The Psychology of Sports Combat: Why Fight?
Are fighters sadistic? Masochistic? Both? What makes a man want to engage in physical combat with another man?
Perhaps combat is too strong a word. After all no one is expected to die, no borders are fought over, no religion is championed, no homes are protected, in fact no cause other than the accumulation of fame, money, and the boosting of the original promotional organization.
The rewards for fighting are unlike they have ever been before. While not even scratching the qualities of cash that the almost dead sport of boxing generates, it still trumps that sport in general popularity.
Money flows through the UFC, and profits from the pay per views continue to trickle in even days or weeks after an event is hosted. The bonuses that the UFC has been paying out are generous—if your name is Rich Franklin or Wanderlei Silva.
What if you are one of the thousands who fight for pennies with no fame to garner or accolades to acquire? Why do the masses of non TUF fighters even bother?
For some, it's a sense of competition. One man vs. one man. For some, it's the ultimate chick grabber. The ultimate in bragging rights?
Most fighters never make the big times. Some that make it don’t deserve it (Jorge Santiago). Some deserve the privilege but never get it (Joey Villasenor). Why do the vast majority of fighters even bother participating?
Are they just mental?
Well the answer is probably yes. The pioneers of any sport probably have had their sanity questioned. “You are going to do what with that stick, ball, and my mother’s mitten???"
The truth is that fighters participate for a variety of reasons which include some or all of the ones already mentioned. Even the most belligerent fellow would probably make more money as a night watchman for a Wal-Mart.
Whatever the reason, it will be a true shame when the maniacs of today are replaced by the athletes of tomorrow. As a sport, it stands on the cusp already. “Fighters” such as Lyoto Machida and Diego Sanchez have shown that physical punishment is not an interest of theirs. Money? Fame? Perhaps. They have gotten both but will they ever have the heart and fighting spirit of a Don Frye? Or even a Tito Ortiz?
When Shogun Rua meets Lyoto Machida, and Brock Lesnar meets Frank Mir, we will find out if heart will endure a bit longer or if pain avoiding “golfers” will prove to be the future of our sport.
—Marco Yanitelli “The Italian Scallion”