â†µToday we continue Spencer Hall's first-hand encounter with the world of MMA. Read Part I of this experience here ... Part II is here ... and Part III is here. Now, Part IV: the final installment in which he finally gets punched ...
â†µThe final test in figuring out just how difficult MMA really is -- besides watching the stomach-flipping training, talking to actual real live fighters, trying a bit of it myself, and observing a fight in person -- would be actually stepping into the ring to go toe-to-toe with a fighter. â†µ
â†µThe better phrase for me would be "head-to-fist," actually. I'm fortunate that Dymond Jones, who sparred with me at Unit 2 Fitness in Atlanta, set his pace at "25-percent of what I would normally punch with." Dymond is a fighter and trainer himself, so he has a very good idea of exactly how hard he can punch. Thanks to my complete inability to block a punch, now so do I. â†µâ†µ
â†µ"Get your hands up!" â†µâ†µ
â†µMost people would wait for you to get your hands up before doing anything in a teaching moment like this, but Dymond seems to believe in operant conditioning over mere drill instruction. Rat likes sugar cube; rat hits lever, rat gets sugar cube. The lesson is taught. â†µâ†µ
â†µFor me -- the test rat here -- the reward is not getting punched in the head. It would be really nice to not get punched in the head, since even at 25-percent nothing in your body, mind, or soul likes being punched in the face. â†µâ†µ
â†µ"My hands are up," I say. From here it really looks like they are: Dymond is just a lean profile visible through a sliver if empty space between my gloves. â†µâ†µ
â†µ"No they're not," he says, and threads a punch through my hands. In a flash my field of vision is filled with boxing glove, and my sinuses experience a solid 4.5 on the Richter scale from the blow. â†µâ†µ
â†µSparring "full contact" with an MMA fighter also means they can play a nasty trick you aren't ready for the first time: the takedown. Just as I manage to block a few punches with some success, Dymond shoots through, ropes up both of my legs, and slaps me to the mat like a dealer flopping cards in Texas Hold 'Em. â†µâ†µ
â†µ"People don't know how hard this really is. They just don't." Jones says this as he's strapping on my headgear. (Another obstacle to my MMA career: lack of properly sized headgear. My huge skull barely fits in the gear, adding to its appeal as a big, easily punchable target.) "Guys come in here and say they 'wanna be a UFC fighter,' and that they're 'undefeated in the street.' It just doesn't work like that. You've got to put the work in. Everyone does. No one just walks in here and does this." â†µâ†µ
â†µYou would get hurt if you walked in off the street and tried to fight an MMA fighter, but not because there's something innately mean or nasty about the sport. You'd get hurt for the same reasons you don't stroll up to the cockpit in a 747 and ask the pilot to let you attempt a night landing: because it requires great skill, years of training, and the willingness to go through the drills, the work, and the sweaty drudgery just to get there. â†µâ†µ
â†µHaving crashed my plane on landing against Dymond in the ring, it's apparent that even at 25-percent I'm not even ready to read the altimeter, much less fly. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.