to be complete. Here are some fighters that are still searching for the title of mixed martial artist.
Kimbo Slice is possibly one of the most popular fighters competing in MMA that is widely considered to be a one trick pony who can strike and simply that. Kimbo has actually given mixed martial artists the respect by saying that he has not reached the point to be called a martial artist. Kimbo’s act of humility has to be respected as well as his work ethic training with American top team and showing improvement in his fight against Houston Alexander.
Anthony Johnson is also a prime example of a fantastic athlete currently competing in MMA with a very solid record. Johnson has shown great promise in his MMA career training under fellow MMA fighter Cung Le who has taught Johnson a lot in a short period of time.
Johnson has had devastating knockout wins against Chad Reiner, Tommy Speer and Kevin Burns. Johnson has struggled with more well-rounded competitors such as Josh Koscheck and Rich Clementi. Johnson’s talent shines through and still seeks to become more well-rounded.
We are in an exciting time for MMA with athletes from other sports arriving to the cage with skills gained in other sports. Two of the most exciting additions are Brendan Schaub and Jon Jones. Schaub started as a football player for Utah Blaze and the Buffalo Bills before arriving to MMA.
Schaub showed great promise on the Ultimate Fighter 10. Brendan has shown his talents on the feet and on the ground and looks forward to progressing as a fighter and stepping up in competition.
Jon Jones is one of those fighters that comes along once in a lifetime who has true raw talent that translates to MMA. Jones’ unorthodox striking style as well as using his powerful wrestling background makes him a dangerous competitor for any fighter in the Light-Heavyweight division of the UFC. Jones is still working on translating his devastating style to MMA while adding more tools on the ground with his talented coaches and teammates behind him.
So whether we are talking about a talented wrestler with NCAA credentials, an NFL Player who has always dreamed of stepping into the octagon, or a professional boxer who seeks to challenge himself against a new stable of pugilists the important ingredient are mindset and dedication.
At this level of competition it is simply not enough to be just a great technician or just a great athlete. A modern day Mixed Martial Artist must combine the technique, humility, and discipline of a martial artist with the drive and dedication of an Olympic caliber athlete.
by Sam Nassar
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