“Why do you want to work in such a violent business?”
This is usually the first question people ask when they find out that I work in public relations for mixed martial arts. I used to give a vague answer, something along the lines of, “Because I enjoy the sport and I enjoy photography, so it is the perfect job for me!” Then I noticed people were frequently unfriending me on facebook due to my “violent” photos or (more often) making comments about the “hot” guys (and girls) I get to photograph (not that I’m arguing, but there are plenty of hot guys who don’t fight) I started thinking people might have the completely wrong idea about why a female (or anyone, for that matter) would want to be involved in MMA.
“Why would anyone want to fight?”
That is the typical follow-up question. Why put yourself through the pain, the potential for broken limbs, the brutal training, the weight cutting, the whole spectrum of difficulty leading to a mano a mano battle of wills in a public display? Who wants to get hit in the face, knocked out, put to sleep, bloodied, battered, bruised or beaten? (And believe me, it’s not always the loser who is in the worst physical shape at the end of the fight.) There are lots of sports to showcase athletic ability – cage fighting seems to be the most dangerous, why choose it over any other sport?
I had a sudden realization of why I identify so closely with fighters and MMA in general. Inspired by a conversation I had recently with one of the fighters I work with, it occurred to me that fighting is more than a physical combat sport. Step in the cage with another man and you are stepping in the cage with yourself. You fight with hands and limbs and spirit against another human being and also against your own fears, your own endurance, your own abilities and the strength and devotion you have to your training.
Don’t we all fight those battles every day? We fight against life itself…our ability to stay on our feet, our ability to fight back even when we know (or think) we can’t win, our ability to avoid tight spots and take a few nasty falls. I know my struggles have been plenty. I’ve battled cancer, the loss of a child, becoming a single mother and learning how to take care of my children by myself. Now I’m fighting the loss of my hearing. My struggles aren’t any more or less difficult than anyone else’s; they just are what they are. I don’t fight in a cage. I never will. I’ve devoted my life to standing strong for my children and raising them. I will fight for them no matter what that means for me.
Sometimes people say that a fighter has “heart.” It means he or she is willing to push forward even when he is getting rained on by strikes, willing to come back from losing two rounds and devastate in the third even if he goes on to lose the fight. It means he is willing to test and push his limits, show no fear, and fight to the end no matter what the result. I’m inspired by that and hope that, regardless of what life has in store for me, I will always fight adversity with heart and spirit.
As long as I am able, I will carry on capturing moments and stories like these in cage fighting. To remind you (and myself) to breathe, to focus, to push the pace, to stand your ground and never give up. And if you find the sport too violent to handle, if the blood and intensity offends you, if you think you are in a position to judge someone because of what they love, then maybe you haven’t had to fight in your own life, or maybe you’ve chosen not to. I choose to fight and will continue to do so, even if I never wear a pair of gloves to do it.
To those I know, thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your fight career, you all mean the world to me and I hope that what I do is beneficial for you all in some way. A good many of you are like family to me, standing in my corner when I’m broken down, exhausted, and ready to give up and I am grateful for that, too. Conflict means much more to me than just business – it’s an opportunity for me to be immersed in a sport that I love and that means something big in my life.