I was in the green room of the Icehouse comedy club in between shows Friday night, and we were watching “The Best of Pride” on Spike TV. If you’re new to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, Pride was a big organization from Japan that was in competition with the UFC until the UFC purchased them. They had some insane fights over there, and some of the greatest fighters ever carved out the majority of their career there.
There was something extra special about those fights. Part of it was that they were in Japan, and their culture is so much different than ours. The pageantry of the event was off the charts – giant video screen entrances that really built up the hype, and rules that were quite different than we have here.
First of all, they didn’t allow elbows on the ground, because they caused cuts and they didn’t like the idea of a cut stopping a fight. Although elbows on the ground are very effective weapons, the people running Pride felt like it was better to leave them out to avoid potential indecisive doctor stoppages. What they were allowed to do however, is stomp each other in the head while they’re down and soccer kick each other in the face while they’re down. THAT is some pretty brutal shit, and there’s something about that added element of danger that just cranks the dial up on the excitement meter considerably when you’re watching it.
I was watching the fights in the green room Friday night with a buddy, and when Shogun tried to stomp Little Nog’ and punt his head while he was standing over him my friend audibly gasped.
He’s not a martial artist, but he is a fan of the UFC and enjoys some pretty brutal fights, but the purity of intent he witnessed in that move – completely without remorse – of standing over a guy laying on the ground and trying to smash his head like a roach – that kinda freaked him out.
“That’s too much.” He said. “That’s like they’re trying to kill each other.”
I can kind of see where he’s coming from. At least the fights that take place in the UFC under the guidelines of the unified ruled don’t allow such savagery. Stomps and soccer kicks are quite a bit more dangerous with the cage too, because a fighter can get trapped against it and not be able to move their head out of the way like they would be able to in a ring.
I agree with it, but I have to admit there’s something extra crazy about watching fights where they’re allowed to do shit like that. I’m not saying we should allow it back, but FUCK it made some of those fights intense.
One of the fights on Spike Friday night was Rampage vs Arona, a fight that ended with the most insane slam in the history of the sport. Rampage was caught in Arona’s triangle, and he hoisted him through the air up over his head like a pillow and slammed the back of his skull into the floor in fly swatter fashion, knocking him completely unconscious. I remember having seen it at home thinking it was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in sports. I, and the folks watching it with me that night were legitimately concerned that Arona might in fact be dead. The sheer savagery of the slam forced me to rewind it at least 5 times, because it couldn’t possibly been as bad as I thought it was.
Every time I watched it, the crazier it seemed.
Another thing I really liked about Pride rules was their judging of a fight.
They treated the fight as a whole unit, and the rounds were just to give the fighters a break so that they could refresh and charge out harder. The rounds were not counted as individual units, but rather strung together as a whole and judged as a complete fight, just how God intended it to be done.
The first round was 10 minutes long, a concept I also liked.
Nothing more frustrating than when you’re watching a good, close fight, and one guy struggles for 4:30 trying to get his opponent down on the ground, and when he finally does the bell goes off in 30 seconds. I like the idea of giving fighters the extra time to work, and breaking it up when it’s just starting to shift momentum can be frustrating. I could see the argument that a 10 minute round is just too long for guys to go all out, but that just means that they have to be better conditioned and better at pacing themselves. Over all, these rule differences; the longer first round, the fight being judged as a whole, and brutality of stomps and soccer kicks made Pride rules much closer to the idea behind the original UFC.
I think in order for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts to move forward and be accepted by mainstream culture it’s important that we adhere to the guidelines we operate under right now with the unified rules. It’s plenty exciting just the way it is, and what’s really important right now is moving the sport forward and getting it sanctioned in more states and more countries. The rules we have right now are fine.
That said, it sure is nice that we have all these awesome fights from Pride to watch now too. I think when all is said and done the Pride years will go down as some of the most important moments in the sports development and history. Having these shows airing on Spike right now is a real fucking treat.