At the end of 2013, I was thoroughly disillusioned with MMA. I’d had a rough year, both inside and outside of the sport and felt as though it might be time to walk away.
Three months later, everything has changed. I was at last night’s Cage Warriors show in Copenhagen, their first in Scandinavia. As for the previous two CWFC events in London and Dublin, I was there to do commentary for the women’s fights. Watching the rest of the card, I realised a few things.
MMA is a brutal sport, and not just in the physical sense. It’s always hard to see those you know and respect take a tough loss or get knocked out, knowing how that feels, how hard the fighter has trained, what s/he’s sacrificed, for it all to fall apart, sometimes in a split second. Dreams, careers, self-respect and sometimes even the ability to pay the rent can be on the line. It’s a sport where there’s nowhere to hide and no-one to blame.
But exactly those same things make it beautiful and compelling. The fact that it’s so painfully real is part of what makes it worth doing.
Over the last few years, CW has grown to be a highly polished international promotion. The professionalism and production values impress me every time I see it.
Despite that, behind the scenes, there’s an ease and a friendliness there. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a hell of a lot of hard work too. But the atmosphere is one of good humour rather than self importance.
This sense of community is at the heart of what makes CW different from many others. It feels as though the fighters are treated as people first – not just products or resources to be used and disposed of. Everyone involved with the promotion seems to genuinely give a damn. You don’t see company officials bad mouthing their own fighters to the media. It’s understood that it takes two fighters to make a fight, that anyone can have a bad day, and win or lose there’s respect and support. All this creates an environment where it feels like the hard work, the sacrifice and all too often the heartbreak that go along with being a fighter are understood and appreciated. And that inspires loyalty in return.
I’m not writing this because I’ve got a PR person breathing down my neck. I’m writing it because I’m grateful. I’m grateful to be a very small part of something special; I’m grateful for the reminder of why I got into all this in the first place; and I’m grateful because over the last few events, Cage Warriors have given me back a love for my sport.
Last night, for the first time in too long, I walked into an arena and really felt that buzz. I’m excited to do this again.