On Novermber 12th, 2011 the Ultimate Fighting Championship will be taking it's biggest leap in terms of audience exposure, it will be on FOX. UFC on FOX 1 will feature a gigantic main attraction as the UFC heavyweight title is up for grabs between current champion Cain Velasquez and consensus number one contender Junior Dos Santos.
The UFC will also bring it's 'Ultimate Fighter' reality series to sister channel of FOX, FX and will air the shows fights live every week until the finale. FX will also host the UFC fight nights and shows we grew accustom to from SPIKE that started back in 2005.
The fact remains the UFC is not as mainstream as you or i would like to believe it is. The state of New York still doesn't condone it for whatever their reason. Not too long ago former US presidential candidate John McCain identified our beloved sport as 'human cock-fighting'. At UFC 9 the state of Michigan threaten arrests if any of the contestants threw a clenched fist.
The most iconic image of the UFC is the 8 sided steel fence which encloses the fighters, the 'Octagon'. The structure is one of the few relics which survived the Zuffa purchase of the UFC in 2011. When people see the UFC for the first time it is one of the most daunting images to put your mind around.
The UFC may in fact have to evaluate if the 'Octagon' may keep it from being seen as 'barbaric' or legitimate.
In professional sports you have famous landmarks that make the aura of that sport come alive. In Baseball you Fenway Park and Wigley Field, In hockey you Madison Square Gardens, in pro football you Arrowhead Stadium and Lambeau Field. Arenas and stadiums that chnage the entire aspect of the game due to condition and fans.
In combat sports the most famous landmark is the 'Octagon' which houses some of the best conditioned and deadliest athletes on the plants. It has a diameter of 32 feet, 30 feet of space from point to point,the fencing is 5 feet 6 inches high and it rests upon a four foot platform for viewing pleasure. The canvas is made likened to a boxing ring and the poles of the connecting cage and top are covered by vinyl.
It's a beast to say the least.
When SEG first used the 'Octagon' it trademarked the structure to prevent other companies from using it. At the time this made sense since they knew how big of a potential money-maker the UFC could potentially be. In 2001 when the Fertitas and Dana White came to together in 2001 to buy the promotion it made a change. Zuffa began to allow other promotions to use the 'Octagon' idea because they recognized the importance of uniformity within the growing sport.
The one thing you cannot take away from the UFC under the Zuffa regime is it's passion to grow mixed martial arts to the fullest.
Across the ocean and into the far east a promotion decided tradition over a cage concept. Pride Fighting Championships (PRIDEFC) used a regular four-sided ring to hold its bouts. The ring and cage have very different contrast in grappling and striking for fighters.
In grappling the art of leverage is a huge piece of the puzzle. Being able to read your opponents movement will either give you the upper-hand or if you you will wind you on your back. In the ring the ropes give a defense grappler an advantage to the buoyancy of the ropes. You can slip in between the ropes and rest your butt in between two opes. This allows you to dig deep like a squat and explode to either create a forced separation or drop a level for a takedown of your own. You can also revert to famous boxer Mohammad Ali and use the ole 'rope-a-dope' tactic by leaning against the top rope with your upper back. As you lean back you create the ability to spin so you become the one pressing the action. As you lean back you bend with the rope. The extra bit of room will spring you as the rope begins to counteract your movement. Your sweat also may allow you to squeeze out as you slide against the material which covers the rope.
A big part of striking is the use of angles and the difference between the squared circle and 'Octagon' are different. Let's be blunt, you cannot 'rope-a-dope' inside the Octagon well, because you have no way to. This allows for a lot more use of 'dirty boxer' and holding your opponent against a nice firm fence with little to no give. The best example i can think of at the moment was Affliction: Banned when then-WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emilanenko fought former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.
Arlovski opens up with a liver kick which doesn't catch flush on Fedor, Fedor bounces against the ropes as a tactic to gain momentum, Arlovski makes an incredibly amateur error as he clearly drops his hand and shifts his weight to signal a knee of some sort. Fedor being against the turnbuckle has drawn Arlovski into coming head on and not at a weird angle like the cage may present. A devastating right connects flush on the 'Pitbull' and Fedor adds another ex-UFC heavyweight champion to his resume.
Boxing has been using the ring for as long as anyone can remember and it's for reason. It has become a fixture when you imagine combat sports as muay thai and kickboxing use a ring as well. It holds a championship big fight feel when you picture Michael Buffer in the middle asking 'are you ready to rumble'. To myself it has prestige the cage doesn't have due to my growing up with boxing and kickboxing.
The UFC has many hurdles to overcome and simmering down the image of 'barbaric' will address this awhole lote more. If the UFC cleaned up it's image then maybe the national spotlight would be more drawn to the ring then to an outside cage that looks like something out of the WWE.
So, what do the Maniac's feel?
(Interestingly here's a concept done by now defunct International Fight League 'The Hexagon Ring' this would be pretty cool and would not affect striking angles as much)