Move over WBC, IBF and WBA, there’s a new kid on the alphabet-soup block, and it isn’t a four-letter word: UFC, which stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the newest form of unarmed combat that is taking the nation by storm.
Ultimate Fighting is based on Mixed Martial Arts, a universal sport that combines elements of boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, kick boxing and Muy Thai. And although it sounds like a Jean-Claude Van Damme B-movie, it is nothing like an out-of-control "Bloodsport."
"It’s the least understood sport in America," says Lorenzo Fertitta, president of Station Casinos and the new co-owner of UFC. "Even though the action is intense, it’s all about strategy and not about hurting anyone."
Fertitta and his brother, Frank, purchased UFC earlier this year. Since then, they have promoted two UFC events - both sold out - at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. A third event will be held on Friday at the Meadowlands. It will be available on Cox Cable Pay Per View.
In addition to staging the UFC events, the Fertitta’s have been involved in upgrading the sport.
"At one time, Ultimate Fighting had two rules: no biting or eye gouging," he said. "But now the sport is controlled by a set of rules in which all the contact - hits, strikes and other techniques - are legal and regulated."
Fertitta adds that most of the UFC fighters are former Olympic athletes and college educated. "The sport is made up of quality individuals," he said.
The various techniques involved make Ultimate Fighting fascinating to watch. Because of the various techniques that are allowed, there are so many more things that can transpire in a match.
For instance, one fighter may be a skilled boxer and try to use his skills appropriately. His opponent, however, may be a skilled Greco-Roman wrestler and may want to engage in a grappling match that often ends up on the canvas. The latter, incidentally, is perfectly legal. Fighters often find themselves struggling for advantage, much the way wrestlers seek reversals and other types of maneuvers.
So far, UFC has been sanctioned in New Jersey, California, Iowa, Washington, Colorado, Louisiana, Illinois, Arizona, Georgia and Alabama.
It also has a huge international following which has so far dwarfed the audience generated in North America.
It is currently being reviewed in Nevada.
Among the rules and regulations that the Nevada State Athletic Commission is reviewing is the fight format. The tournament format is no longer allowed. Rather, participants square off in three 5-minute rounds. Championship events are held in five 5-minute rounds.
In addition, combatants have the opportunity of "tapping out" when they find themselves in a precarious position.
When the fighter feels he can’t compete or is in danger, he taps out and quits at any point in the fight.
Tapping out is not uncommon in Mixed Martial Arts events, and it is not looked down upon, such as the "no mas, no mas" employed by Roberto Duran.
In fact, if there were a way to "tap out" in our daily lives, perhaps many of us would employ it as well.