5 things people get wrong about MMA in the Philippines

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Newsflash: MMA is a legit sport with real athletes; it isn’t glorified street brawling.

Okay, feels good getting that out there.

The world’s top MMA promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), holds top-notch events worldwide; MMA stars are featured in movies and TV commercials; and MMA gyms are popping up left and right.

With all of that progress, you’d think that MMA would have gotten past the “human cockfighting” stigma it had to deal with back in the 1990s. Unfortunately, there are still some people who don’t give the sport or its athletes the credit they deserve.

So let this be our attempt to debunk some myths that still exist about MMA in the Philippines.

MYTH 1: MMA fighters are violent people

ONE Lightweight Champion Eduard Folayang could probably crush your skull between his forearm and bicep, but he won’t. Why not? Because he’s a nice guy. In fact, he and former UFC fighter Mark Munoz would probably be tied for the “Nicest Athlete in Sports History” award (if there ever was one). The fact is, when you train martial arts religiously, you’re taught respect, discipline, and humility, and Filipino MMA athletes embody these characteristics.

You don’t see Filipino MMA fighters making headlines in newspapers because they’re involved in violent brawls or crimes. Martial arts practitioners are actually some of the nicest people you’ll meet. Show them respect, and they’ll show you respect right back.

MYTH 2: MMA training is for people who want to become fighters

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Rewind to 20 or 30 years ago and this might be true–serious MMA or martial arts training was reserved for the hardcore, for the tough guys. But today, the MMA landscape has shifted from exclusive to inclusive. MMA is no longer just for the tough guys who want to win fights.

The truth is that MMA training is for anybody who has a body–men, women, and children. It’s for anybody who wants to get fit in a fun and functional way. And all the techniques you can learn in kickboxing and grappling will keep you learning and keep you from getting bored. Whether you want to get fit, learn self-defense, or just learn something new, MMA training is for you.

MYTH 3: MMA fighters are all brawn, no brains
Have you ever tried having a real conversation with an MMA fighter–about his career, beliefs, struggles? Try it and you’ll learn just how articulate and intelligent these fighters are.

Many of them even have college degrees. Pacific Xtreme Combat’s Rolando Dy has a degree in Legal Studies, Folayang was a former high school educator, and Universal Reality Combat Championship’s first female champion Geli Bulaong has a degree in culinary arts. Many fighters don’t have college degrees, but they manage to hold down full-time jobs and even run their own businesses while pursuing their fight careers. If that’s not smarts, then I don’t know what is.

MYTH 4: Filipinos aren’t good grapplers

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Do yourself a favor and google Marcus Valda, John Baylon, Ali Sulit, and Alvin Aguilar. Our country is rich with talented grapplers, be it in judo, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, or wrestling (and yes, for those who don’t know: the Philippines has a national wrestling team, a very good one actually).

For all this grappling prowess to translate into success in the cage, however, we really need to manage our resources. We need to help each other out, train with instructors who’ll give us training we can’t find anywhere else. Wrestling may not be as competitive or widespread in the Philippines as it is in the US or in Europe, but we are definitely not a country of weak grapplers.

MYTH 5: MMA is a blood sport
To the people who still think this, newsflash: It’s 2017, and the brutal beginnings of MMA all long behind us. MMA is a legitimate sport with rules, weight classes, and athletes who abide by strict training and drug testing. These are elite, well-trained athletes who compete to be the best in the world; they aren’t random truckers pulled off the side of the road to throw down.

And while there still may be fans who tune in to see the blood (just as there are hockey fans who love to watch a fight out on the ice, or NASCAR fans who wait for the crashes), the blood isn’t what makes the sport great. An entire card can transpire without a single drop of blood hitting the mat, and it still would’ve been an entertaining display of heart and technique.

The sport of MMA is great if you give it a shot. Open your mind and try it out for yourself; you might just discover your new favorite hobby.

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DojoDrifter.com. You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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