October 17, 2011
Mixed Martial Arts Fight Night
Tumwater, Washington USA
October 15, 2011
Photos by Tom Hyde
Nearly 2,000 people paid $25 or more to crowd into an indoor arena for a night of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights. The amateur fighters hailed from regional gyms. This relatively small event still had the feel of an underground sport which, until recently, all of MMA was to some extent. Now it’s big, big money and its popularity is spreading internationally.
In this small city in the Pacific Northwest, black chain-link fencing surrounds the fight ring in the center of the spare complex. Folding chairs sprawl out across the concrete floor of the former indoor Go-Kart track as heavy metal blares from loud speakers. Patrons shop the tables along the walls for the latest MMA clothing, posters, dvds, books, magazines, fight paraphernalia, trading cards and action figures.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, kickboxing, karate, judo and other styles. The roots of the sport go back as far as the ancient Greek sport of Pankration. More modern roots can be found in the Brazilian sport of Vale Tudo. The sport came to North America in 1993. At one time vilified for its no-hold violence and brutality, major organizers of the sport cleaned up the act over the past decade by instituting new rules aimed at minimizing the most serious injuries and pushing for regulation. MMA is now a sanctioned sport in 45 U.S. States. The U.S. Army now has its own sanctioned MMA events.
In just the past five years, MMA has jumped from an underground sport to one of the hottest new entertainment powerhouses complete with clothing lines. And in 2010, pay-per-view MMA events in the United States raked in estimated figures in the hundreds of millions in gross sales putting it on par with boxing and wrestling. In fact, with younger viewers, MMA has likely surpassed boxing in popularity.
It is both a burgeoning cultural phenomena and a major new emerging business market. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest of the commercial MMA ventures, has an estimated worth of $1 billion to $2 billion on Wall Street. Already a player on the world stage, the goal of the UFC is to expand the sport into India and China in the coming years.
In 2011, Nike started a new MMA division for its sports clothing line and began endorsing fighters.
Broken noses, broken ribs, blood on the white mat and hurt pride were on the fight card Saturday night as the young contenders fought their way up hoping for a shot at the pros and big money.
Tom Hyde is a photographer living in Washington State, USA.