|06-27-2006, 12:54 PM||#1|
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Article: Ultimate fighting about competing
Article published Jun 27, 2006
Ultimate fighting about competing
Combat sports grow in acceptance and popularity
Meet Micah Lopez.
He's a father of three, a devout Christian and if U.S. Senator John McCain had met him a few years back, he would have called him a "human cockfighter."
Lopez is the owner of Cajun Karate and also happens to be a professional mixed martial arts fighter, also known as ultimate or cage fighting.
What he isn't is a human cockfighter, or a barbaric, bloodthirsty brute.
"I'm just a normal person," Lopez said. "I'm a father of three wonderful children. I'm really just a normal guy.
"Everything I do is to praise God and give him the glory. God has given me the ability and the training to take it to the next level."
Despite that, Lopez, like so many other people in his profession, have to deal with the criticism that has followed the sport since its inception.
"A lot of it is lack of education," Lopez said. "The sport has evolved so much since it started, just like football has evolved and other sports have evolved. A lot of people who criticize keep going back to the brutal no-rules fights, where the guy gets kicked in the face you see a tooth fly.
"The sport has evolved to where it's a sanctioned event. Competitors have to wear gloves, a mouthpiece and a cup. You have to be in excellent shape to compete. It no longer resembles a toughman contest."
The Brazillian Gracie family brought the Ultimate Fighting Challenge to the United States in 1993 as a means to showcase their families' jiu jitsu style of fighting.
UFC legend Royce Gracie carried the torch for the Gracie family as UFC consisted of an eight-man, single-elimination tournament to crown the "ultimate fighter."
Early UFCs pitted boxers against wrestlers against karate practitioners. The rules were simple - there were no rules.
The early events drew record pay-per-view numbers and quickly grew in popularity. That's when McCain stepped in and eventually helped get UFC banned by major cable PPV distributors.
In 2001, Zuffa, LLC purchased the UFC and has turned it into the sport it has become today, under the watchful eye of president Dana White.
The UFC, which now stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship, has since adopted weight classes, added four ounce gloves to their fighters and banned several dangerous strikes from competition.
In addition, the competitors have added other arts to their repertoire - hence the term mixed martial arts.
"The Gracies showed that a fight was not over once it went to the ground," Lopez said. "I've been in karate since I was a kid. My uncle, Karl Marx, originated Keichu-do, which a lot of people refer to as Cajun Karate.
"I did that all my life and then I jumped on the jiu jitsu bandwagon when I saw my teacher Tim Credeur in action. You really have to be well-rounded in MMA now, because you're going to see so much."
A year ago, the sport made its non-PPV debut as Spike TV aired The Ultimate Fighter reality show. The first season of that show culminated with Ultimate Fight Night Live.
"It's amazing how far the sports has come," said Jordan Pulliam, who is a student at Lopez's dojo. "I think it's still got a little bit to go before it's accepted, but it is definitely making strides.
"People can call it human cockfighting, or whatever, but it's definitely a sport."
Pulliam, a blue belt in jiu jitsu, has competed in cage fighting. So he knows first-hand what the sport is all about.
"I was ill prepared," Pulliam said of his fighting debut. "I played college football and I was interested in getting back into shape. That's how I got into MMA. It was just me and a friend rolling around on mats at our house.
"I have a lot of respect for the guys that get in the octagon. It's unlike anything I've ever done before. It's a whole other level."
Not everyone that attends Lopez's thai boxing or jiu jitsu classes have aspirations to be a professional fighter. Chance Gabehart does it to stay in shape and keep his competitive edge.
"I've always been involved in combat sports," Gabehart said. "I have no aspirations to compete, I do it because I love it. I started in wrestling, then I went into taekwondo, then judo. I got into muay thai boxing and jiu jitsu recently.
"I do it to keep my brain healthy, my body healthy. It also helps people bond. I've met some of my best friends through wrestling or boxing."
TINA FEY: Maybe what bothers me the most is that people say that Hillary is a bitch. Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is. So am I and so is this one. [Points to Amy Poehler]
AMY POEHLER: Yeah, deal with it.
Bitch is the new black!!!