If you’re a dude (and I am guessing you most likely are or will easily be able to tell that you are not), then it is safe to assume that you know MMA. Mixed Martial Arts has seen explosive and exponential growth, sustaining this unprecedented run in terms of both eyeballs in the stadiums and on tv, as well as financially, given the monetary prowess of the now-institutional UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship.

As with all trends in sports, there are standout moments. The defining heroics and antics that stand out in short-term history, whether for water cooler gossip or long-term holy shit moments. If the sport ends up making it for the long term, and this will only happen if UFC single-handedly corrects the ills that led to boxing’s tragic downfall, then we just might be talking about some of this stuff for the long haul. But only time will tell. These appear numbered below, but not necessarily “ranked” in priority or meaning.

5. Ginger Fighters

ed herman

Ed Herman, Ginger Fighter

Not gonna’ lie. My sister and I have a lifelong fascination with Gingers. This did not start with the onset of South Park, either. This is a much weirder deal. Now if little red headed freckled people are singled out and considered sissies as children, then MMA would surely end up being a likely safe-haven for them once they reach early adulthood. And the UFC, being the pinnacle of organized MMA at this point (and into the foreseeable future, thankfully), did its part to salute Gingers everywhere, just about chopping the head permanently off the rumor that redheads can’t fight. Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter featured grudge-match coaches Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock going toe to toe, but what really stood out about that season (spring/summer ‘06) were the fighters, which included among others: Michael Bisping, Kendall Grove, Matt Hamill, and of course, ginger Ed Herman. This Team Quest member, Pacific Northwest native, redhead fights in the 185-lb. weight class and excepting the injury that has sidelined him recently, Ed “Short Fuse” Herman is a complete and total badass. Although Kendall Grove ended up taking the TUF season finale, all three judges scored the fight 29-28, very close, and Dana White granted Herman, the loser in this case, a 6-figure deal as well.

4. Vegans in MMA? WTF?

Mac Danzig, Vegan

Mac Danzig, Vegan in the House

You’ll have to excuse yourself for thinking about eating beef in terms of a training regimen, and MMA practitioners. It’s just not the case every single time. Far be it from you and I to understand how a Vegan of all personalities and persuasions, could make the leap up to UFC caliber fighting. But again, the Ultimate Marketing juggernaut that is The Ultimate Fighter Reality Show produced just such a spectacle for its ongoing PR campaign in TUF Season 6, in the form of lightweight fighter Mac Danzig. Now I am sure I’m not the only one who has been a bit disappointed with Danzig’s performance since joining the pro ranks of the UFC, but he is a confident, capable fighter who might just be temporarily missing that “x” factor that makes a champion. Still worth the watch, for sure.

3. TUF as a Franchise: The Only Reality TV (Barely) Worth Watching
The Ultimate Franchise: a reality television show that extends and controls the brand, introduces brand new personalities to its audience, and shows the true struggle in terms of training and living that these fighters go through in order to be the real athletes that they are before they step in the cage — that is The Ultimate Fighter. I don’t think that cage fighting could have become what it is today without this television show. Sure, rules and regulations have made the sport something beyond just blood and gore to talk about the next day at work. Creating a shift in perception that is monumental? Leave that up to tv — and Dana White nailed it with this one. Just enough of the at-times locker room toddler bullshit, and right before you get sick of some of these occasional idiots’ bravado, you get to see them fight. I don’t care for watching people argue, or trash talk, or puff themselves up with lofty ideas of becoming champions. What I care about is picking a winner, developing an appreciation for a fighter’s craft, and watching them grow into true professionals. And there is all that and more on TUF.

2. Throwdown Cage Bed for Kids? Kidding?

Cage Bed for Kids

Eight Sided Cage Beds Might Make a Champion

When you are looking to build a paradigm-shifting enterprise, then any smart marketer knows you start somewhere in childhood, and you go no-holds-barred. Which is why one look at the Throwdown cage bed for kids will have the most savvy understanding just where this new bed-cum-training accessory is coming from. It’s pretty much like a fun-style bed, think “racing car bed form for toddlers,” and then throw it up on steroids and have its father beat the holy hell out of it when it’s just a little toddler bed. Which we have before now, always referred to simply as “a crib.” That’s right. We’re forced now to retrofit our language as we evolve as humans, thanks to MMA. Your infant’s crib is a four-sided cage, and when the little hooligan grows up just a little bit, you’re gonna’ do nothing more than double the amount of walls he will be surrounded by. Octagon, baby. Don’t ever look back.

1 Old School Vs New School Shit Talking: Gracie vs Hughes
I’m guessing I’m not alone when I tell you that as a television personality and a fighter, I don’t like Matt Hughes. I don’t know what it is, but his arrogance, regardless of his wealth of talent, just rubs me the wrong way. Now were I to meet him in real life, maybe he’s a great guy. I could see a ton of integrity and grit. I have nothing against him personally, I don’t even know him. But in terms of the entertainer aspect that I do know of him, I don’t like him. So when the grudge match went backwards through history, and no one other than the father of the sport was called out, Royce Gracie, there seemed to be a lot on the line there. I only wish, as I am sure many other do too, that these two fighters had met in their prime. To watch old bouts of cage fighting, with round robin tournaments and fewer rules and no weight classes, Gracie practically put the first iteration of the sport on the map, without any help from anyone else. Playing up the historical aspect of the brand was one of the greatest things that Dana White and UFC could have done. Genius marketing, to be sure — but marketing that works well typically has a great product behind it. And in this case, heck yes.

The bottom line here is that the UFC has made a good product a great one, through marketing. And in a very basic light, the lynchpin of their marketing strategy has been to link up MMA and its constituent parts with other areas of popular, contemporary culture: vegan eating habits and politics, reality television, raising children to succeed as athletes beyond known levels and at any cost. Continued growth will require a consistent parallel development where new viewers are given reasons to watch these pure athletes go up against each other in a cage that shows off how one combination of fighting styles might just be superior to another similar combination that is not exactly the same.

(Images Via: Sherdog, Sherdog, Bloody Elbow)

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