I wrote this last week, and was looking for a place to publish it. Then I remembered I had a largely abandoned martial arts blog. (Thanks to Natalie Zed for her notes.)
Muay Thai: Has been abroad, wants you to know about it.
Muay Boran: Has also been abroad, low key condescending about Muay Thai’s travels. “Yeah, Full Moon parties are cool when you’re 19. Oh, you went at 28. That’s cool too. I just like it to be a little more real when I travel.”
Pradal Serey: Thinks it’s cute that Muay Boran thinks a hostel in Nepal is “real.” Has been kidnapped by insurgents in three different countries. For no real reason.
Karate: Has trouble reading a room. Talked to you for way too long about model trains. Isn’t very confident with women.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Has trouble reading a room. Talked to you for way too long about Bernie Sanders. Is far too confident with women.
Capoeira: Keeps finding reasons to take his shirt off. Has brought bongos.
Taekwondo: Seems like kind of a boring normy girl at first. It turns out she’s really funny and a great dancer after three drinks.
No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Doesn’t agree with everything Jordan Peterson says, but…
Tai Chi: Talked to you about astrology for a very long time.
Wing Chun: Tai Chi’s boyfriend. Vegan. Let’s you know about it. Has a ponytail. Overpronounces foreign words. Is pansexual.
Medieval Martial Arts: Friend of Wing Chun’s. You initially think he might be in a polyamorous triad with Wing and Tai Chi, but later on Tai Chi tells you she doesn’t even like him and is sick of him hanging out at their apartment all the time.
Akido: Sits in the corner alone all night, doesn’t talk to anyone. Stares very intensely. Messages you the next day to say she had a great time.
Hapkido: If someone confuses her with Akido again, she’s gonna fucking lose it.
Dutch Kickboxing: Has been mistaken for Muay Thai like seven times tonight. It’s cool though, he’s used to it.
Boxing: Has a lot of cool stories about the ’90s. After half an hour, you realize that’s pretty much all he’s gonna give you tonight.
Sumo: Seems really intimidating at first, but is actually a really cool guy when you kick it with him. You think he and Taekwondo would hit it off.
Judo: Is a little bit older than everyone else at this party. No one would notice, but he keeps self-consciously mentioning it.
Knocking and Kicking: Is even older than Judo. Isn’t worried about it at all. Somehow it makes him cooler.
Krav Maga: Just lost a LOT of money in crypto. Is doubling down.
Kendo: Krav Maga’s weird English friend. Has a lot of opinions about what women should and shouldn’t do. His glasses are filthy.
Eskrima: Came with Krav Maga and Kendo, but doesn’t, like, “know them know them.” They just train at the same place. At one point someone thinks he’s a pizza guy.
MMA: Dressed like he just got here from 2007. Kind of a macho dick. Starting to make people uncomfortable.
Sambo: Putting out a very intense vibe, but is being cool for now. Later on in the evening, after MMA says something weird to Taekwondo about how she’d get in a lot of trouble “out on the street,” he has a few quiet words with MMA. MMA leaves shortly after. Everybody cheers.
Jeet Kune Do: Is wearing sunglasses, inside, at 11:30 p.m.
After four months—and if I’m being completely honest—six months off of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I’ve made my return to the mats.
It is FUCKING HARD you guys.
I have this thing I always say about BJJ, which is that physically it’s hard, but it’s never harder than I expect it to be. Mentally, emotionally, it’s a killer. This is truer than ever right now. Physically, if anything, it’s actually easier than it was. (More on that later.) But again, physically isn’t the hard part.
So, for those of you playing along at home, I had a combined septoplasty and turbinate reduction in July, because I couldn’t really breathe out of my left nostril in any meaningful way. At the time, I said I was going to have to take three months off, but in reality, three months was the MINIMUM amount of time I was going to have to take off. At the three month mark, my nose still hurt like Hell if I washed my face too enthusiastically. Four-and-a-half months post surgery, I finally went back to training. By then, though, the holidays were almost upon us, which meant that I was heading off to such exotic locales as London: No, the Small One, Scarborough and Detroit. It’s now January, and I’m only starting to re-establish a training routine.
Everything is different now. People who were roughly my equal are miles better than me. Everyone seems to have at least one move where they choke you with the lapel of their gi, I am perpetually frustrated.
So, since I’m taking three months off BJJ, I’ve decided to use this space to talk about a non-BJJ thing that’s been on my mind.
(For the three of you who read this blog that I don’t know personally, I’m recovering from the surgery nicely, I’m breathing better already and working out at the Y almost every day to stay in some kind of shape during my time away from rolling.)
A quick question. Am I on acid? Or possibly having some sort of weird fever dream? Because those are the only two scenarios in which tomorrow’s “superfight” between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor is a thing that makes sense.
I mean, don’t get it twisted. I’m not naïve. It makes sense because we live in a world in which people will pay scads of money for it. We also live in a world in which a man who is totally unqualified both professionally and temperamentally, a monstrous human, and quite possibly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s managed to become the leader of the free world because people like to watch him insult people on television. The fact that Conor McGregor has only managed to use that same core talent to talk himself into a multi-million dollar fight purse is relatively small beer.
To be clear, I’m not cheering for either of these men. Floyd Mayweather is a serial domestic abuser. Conor McGregor is a fucking racist and the avatar of everything that’s wrong with mixed martial arts right now. I’m basically cheering for a flock of fighting cocks to get released in the ring to peck and kick both of them to death. Fuck both of these guys entirely.
But from a purely sporting perspective, this fight is completely insane. It seems insulting to all of our intelligence that it is somehow taking up most of the oxygen in sports media right now. Floyd Mayweather, for all his awfulness as a man, is the best boxer of his generation. (I am counting Trip G as a member of a different generation, even though they’re pretty close in age.) Conor McGregor is an amazing MMA fighter, and one of the best strikers in that sport.
But being the best striker in MMA is like being the best soccer player among NFL place kickers. It’s a related skill, for sure, and an interesting fact, but Barcelona isn’t going to be giving you a call any time soon. Brighton and Hove Albion probably aren’t even giving you a call. Scunthorpe. Maybe Scunthorpe United would take you on. McGregor needs to be fighting the Scunthorpe of boxers. But of course, there’s no money in Scunthorpe.
The idea that McGregor is a competitive opponent for Mayweather is completely a farce. It is a lead balloon that is somehow miraculously being held aloft by the sheer volume of hot air coming from the fighters themselves, as well as Dana White, Showtime and a sports media trying to find something to get excited about in the face of an imploding combat sports landscape.
(So Max O/Flickr)
Conor McGregor has about as much chance of beating Floyd Mayweather as I do of beating Conor McGregor. Floyd Mayweather handily beat Manny Pacquiao, a man who once looked superhuman, and who has forgotten more about boxing than Conor, who last boxed as a teenager amateur, will ever know. Think about that. Are we really supposed to believe that Conor McGregor is a better boxer than Pacquiao? Than peak career Ricky Hatton? Hatton ran through 43 consecutive opponents, before losing to Mayweather in 2007 and eventually partying himself out of the sport. Are we really saying McGregor is a better boxer than his fellow ginger Canelo Alvarez? Mayweather is the only blemish on Alvarez’s otherwise spotless record, and Canelo is still out there absolutely annihilating people. (He’s fighting Trip G next month, an actual boxing match between the two best active fighters in the world that people have totally forgotten about in the run up to this circus fight.) Can anyone who has watched even three minutes of boxing in their entire life, and doesn’t have a shit ton of money wrapped up in this absolute farce of a fight, say any of those things with a straight face?
Sure they can, if they’re either a massive McGregor stan or are completely detached from reality. McGregor is a 40-1 underdog, but honestly, he should be a 400-1 underdog.
As I write this, I’m sitting in Super-Jet International—where the owner/barista reminds me a fair bit of Colin Quinn’s character in Girls—listening to AC/DC’s “Money Talks.” The song choice feels a little on the nose. Because that’s what this fight is about. It’s what every fight is about, but this one is a different degree of magnitude.
For over a decade, boxing and MMA have gone back and forth trying to be the dominant combat sport in North America. The boxing establishment have dismissed MMA as a band of thuggish upstarts, MMA’s army of young, digitally active fans have called boxing a boring old man’s sport. But now they’re both in trouble.
Brock Lesnar has gone back to pro-wrestling, Ronda Rousey is probably going to join him, and Jon Jones couldn’t pass a drug test with someone else’s urine. The UFC’s glamour divisions are helmed by guys like Tyron Woodley, a great technician who is almost astoundingly unfun to watch, and Stipe Miocic, who knocks guys out, but who you would probably walk by in a crowd. Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson is tied for the most successful title defences in UFC history and has totally dominated his division, but has been woefully underpromoted and overlooked in favour of bigger fighters with bigger personalities. Their most interesting champions are women’s strawweight champ, Joanna Jedrzejczyk—who might be the most technically perfect kickboxer of any gender on the planet—and men’s featherweight title holder Max Holloway, a tough, affable Hawaiian with the face of a 13 year-old. But neither of them have anything close to the crossover appeal of a Lesnar, or Rousey, or a GSP. No one is asking Joanna Jedrzejczyk to star in an action film.
Boxing, meanwhile is now a niche sport in North America. Outside of a few specific regions (Quebec) and ethnic communities (Latinos), boxing isn’t really on anyone’s radar. It’s biggest stars are European and Latin American. Every so often, something big happens and people go “Oh yeah, boxing!” But for most North Americans, boxing comes after the MLS, after NASCAR, after MMA. It’s on a par with lacrosse.
Boxing needs this fight, but that doesn’t make it a boxing match. It’s a circus fight. It’s a sideshow. It’s Ben Johnson racing a horse, except I’m not sure who’s Ben Johnson and who’s the horse. But whatever. Money talks.
Section 83(2) defines a “prize fight” as “an encounter or fight with fists, hands or feet between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them.” Exceptions are made for anything recognized by the IOC, or anything that’s been “designated” by a province’s lieutenant governor or another “person or body” designated by the lieutenant governor.
The first thing that strikes me about that definition is that by that logic, Montreal’s digi camo-clad shock troops should be breaking down the door of every children’s karate tournament on the island.
The second thing, and this is the thing that the tournament’s organizers tried to convince the police of, is that it probably doesn’t actually apply to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That definition sounds like it’s aimed at striking sports. I guess technically BJJ is “an encounter with hands,” but so are a lot of things. Patty cake, for example. Maybe that is also illegal now? Who can say?
What is more likely, though, is that the SPVM got Brazilian jiu-jitsu confused with another, more traditionally Japanese form of jujutsu, some of which do include striking. It’s confusing, I know. As are the differing spellings. So it is entirely possible that this very prestigious tournament, which was going to allow Canadians to qualify for an even more prestigious tournament, was postponed and sent scrambling to find a new location, because the SPVM didn’t do their homework, and then refused to back down when they were proven wrong.
I know people who promote amateur martial arts events. Mostly, they don’t make money. If they do, the dollars per hour is so low they’d be better off dog walking.
(I dog walk as a side hustle. You’ll never get rich, but it’s not a bad second gig. Also, you get to hang out with a lot of dogs. I digress.)
So here are a few pieces of advice for all parties concerned to make sure this doesn’t happen again:
For the SPVM:
Err on the side of common sense. Imagine an illegal prize fight in your mind. If what you’re seeing doesn’t look like that, don’t threaten to come in with a SWAT team in pyjama bottoms and send everyone to jail.
For the Province of Quebec:
But really, it’s not good to have laws that are too dependent on the discretion of individual officers. It leads to inconsistent enforcement. So have your athletic commissioner sanction BJJ, and while you’re at it, give your official blessing to Muay Thai, K-1 kickboxing, karate, Sambo, wushu, sanda, Muay Boran and Pradal Serey. Other provinces should probably get on that, too.
Oh come on guys. Get it together. I know this is a business and you’re in competition, but they goal should be to grow the pie. Run professional, well organized events. Put on demos. Explain your sport. Don’t do ridiculous things.