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The Invention Of Fighting For Money

We begin with the legendary encounters between UFC champions Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, the touchstones of this modern era of fighting. How did we get here? The origins of this sport trace back to centuries ago, when a 5’2, 90-pound young man named Kano Jigoro revolutionized martial arts forever.

The 1990s saw the introduction of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which quickly proved hugely popular within a certain demographic. Why then? Why did these unwashed masses suddenly clamor for these weird men brutalizing each other? And could it possibly survive within a newly sanitized, bloodless, corporate America?

Japan’s garish, spectacular Pride Fighting Championships captured the imaginations of people beleaguered by an economic recession. Meanwhile in America, those struggling to process devastating and endless warfare suddenly rediscovered the cathartic refuge of competitive fighting: one person hit another, the other fell, no one died, and nothing about it lied to us.

As Pride Fighting fought for its life in Japan, the UFC enjoyed unprecedented popularity in the wake of America’s own recession. The golden age of mixed martial arts had finally arrived, ushered in by the some of the most captivating personalities and rivalries the sport has ever seen. There was no magic out there in the world. The magic was in the fights.

This is our stupid, violent spectacle sport for freaks and assholes that’s as legitimate as any other sport in the world. At least, it was ours at some point. The UFC has spent the 2010s sacrificing much of its magic in its desperation for mainstream legitimacy. This sport once transcended our world. Now, it is our world.

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