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UFC hopes homegrown fighters will convince sceptical Germans

The Local · 15 Nov 2010, 16:32

Published: 15 Nov 2010 16:32 GMT+01:00

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Despite being banned from German television for allegedly glorifying violence, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brought its brand of mixed martial arts to the western German city of Oberhausen last weekend.

Dennis Siver, a Russian of German heritage, won a dramatic first-round choke submission victory against England’s Andre Winner in front of a near-capacity crowd on Saturday night.

“The reality is that this is a safe sport with incredible athletes and it should be sanctioned here just like everywhere else,” said UFC president Dana White at the post-fight press conference, declaring his organization had “made a statement” by staging the contest in Germany in the face of stiff resistance.

“Our goal is to make this a global sport and we will not give up even if some places take longer than others. We now have ten years of success, a ten-year safety record and have already made a huge economic impact.”

As if to underline White’s claims, the main event middleweight bout between America’s Nate Marquardt and Japan’s Yushin Okami in Oberhausen was far from a blood bath, resembling what adherents of the sport describe as ‘kinetic chess.’ After neutralizing Marquardt’s wrestling skills, Okami produced a masterful boxing display in the final round, using feints, intricate timing and a control of the distance between himself and his opponent to repeatedly score with left and right hand leads, on route to a points victory.

In an earlier undercard bout, Germany’s Pascal Krauss had bolstered his country’s success with a hard-fought unanimous points decision victory over tough Liverpudlian, Mark Scanlon. Glowing in the aftermath of his success at the post-fight press conference, Krauss spoke of his joy at sitting next to such great fighters. “This is like a dream come true,” he said.

Marek Lieberberg, the Frankfurt-based promoter who helped organise the UFC’s second event in Germany, described the night as a “positive step forward” for the Las Vegas-based organization’s presence in the country. “The evening showed a lot of great talent, especially with the success of the German fighters and paves the way for the future of the UFC here,” he said.

German resistance

However, the UFC still has much work to be done before the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) is widely accepted in Germany. A conference of state sports ministers has called for the end to MMA fights and the German Olympic Association has denied that it can even be classified as a sport.

MMA fighters compete using a variety of different disciplines including boxing, kickboxing, karate, judo, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, Thai boxing and wrestling. Street-fighting techniques such as eye gouging, head butting and groin attacks are banned, along with a variety of other moves deemed to be too dangerous for the ring.

“The German market is like a lot of markets that do not have any real experience with the sport or the UFC. The challenge is always getting decision makers and the media to understand what the sport is,” Marshall Zelaznik, managing director of international development at the UFC told The Local.

“So many executives and politicians look at it like it was the old UFC where it was basically two guys looking like they have just walked off the street walking into a cage and fighting. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

But Bavaria’s BLM state media watchdog successfully pushed for a ban on broadcasting UFC fights on Germany television, arguing they were spectacles of “massive violence” that “breached taboos,” such as striking a combatant while on the ground.

The UFC’s Zelaznik complained the TV ban “defies logic,” given that other combat sport such as boxing and kickboxing are allowed to be broadcast in Germany. “UFC rules are every bit as stringent as those of boxing. The BLM has found this to be a stalking horse – a political issue – it is no longer based on fact or reason,” he said.

Bloodier than boxing?

While conceding that the hitting of a defenceless grounded opponent can appear disturbing, Zelaznik argued that it is less dangerous than when a stricken boxer is allowed to continue taking more punishment in a bout after being given a count to enable him to recover in the ring.

Story continues below…

However, in a robust defence of the broadcast ban, BLM spokeswoman Johanna E. Fell said there was no comparison to other types of fighting.

“We do not think that you can argue that a sport can be allowed merely because it has never resulted in serious or fatal injuries,” she told The Local. “We have yet to see a judo or wrestling fight in which opponents continue to fight each other when one of them is visibly hurt.”

As a result of the TV ban, Saturday night’s event in Oberhausen was only broadcast online in Germany.

“We are not concerned about the levels of violence shown at UFC fights,” said Alexander Marx, the programming director of sports website Spox.com.

“Of course, we acknowledge that the UFC and MMA in general are kind of bloody – but boxing is bloody, too.”

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:47 November 15, 2010 by Jerr-Berlin
Another bullshit export from the US...indeed, the world needs more violence...
16:21 November 15, 2010 by Joshontour
Actually, Jerr, Mixed martial arts tournaments started in Europe, migrated to Japan and Brazil, and were only introduced to the US in 1993 by the Gracie family. Besides that, MMA is and has long been allowed in Germany; only televising it is banned.
03:51 November 16, 2010 by DOZ
Germany needs to be very wary of North America Importing it's violent Media Circus. North American Network programming is almost entirely made up of Violent content and has created an extremely Violent Youth.
06:22 November 16, 2010 by Kayak
It's about choice folks. If it's not illegal then where's the problem?
17:11 November 16, 2010 by W00DST0CK
Hi all, I don't normally comment but as this is close to my heart I felt I would. I am businessman living and working here in Germany, and throughout my life I have studied, and competed within, several Martial Arts and now practice MMA on an amateur level.

Mixed Martial Arts is exactly that, it is not a barbaric sport, but built on the same traditions, disciplines and honour of the same one's you send you kids to: Karate, Judo etc.

The sport is far safer than many of the mainstream one's you watch every day, and after all it is about choice, the competitors are not forced into it.

My Father, a big boxing fan, said the same things as many of the detractors feel, until I took him to the UFC in Manchester, and I am pleased to say he is now converted. In his words the referees are so quick to get involved to ensure no-one is hurt, and the fighters themselves have quite obvious respect for each other.

Germany is a very big boxing nation, but MMA is coming, it is the fastest growing sport in the world, so why not try to understand it now?

These guys, and girls, are incredible athletes and if nothing else deserve respect for that.
17:38 November 16, 2010 by wenddiver
I participate in MMA, mixed Martial Arts, I take lessons with Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I have to admit, I am a lot more self-confident, assertive, physicallly fit, and aware of danger than when I started, whether this equals some form of agression is doubtful.

I love the UFC and several of it's top fighters are very positive male role models. The Gracie family are true gentleman and a credit to Brazil. Men like Randy Couture would be considered positive role models in any Society. I saw his conern when a young girl from Ireland was injured in Gilly's bar (fell dancing) in Las Vegas and I can honestly say he is not only very manly, but a truely decent and sympathetic individual. Sports where even the best ocassionaly lose tend to make you humble. UFC is simply an attempt to stop all the trash talk and figure out which defensive systems are best in open competition, fair and equal to all.

As to protecting your audiences from violence, I don't know anybody or any society that was improved by being protected from facts, having their Freedoms curtailed, or somebody elses morality imposed on them. Freedom is just that the ability to make your own decission, fail or suceed, and be held responsible for them. What Society doesn't benefit from resonsible citizens.
11:57 November 19, 2010 by mixxim
Let's also import dog fighting from the east, cock fighting from China, bull fighting from Spain and Conker fights from England.

Seriously the Germans are already the only nation where they can race their cars on the highways, do they need more?
07:54 November 23, 2010 by wenddiver
I didn't know that dogs and Chickens spent thousands of their own Euros and dollars learning to compete and then did it voluntarily. News to me.

I could see where a part of the world that has never seen any violence, would be afraid of broadcasting.

If other countries started banning products, because of where they came from can we too??? Is it really worth a trade war???

These fights are on the computer, so wy would television want to make itself even more irrelevant by banning the world's fastest growing sport.
08:35 November 23, 2010 by frankiep
As an American I never cease to be disgusted by the 'culture' I grew up in. Glorifying barbarism and turning it into profit certainly is nothing new in the US, but purposefully attempting to spread a virus like this to other parts of the world automatically makes this even more unsettling. It isn't enough that the US is infested with people practicing celebrity worship or kids who are sold the 'glamorous' image of gangsta rap and strive to become gangstas themselves. No, of course we have to export this stupidity to the rest of the world. Now we are just expanding it from implied stupidity and mindlessness to flat out mindless brutality.

Seriously, is watching two people inside of a cage beating each other to a bloody pulp in full view of a few thousand spectators screaming for still more blood something that we are supposed to consider a legitimate sport?

I know, next we can have the same thing only with the added bonus of lions patrolling each end of the cage and a pit of fire, or even better, snakes, in the middle. It's the logical next step. It will first be tested in the US (most likely in Las Vegas or 'the Heartland') and then, when enough people accept it as the new Big Thing, will slowly make its way to other countries.

Sorry for the rant, but this just hits a little too close to home for me. As someone who grew up in the all mindlessness all the time media environment in the US, I never fully realized just how harmful this mentality can be until I moved to Germany where there seems to be a much higher appreciation for things that have actual substance. However recently I have noticed the same mindless stupidity so prevalent in the US creeping ever more into German everyday life, although admittedly not at anywhere near the levels as in America. Now the current champion of mindless stupidity and barbarity is trying to force its way into German popular culture as well. It is disheartening.

Now, flame away.
13:53 November 24, 2010 by W00DST0CK
UFC was borne out of Brasil, not the US. It was later bought out by a US company as it started to expand. It comes from the Brasilian Vale Tudo, something which has been practiced for a long time there.

It was in fact the US company that have strived to add rules to the sport, ensuring that the athletes are protected and that the referees are highly trained to jump in to stop anyone being serioously hurt. The cage itself, has been nicknamed that but is mot infact a cage. The purpose of this, is to stop the injuries that were occuring to competitors who were grappling on the floor but fell out of the traditional boxing ring that used to be used, due to the gap under the bottom rope.

The facts speak for themselves as there have never been any serious injuries or deaths within professional MMA, the same can sadly not be said for boxing.

These are not 2 guys turning up off of the street to jump in the cage, the are athletes at the top of their game, most are either current or former world champions of traditional martial arts (Karate, Judo, Jui Jitsu, Muay Thai etc), yet they were not deemed barbaric then.

I find the attitude here in Germany strange, as the country is so pro K1 and Boxing, perhaps it has more to do with those community promoters not wanting the UFC broadcast than the actual public!
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