In the book “The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game”, author Sam Sheridan interviews various stars, movers, and shakers in the greater fighting community, mostly MMA fighters and trainers, to pick their brains about the intricacies of fighting. While I myself am not much of a fighting or MMA fan, I found the accounts to be fascinating because here is a group of people who put themselves through so much pain and anguish for the thing that they love. Training regimens for fighters are so much beyond what the average person would refer to as “one of the shittiest days of my life” and yet they do it day after day, year after year in order to achieve their goal. I can’t help but be in awe of their achievements, dumbstruck by the magnitude of it all. I may never in my life want something as much as these men want to be strong.
Sheridan leaves the last chapter of the book for the question that must burn brightly for so many, why? Why do this to yourself? Why do this to others? Fighting is about hurting another person, as Sheridan repeats often, but on others who are consenting in their own twisted way to being hurt. Hurt becomes not an undesirable but instead a way of showing effectiveness, the more hurt you output the better you are at your job, the worse your opponent is at avoiding it. Your own blood and bone are like health points in a game, a dispensable resource to be used to achieve your goal of knocking out your opponent, if you know how to spend them. But having the mental fortitude to make such an exchange is nearly beyond me.
And yet, I am intrigued as are many others, MMA continuing to pull more and more viewers into the fold. Something about the struggle, the exchange, the domination of one over another seems to draw people in even as the world seems to grow more and more appalled that such a sport could still exist. Perhaps the reason we watch is the reason they fight. Contest is it’s own reward, intrinsic value. Some are willing to pay almost any price to be pitted against each other and win. Others will allow others to pay any price just to watch.