Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rooting for the Russian: Mixed Martial Arts and its detractors

Fedor Emelienenko beat the larger by thirty pounds Brett Rogers with a smashing overhand right in the middle of the second round of a mixed martial arts fight on CBS Saturday night. The nationally televised fight was another indication of the rise in popularity of MMA.

It was a good fight for the public to have seen. Rogers was a little whiney, but, after all, he did lose. The Russian Fedor, who is for all practical purposes undefeated after almost thirty fights, graciously complimented his opponent, and then, having putting a wooden Eastern Orthodox cross around his neck, thanked his fans here in the U. S. But he saved most of his appreciation for "the Orthodox Russian people" back home. "His people."

I have received lectures from people of the feminine persuasion on why MMA should be outlawed. In fact, a lot of people have a problem with the primal nature of MMA. But these are contests of strength and skill involving two athletes who will wail on each other for three rounds and then, once the final horn has sounded, hug each other and shake hands out of respect. If these people have a problem with destructive behavior, they would do better monitoring the playgrounds of our schools where schoolgirls can be found humiliating each other and then refusing to speak. In the final scheme of things, that's a far worse problem.

The biggest problem MMA suffers is the tiresome bombast and bad sportsmanship of a few fighters. Fighters like B. J. Penn routinely taunt their opponents after winning. If MMA's critics were really concerned about destructive behavior, let them talk about that. I'm with 'em.

But what was striking about Saturday's fight was the support Fedor got from the Chicago crowd. Here you had a popular and well-liked American fighter, Brett Rogers (a man whose good reputation is well-deserved), fighting a Russian who doesn't even speak English. Who do they root for? The Russian. When did you think you would ever see that happen?

What is it about Fedor that people like? Here is the greatest heavyweight fighter in the world reacting humbly and appreciatively, and holding a cross--not like the pop stars who blurt out thanks to the Almighty after accepting an award for some piece of cultural trash they helped perpetrate on the public (Have we talked yet about things that are destructive yet?), but because he is grounded in the culture of his homeland and lives a genuinely devout Christian life there. Oh, and he's really good at what he does.

I, too, am rooting for the Russian.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Violent people with violent gods. Yawn.