Written by Ty Reynolds @MMAtylander
The world of Mixed Martial Arts is well-accustomed to possessing an eclectic cast of characters. A sport that requires its participants to administer punishment in large, oftentimes brutal, amounts while simultaneously facing the risk of enduring the same treatment doesn’t exactly appeal to or attract “normal” human beings. It therefore comes as no surprise that MMA, to a large degree, relies on a different kind of person to fill it’s ranks; the kind of person that may not be considered by many to be completely right in the head. The ones who are slightly…off, if you will.
Combat sports get the ones who might be a tad angry inside, the ones who could be considered too aggressive, or the ones who may or may not have had a brush with the law a time or three in the past. There are plenty of that kind plying their skills within the cage, that fact cannot be denied. We have our fair share of bruisers with unfortunate pasts roaming around looking for their next victim. Some of them fight because they were raised to do it, and, at this point, breaking faces is the only thing they know how to do in this life. This ilk is definitely unusual in a civilized society and certainly viewed as a little crazy. You can’t blame them. Many among us, right or wrong, were taught or unintentionally molded to be this way.
It goes even further than that with some, though. There’s another type of off that is far more intriguing, and maybe even scarier and harder to understand than someone who simply learned how to be vicious…
We also get the ones who can’t be easily labelled simply as tough guys shaped in difficult environments. We get the ones who had other options, but chose to bypass secure jobs as lawyers, accountants, and social workers because they prefer unarmed combat over spreadsheets and 9 AM conference calls. We get the ones who smile when they get slugged square on the nose, and then, instead of wishing they were anywhere but there, raise their palms to the sky in search of a high five. We get the ones who’s favorite feature film is Fight Club, not because it’s a fantastic piece of cinema, but because it’s a fantastic piece of fantasy. These people don’t daydream of rock concerts or hitting a walk-off home run in the World Series; they get lost in mental images of participating in a bloody war inside the Octagon just for the fun of it. They weren’t raised to be that way. They were born to be that way.
We’re talking about the men and women who could surely find success by taking part in other, less violent and more financially rewarding endeavors. Yet here they are, strapping on 4 oz. gloves and putting their natural appearances and overall health on the line for no other reason than they absolutely love this masochistic, borderline sadistic sport known as MMA.
Honestly, sometimes we get the Hannibal Lecter’s of the world; folks who can easily pass for boring, run-of-the-mill, Joe schmoes in the daylight, but harbor a need for violence somewhere deep in their souls that only comes out when the lights go off. Or when the cage door shuts…
Smilin’ Sam Alvey is precisely the type of individual in question here. Here’s a guy who married a super model that he met at a Renaissance Fair. Clearly, this is a man with some personality. No offense to Mr. Alvey, but dorky-acting gingers simply don’t marry women deemed beautiful enough to grace the covers of magazines unless they’ve got some charm to them. If he can pull off that feat, surely he could apply those same people-skills to something other than cage fighting. Instead, he’s leaving people unconscious for pay and calling out his friends in post-fight interviews. Sam Alvey must have some psychotic tendencies buried somewhere in that orange-covered head of his.
Longtime UFC fighter Joe Lauzon also comes to mind. J-Lau started off his professional life as a network administrator after earning a Bachelor’s degree in computer science from Wentworth Institute of Technology. Now, instead of munching on donuts in the break room while trying to avoid fixing Cathy from accounting’s desktop for the one thousandth time, he’s busy raking in Performance of the Night awards. In fact, he’s won 13 of those hard-earned bonus checks, more than any other man to ever compete in the UFC. At this point, Lauzon has covered himself in more human blood than Jason Voorhes and Freddy Kruger have combined. This is not normal computer geek behavior.
Oh, and let’s not forget B.J. Penn, maybe the craziest SOB to ever enter the Octagon. The former UFC Lightweight and UFC Welterweight champion was born into a wealthy family and grew up in Hawaii, aka a tropical paradise. Did Baby Jay really need to spend most of his adult life battering other men into submission? Hell no, but he competed in every division from featherweight to heavyweight throughout the course of his legendary career anyway, usually against the best competition available, because that’s what destroyers like him do. He didn’t lick the blood off of his gloves after victory because he’s a “normal” individual; he did it because he’s a beast that needed feeding.
They all are.
Chuck Liddell could be accounting and Rich Franklin could be teaching instead of being former owners of UFC gold. Tim Boestch could still be a social worker and Nick Thompson could’ve been practicing law instead of training in jujitsu. Evan Tanner could’ve written a novel and Shane Carwin could’ve concentrated solely on being an engineer. Chris Lytle could’ve stuck to fighting fires alongside Stipe Miocic and Eddie Wineland, while Cro Cop could’ve stayed a cop.
None of them had to be anything more that what they already were, but each had something different living inside of them. Something that made them more. Something that made them all slightly…off.
In reality, however, there isn’t anything off about them at all. They’ve just become aware of something that the most of us have forgotten, or at least attempt to forget. To them, Mixed Martial Arts is more than a simple sport or a way to make a living in this world. It’s how they remember who they are…who we all are.
Modern society has long abolished many of our most primitive desires and it expects it’s citizens to do the same. Civilization relies on cooperation, not conflict and competition. Many of the attributes that make us most human, the ones that connect us closest to nature, are also those that frighten us the most. We’ve spent centuries teaching ourselves to suppress these urges, but that doesn’t mean they’ve left us. Human beings have a desire for combat embedded deep within our genes. As we’ve evolved, we’ve learned to hide from our desires out of necessity, but we will never quite be able to escape them entirely. Nature has decided that combat will be permanently included as part of the human condition, thus making it impossible to run from ourselves forever.
That’s what makes Mixed Martial Arts, and all combat sports for that matter, so important and why millions of humans around the globe are drawn to them, almost instinctively. MMA grants us the opportunity to revel in the lost parts of ourselves, but not to the extent that we fully return to the natural brutality of our ancestors. It’s a reminder of what we’ve inherited from the generations of the past, but it’s civilized just enough that modern society can tolerate it.
Mixed Martial Arts is a reflection of what we were before moving beyond the restraints of prehistoric survival. Most importantly, it is an outlet for us to experience what nature intended humans to be. Either firsthand or vicariously, MMA allows us to know our true selves again, for better or for worse. Mixed Martial Arts allows us all to temporarily forget what we’ve been taught to be and to briefly recall what we still are.