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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Mixed Martial Arts: The Next Big Thing?

    The parking lot was packed.’ Not a single space was open.’ Inside the building was not any better.’ Ten large, high-definition television sets blared the heavy rock music that is the theme song of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.’ Scantily clad women in small, tight orange shorts and even smaller, tighter white shirts shuffled around the floor, carrying trays of wings and pitchers of beer.’ They moved quickly, snaking through the throng of mostly young men hoping to get seats at the already overfilled tables.’

    ‘I’ve never seen the place this crowded,’ a 20-something man said to his friend as they stood in the entrance, surveying the scene of the Hooters in Islandia.

    A blonde ‘Hooter’s girl’ — as the waitresses are called — whose shift has just ended, said what many waiting in the crowd don’t want to hear:’ ‘I don’t think you guys are gonna get in here tonight.’ People aren’t gonna get up ’til the fights are over.’

    The fight card features five bouts, headlined by a middle weight title fight between champion Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva and Dan Henderson.’ The crowd is excited to see whether the tough veteran Henderson can beat the seemingly unstoppable Silva, or if he will fall victim to Silva’s powerful, flowing offense, once deemed by UFC color commentator Joe Rogan as a ‘ballet of violence.’

    Filling up restaurants in New York and selling out arenas in the 32 states that sanction mixed martial arts, the UFC is thriving years after then Arizona Senator John McCain condemned the sport as ‘human cock fighting.’

    One man who has been a fierce proponent’ of the sport of mixed martial arts well before the first UFC even was held in Colorado in 1993 is Dante Purita.’ In 2006 he took control of the ‘Unified Martial Arts Jiu-Jitsu’ gym in Shirley ‘- a small gym off William Floyd Parkway.’ He took over from two friends who previously ran the gym.’ It’s sandwiched between a deli and the Shirley Nail and Spa.’ The location in a small suburban shopping center seems out of place ‘- not unlike mixed martial arts itself, which has had a meteoric rise to become one of the country’s most popular sports.’

    Purita has been cross-training ‘- practicing and mastering multiple different disciplines under the martial arts banner ‘- since the 1980s.’ ‘When I first came here my intentions was to cross-train [students],’ he said.’ But as it has been since main stream martial arts training began, different people decide to train for different reasons.’ ‘Certain amount of cliental look for cross-training, adults come in for self defense, and you have parents sign up their kids for discipline and work ethic.’

    Purita has trained with the first family of Jiu-Jitsu, the Gracies.’ Gracie jui-jitsu is an adapted version of traditional Japanese jui-jitsu that was modified by members of the Gracie family in Brazil in the early 1900s.’ Today the name is synonymous with submission fighting, and is used by many of the worlds top fighters.’ Purita has also been involved in seminars with one of mixed martial arts longest running superstars, Frank Shamrock.’ On March 29, Shamrock competed in one of the most anticipated MMA events ever not under the UFC banner when he fought Cung Le in San Jose.’ He also holds victories over big names such as Tito Ortiz and Bas Rutten.

    Purita opened his own gym in St. James in the early ’90s, but eventually took over the Unified Martial Arts gym years later.
    ‘ ‘
    Today’s mixed martial artist is different from those who fought during the original era.’ After the initial events in 1993, the UFC was blacklisted because it was thought to be to brutal, and not enough rules were in place.’ Fights were no longer televised on Pay Per View, and many states refused to regulate the sport.’ The company barely held on.’ But today it is the shining light of the mixed martial arts scene.’
    ‘ ‘
    In May 2001, a landmark event occurred in the sport.’ The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board ‘drafted and adopted rules known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts under which the sport is now governed,’ according to MMAfacts.com, a website recently launched by the UFC to tout the sport in hopes of getting it sanctioned in New York state.’ This led to other state athletic commissions sanctioning the sport, and allowed it to be put on Pay Per View again.’ To date the New York State Athletic Commission has not sanctioned MMA.’ Those wishing to see the events live still need to travel to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut or to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

    In the year 2007, the average UFC gate revenue drew $2.8 million, according to MMAfacts.com, with the majority of events taking place in Las Vegas.’ The sport as a whole has taken off since the New Jersey State Athletic Commissions rulings, and gyms and sparring centers like Purita’s have sprung up all over the country.

    Purita’s gym is rather small.’ Walk in past the quaint office directly on the left where Sensei spends his time before the evening classes begin, and you see the raised up floor covered with mats where the action takes place.’ The wall running down the right side of the gym is covered in full length mirrors.’ The wall directly across the room is adorned with an American and Japanese flag.’ Against the back wall sits assorted gloves, pads and punching dummies.’ A basket sits in the far left corner, holding various poles and weapons.’
    ‘ ‘
    ‘All those weapons over there are basically modeled after farmers tools,’ said Josh, a student in his mid-20s from Bay Shore who has been training for four months.’ ‘The poor farmers trained to fight because they were tired of the big armies coming in and killing.’ Really getting into the history of the art is great.’
    ‘ ‘
    Josh’s training doesn’t extend far beyond his weekly sessions with Purita.’ He has a young child at home who takes up most of his time.’ He still enjoys the workout and discipline he receives by coming down to the gym every week.

    Along with Josh, two other men are training on this night with Sensei Purita.’ Joe, wearing the same yellow belt and white outfit as Josh, and Chuck, a Judo competitor, wearing a blue outfit and blue belt.

    The workouts began with multiple stretching exercises and cardio workouts.’ After completing that, one-on-one drills began.’ Sensei Purita paired up with Josh, and Joe paired up with Chuck.’ Each pair came together, locked at the elbows, and ended with a judo leg sweep.

    ‘You can knock me down,’ Chuck said to Joe.

    ‘Okay.’

    ‘Nice,’ Chuck said while flat on his back.’ They stood up again.

    ‘Damn,’ he muttered the second time his back landed flat on the mat.

    The striking drills continued.’ The three students stood next to each other, throwing various strikes as the Sensei barked out orders.’ Left round house kicks.’ Right hooks.’ Spinning back fists.’ Body parts in perpetual motion thrusting through the air, creating ‘swish’ sounds as the air tried to resist.’ Ten of each strikes, spread just seconds apart.’ Sensei counted out each one, yelling out the numerals in Japanese.

    Their attention then turned to another part of martial arts, one that is often overlooked.’ Defense.’ Among all mixed martial arts events sanctioned by state athletic commissions in the United States, only one death has ever occurred directly related to an in ring incident.’ Sam Vazquez died late last year after an event in Houston’s Toyota Center, which also houses the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

    Each man ran through his set of strikes, his partner using his arms and legs to block the damage.

    ‘Oh!’ Joe winced in pain after catching Chuck’s forearm in the ribs.’ ‘Yeah, you caught me with the edge of your forearm.’

    Sensei ended the drill and the partners switched places.’ ‘Well, now it’s your turn,’ he told Joe.’ ‘Pay him back.” They laughed, and the tw
    o men shook hands, exchanged apologies, and continued on.

    The combatants went back and forth, and with each solid strike and every hard fall to the mat, the momentary grimaces were quickly replaced with smiles.

    Sensei soon brought a stop to this routine, and the three men stood shoulder to shoulder, staring intently at their teacher.’ He called Josh forward first, and as quickly as Sensei took hold of his wrist, he was on his back tapping the mat furiously,’ trying to end the quick and sudden shot of pain.’ One by one, Sensei walked towards his students, and one by one, they all went to the mat tapping.

    The men squared off once again and attempted to implement this new hold on each other.’ Josh grabbed Chuck and spun his arm behind his back, to no avail.

    ‘Were you going really light?,’ Chuck asked him.

    ‘Yeah.’

    ‘Try again, put some more pressure.’

    ‘Okay.’

    ‘Ah, ah, yeah, you got it,’ Chuck said while grunting in pain.

    After Chuck was able to pick himself up off the ground, Sensei approached him again, demonstrating another submission.

    ‘Wow, that looked painful,’ Joe said as he watched his training partner squirm in pain.’ ‘I’m sure I’ll find out for sure in a second, actually,’ he quickly added.

    As the men finished up training with their Sensei, he bowed out of the mat and attended to a few other people in the waiting area.’ But his students continued to work, doing push-ups, more stretches.’ Those who train in mixed martial arts know the training never stops.’

    With the booming popularity of the sport, there will always be someone bigger, stronger, faster.’ But hard work and discipline, two core fundamentals of the ancients arts, and training in small gyms is still enough for those looking to focus their energy, and not looking to become a superstar.

    On the big screen televisions, where the current superstars are worshipped by the masses, Anderson Silva takes down Dan Henderson and lands on his back.’ He quickly slips one arm under Henderson’s chin and begins squeezing the air out of him.’ Henderson turns purple before finally succumbing and tapping on the mat to end his misery.’ The crowd erupts.’ Perhaps they don’t truly appreciate all the training that these fighters do, but their interest and money is what pushes more and more young men into mixed martial arts training.’

    The old and new roots mixed together.’ That’s what will take MMA to the next level.

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