I’ll never forget the first time I saw an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). That’s the no-holds-barred tournament where fighters with different styles meet in a ring.
Boxers face off with wrestlers, Thai boxers with Karate-Kas, Savate fighters with Judo or Jiu Jitsu practitioners – and every combination thereof. Some fighters don’t seem to have any “technique” at all. They are simply masters of the ancient art of bar fighting. Big, bad, and willing to do for a paycheck what they do most nights for free.
There are very few rules (no biting or eye gouging) and almost no time limits. Once the bell rings, it’s like watching a wacky 1970s Kung Fu movie. One fighter wearing boxing shorts might meet another wearing a Speedo, a traditional “gi,” or simply blue jeans. Some are built like Charles Atlas, others are lean and wiry, and some have beer bellies so enormous, if they just fall on their opponent, you are sure the fight will be over.
I think the first “round” I saw lasted 30 minutes. There were no ropes – a fenced “cage” instead. And when the two fighters got within striking distance, they punched, kicked, elbowed, kneed, choked, and grappled it out until somebody was unconscious or tapped the mat in submission.
When a fighter is victorious, he has to go through it again. Each one can fight as much as three times in a night … till he beats every other winning fighter and emerges as the sole winner for the evening. The Ultimate Fighting Champion.
Royce Gracie, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, was a finalist in the first UFC. Royce weighed about 185 pounds. Every fighter he beat going into the final match was bigger, more muscular, seemingly meaner and more aggressive, or all of the above. And the fighter he would meet in the last fight of the evening was a mountain of a man.
His name was Dan Severn, from Coldwater, Michigan. An Olympic-caliber Greco-Roman wrestler, he outweighed Royce by about 70 pounds.
Throughout the match, Dan was on top of Royce. But he could never rain down the heavy punches that would end the fight. Royce frustrated Dan with defensive techniques that the classic wrestler had never seen. He would tie up Dan’s arms, press too closely to his body to allow for room for strikes. And when Dan did get one of his massive arms free, he could never quite land a punch flush. Royce would move, parry, block with his legs, and then tie up Dan’s arms once again.
Still, it seemed like just a matter of time before the giant Midwesterner would crush the pesky Brazilian like a bug.
After the fighters had been battling for over 15 minutes nonstop – an enormous amount of time – Royce was on his back with his feet in the air, squished against the mat and the cage. Dan was pressing his full 270 pounds onto him, trying to reduce Royce to the size of a toaster while still trying to unload a single haymaker on his smaller opponent, right on the button.
But then … Royce’s right leg found its way to the back of Dan’s neck.
Suddenly, Royce’s left leg was also around Dan’s neck.
With one arm, Royce pulled Dan’s right arm and trapped it between their bodies. With his other arm, he pulled Dan’s head in. He squeezed his legs, arched his hips, and pulled Dan’s head tighter into the grip. The wrestler tapped the mat in submission … just before his brain would have been totally deprived of blood.
Royce Gracie was the first UFC champion, and he went on to win three of the first four championships – consistently beating men far bigger and stronger. The one time he didn’t win the championship, he was victorious in the preliminary fights. But he was injured, so he couldn’t continue.
Yet, as the championships progressed, the nature of the fighting changed. Inspired by the success of Royce and other Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters, boxers and martial artists started to enter the ring with new grappling skills.
Wrestlers now came in with submission techniques, crisp punches, and powerful kicks (mostly low and leveraged, not flashy spinning or flying kicks). Competitors (large and small) from different styles now realized they needed to add to their arsenal techniques from other styles – whatever worked, whatever was practical.
Great fighters like Randy Couture (a wrestler), Chuck Lidell (a kick-boxer) and Maurice Smith (a karate master) emerged and rose to the ranks of champion. But they achieved their titles only after developing the full range of fighting skills.
And then, weight classes began to develop.
Before, a man with toughness and great technique could defeat a far bigger opponent. But once the very best of the big fighters also began to learn many of the formerly mysterious techniques, size again began to matter.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a big guy, you still probably don’t want to mess with a world-class 150-pound all-around fighter. But if you’re a world-class all-around fighter yourself, you’ll likely have a significant advantage over a world-class fighter who’s 50 or 75 pounds lighter than you. You weigh a lot more when you lay on top of him. You pack more behind your punch.
Determination and technique matter first and foremost. You can win against competitors who are far bigger than you but don’t have your technique or drive. But if you want to win the heavyweight crown (where the biggest purses are), you’ll have to compete against people who have great technique and are very determined and very big. So you’ll have to put on some weight.
And what does this have to do with real estate? I’ll show you in my next article …