I’ve never been an MMA fan.
So, when friends invited Robin Hood and I over to watch the Holly Holm-Ronda Rousey fight on Saturday night, my initial reaction was “eh.”
Living in Albuquerque, it’s hard to avoid MMA — we have a big training facility here, and lots of folks are fans of it. Me? The little I’ve seen has mostly involved the participants grappling on the floor, not moving much. Yawn.
But it was Saturday night, and we wanted to get out of the house, and our friends had gone to the trouble of paying to get the fight on their TV, so we headed over. I had a vague inkling of the hype surrounding this fight.
Little did I know the education I was about to receive.
We arrived at the party between 6:30 and 7 pm, in the thick of the preliminary fights. Between socializing and scarfing tasty snacks, I watched and learned.
I learned that “Mixed Martial Arts” does indeed mean a mix of all kinds of fighting. It’s not just grappling on the floor: it’s boxing, and kick-boxing, and…er…other stuff. People of all shapes, sizes and ages participate. There’s a lot more to it than just brute strength: there’s strategy and finesse and stamina, which touches my runner’s heart. There’s even some class, in the moment before each fight when the opponents touch fists [is there a more technical term for this?] — although, as I would find out, that fist-touch is not mandatory.
Throughout the evening, commercials for the main event aired to build up the hype. In watching these, asking questions, and listening to the conversations around me, I began to understand a little more about the Holm-Rousey match.
And I began to get excited.
Two strong, determined women, each one at or near the top of her game. They’d never faced each other before in competition, they’d trained long and hard, and they, two women, were getting top billing at a UFC event.
I know an awesome display of girl power when I see it. Even before the announcer began introducing them, I sat on the edge of my seat.
Now I’ll say this: I know nothing about these two women. I didn’t do any research; I don’t know if they’re nice people; for all I know, both of them run red lights and never buy Girl Scout Cookies. All I know is the fight I watched.
I was riveted.
Ronda Rousey was heavily favored, while Holly Holm was (here in Albuquerque anyway) the hometown hero. At the beginning of the fight, when Holly reached out to do the fist-touching thing, Ronda opted not to do it. Okay, I get it, mind games and all that.
What happened next is something I am still, as I write this and probably as you read this, marveling at.
It reminded me of a perfectly-executed marathon. Holly Holm was the underdog, but never once appeared intimidated or rattled. She displayed composure and stellar stamina (training in the foothills of Albuquerque will do that for ya). She showed intelligence and the exact-perfect balance of aggression and restraint.
All of this, even my newbie eyes could tell, caught Ronda Rousey by surprise. She faltered. She, and lots of other people, figured this match wouldn’t last 30 seconds, much less make it to a second round. Yet it did, and there in the second round — kind of like the 20th mile of a marathon — Holly figured the time was right and made her move. Not just that, she made it with authority, just like a running coach would instruct, and the fight was hers.
I felt like jumping in the air and shrieking with joy. I cried a little bit. I can’t explain why. Was it the girl power thing; the underdog thing; the breathtaking, attention-commanding quality of Holly Holm’s performance; or something more primal?
I’m still trying to figure it out. But this sport sure isn’t as boring as I thought it was.