MMA fighting forward

Rich Franklin
Once, Rich Franklin spent his days teaching math at his local High School. Today, he spends his evenings in an octagon-shaped cage grounding and pounding fighters into submission in an arena packed with fans chanting his name.

"I do love teaching and working with the students, but I can't imagine sitting at home on a Friday night grading math tests or sitting in a faculty meeting," the man said at a news conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Franklin is one of the new stars of this growing sport called Mixed Martial Arts.

Their fights are filling arenas and attracting large numbers of male television viewers between the ages of 15 and 50. Millions of pounds are being pumped both in and out of this game.

Unlike boxing, Mixed Martial Arts fighters combine a number of styles, using the techniques from wrestling, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and many more.

Rich Franklin against Matt Hamill

Franklin first started fighting professionally while he was still working as a teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. He started playing football at a young age but didn't think he had the talent or physical body to play professionally. This led to him getting into Martial Arts after he had finished school each day.

He trained through college, and on a dare, he entered an amateur fight and won. After his fourth year of teaching, he decided to gamble his job security to fight professionally full time.

"I'd rather be one of those guys who did and failed than wonder what could've, should've, would've been when I was 50," he said with a star of hope in his eye, contemplating his recent successes.

Having left the classroom behind, Franklin has achieved success as a fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He has held the Middleweight title, had commercial endorsements, and recently earned a whopping $100,000 with a victory at UFC 88. "This game is worth big bucks and these guys know it", Paul Collen, a fan said shouting at reports at ringside.

Mixed martial arts has no doubt, a controversial past. Critics view the sport as a blood thirsty mass brawl and free-for-all that should be banned. Unfortunately it is these people who fail to understand the reality and philosophy begind this sport: "those damn critics aint got no right to talk down on this sport, this sport is for real men", a fan shouted out whilst leaving the arena.

Franklin views his fights as a physical chess match where fighters must know how to defend themselves against various fighting styles. The number of techniques used from so many styles is beyond comprehension, "it's technical" said Franklin.

Fellow fighter Karo Parisyan, a judo specialist, agrees. He explains, "There are so many ways to win that you have to be constantly thinking. You make one mistake, and it's checkmate."

In a recent bout, although Franklin's face is bruised and bleeding, he waits patiently and releases a lightning-fast kick to his opponent's rib cage. The contact of his shin snaps like a bullwhip. His challenger falls to the floor of the cage, visibly in agony, and Franklin adds another win to his record - It's looking good for this new guy on the block.

Immediately after inflicting a TKO, Franklin rushes over to his opponent. He congratulates him and says, "Hats off to Matt, he fought a great fight."

Nate Marquardt fell in love with the sport at a young age. Today, at age 29, he already has had 40 professional fights. His fights, especially the losses, have taught him valuable lessons. "After you lose, a champion

Before his last fight, he had to drop 15 pounds, mostly water weight, from his already lean frame only days before the weigh-in. He said it wasn't easy, but he cut his intake of carbs and sodium, and he sat in a sauna, which did the trick.

Marquardt trains year round in pursuit of his dream to become the UFC's next Middleweight Champion. His success has afforded him the luxury to do so. He earned $56,000 from his last victory. When he doesn't have a fight coming up, he teaches at his gym in Aurora, Colorado, a couple of times a week.

He agrees that the lifestyle of a fighter gives him more flexibility to spend time with his immediate family than if he had a regular 9-to-5 job. He works his training schedule around spending time with his wife and caring for his 8-year-old daughter.

Marquardt may not have had his fighting opportunities if there hadn't been a vast overhaul in the sport. MMA was on the verge of extinction because of a political backlash in the late 1990s. One notable critic, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, once called it the equivalent to "human cockfighting."

Dana White, along with his partners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, purchased the fledgling Ultimate Fighting Championship for $2 million in 2001. White's goal was to establish the UFC as the Super Bowl of the sport. He helped legitimize it by establishing rules and promoting the fighters' skills instead of showcasing the brutality. Forbes estimates the company will make $250 million this year.

A UFC contract provides the potential for fighters to make a good living. Forrest Griffin, the UFC's current Light Heavyweight champ, earned $250,000 for a recent win in a main event. Sponsorships from sports drinks and apparel also help to supplement their income. "So many people are behind the sport now, and people are falling in love with it, so it's a matter of time before it's everywhere," says fighter Uriah Faber. So will this sport pioneer its way forward as the only mainstream Martial Art on TV?

Thanks to CNN for resources.

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ashley's picture

How long has Rich been in the game? He seems to have progessed very quickly.
Ash Paul Connell's picture

I think about 7 years
admin5's picture

ohh 7 years is really good time
ashley's picture

yeah he progressed really quickly
ashley's picture