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This Saturday, March 5 was UFC 272, one of the most anticipated fights of recent years, sold out in a non-championship event, the reason: Masvidal vs Covington. Two former best friends, who even shared a coach, now “hate” each other and want to beat the other.
It’s not just the accusations between these two who were once inseparable that made this fight so striking, it’s also Masvidal, who has a huge fan base that expects at any moment the fastest knockout author in UFC history (5 seconds was enough to knock Ben Askren unconscious) to return to his art and discredit us spectators with some incredible trick.
Covington, meanwhile, is the number one fighter in the division, known for having a “stamina” that is astounding. A fighter with a lot of power and above all endurance, he has thrilled MMA fans with remarkable wins like the one against Rafael Dos Anjos.
In the middle of the fight, while anxiously awaiting the confrontation of two greats who know each other’s weaknesses — not only physical and technical but above all mental — I began to see how my Twitter was filling up with terrifying photos and videos of a confrontation between the fans of two Mexican soccer teams. Unofficial figures, for now, speak of 17 dead as a result of the confrontation that occurred during the match between Querétaro and Atlas, at the Corregidora Stadium.
Bloodied men, running, trying to escape from the fans of the other team to avoid being killed. Others lying on the ground being dragged by an out-of-control crowd looking to kill anyone wearing a different shirt. A bloodshed so violent and irrational that it shakes us to our core and makes us question basic things: Have we lost empathy? Have we gone mad? why does a fan base do this?
For me the situation was also contradictory, this week a friend turned down my invitation to watch UFC 272 because “those things are for savages.” On Sunday night, while the fight was going on, I remembered my reflections on my friend’s accusation and I watched with terror the photos of what happened in Mexico, and coincidentally the UFC commentators started talking about the strange behavior of a Rafael Dos Anjos who seemed not to want to attack his opponent anymore, a Renato Moicano who had a face full of blood and seemed to have already exhausted all his energy.
Is MMA a sport of savages, as my friend told me? Last night, in the midst of these two situations, a fight awaited by millions — between two greats who claim to hate each other — and a massacre in a Mexican soccer stadium, I confirmed what I had already concluded: absolutely not. Martial arts are just that, an art. Savages are those who, regardless of the sport they follow, dare to end the life of another just because they have a different passion. Savage is the one who has no empathy.
UFC fighters are highly skilled, they train for years in different martial arts, they are men who could kill with their hands alone if they wanted to, and they go to canvas to make a whole display of those techniques they practice every day with a discipline that few people in the world have, their goal is to make the other one surrender, and yet, with all that context, the former lightweight champion, Dos Anjos, at UFC 272 was evidently no longer giving all he could have, Moicano, his opponent, was already practically finished.
Those fighters that many call savages have what is basic in every human being, empathy, to feel pain for the suffering of the other. Dos Anjos made clear to me in that fight what I had already reflected. To the canvas go two people who voluntarily want to face each other and who enjoy the fight, who train every day in something that is an art, which involves things completely opposite to a “savage”: a huge control of emotions, calm, mental agility to think about the moves, control to overcome the moments when they seem finished, inner strength to stand up again and again and fight to the end.
But on Sunday, when that which is the normal scenario of a fight, became a situation in which Dos Anjos no longer saw the opportunity to show that mental and physical machine that fighters become, and when he apparently felt that his opponent was no longer enjoying it because he couldn’t show more either, it simply became evident that the former lightweight champion let the fight end in automatic mode, with the minimum effort. Because MMA is not about killing the other, it’s not about making the other guy suffer or causing harm, those who see that are left in the show, in the superfluous, MMA is a display of physical and mental techniques that leave with their mouths open to those who understand martial arts. It is that man who becomes superior.
To my friend and to all those who label fighters as savages and to those of us who are MMA fans: mixed martial arts are the exact opposite of savagery. They are the demonstration of the superiority that a man can achieve physically and mentally. And fighters, contrary to what those who do not know the sport believe, have a self-control that is achieved with years of emotional and mental training, MMA fights are not a man going against the world to vent his anger, it is a man who analyzes, who knows when to attack and when to stop. The opposite of what happened in Mexico, that is the example of what a savage is.
And to leave no doubt to those who did not see the UFC 272 main event, Convington won. The night closed with Masvidal acknowledging that he didn’t make the fight he wanted. And yes, the result wasn’t what he wanted, but we the viewers saw technique and respect. It’s a dark Sunday for the sport, what happened in Mexico has to make us question ourselves about the essential, we are beasts if we don’t hurt the suffering of the other. I ask for more UFC and for a soccer free of savages.
Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.