VOLUME 28 NO. 9 | FEBRUARY 21 - 27, 2009

Fight club: MMA fan base grows

Last updated 2-19-09 at 11:22 a.m.
Ground fighting during competition: The dominant fighter Mac Danzig maintains a knee-on-stomach maneuver while delivering strikes over Takumi Nakayama.Photo provided by Mike Ghuijin.

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Michael Snyder is an accountant by day and fights in a cage at night. The 24-year-old University of Washington graduate is one of many who are drawn to the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), a combination of boxing, wrestling, and martial arts.

“It’s popular for several reasons. It’s new, exciting, and different from any other sport,” said Tom Kim, who maintains a blog for the Seattle P-I focusing on MMA. Kim, a student of MMA, added, “I think it’s the purest form of competition. There are no teammates to hide behind, [and] no referees to blame (for the most part); it’s just two fighters relying on their physical and mental attributes to determine [who] the best is.”

Kim’s interest in MMA began when he saw videos of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993. “The future of MMA is very bright. … Despite its massive popularity, the general public still hasn’t fully embraced it. As more people understand it, however, the sport will become more mainstream and eventually be as popular as every other ‘big’ sport.”

While MMA today may not garner the fan base of professional football, baseball, or basketball, its growing popularity is undeniable.

The UFC pay-per-view event held during Super Bowl weekend featured Hawaiian-native B.J. Penn challenging champion Georges St. Pierre. It drew a sold-out crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Although official numbers have not yet been released, the UFC expected the pay-per-view buys to be more than 1.3 million, up from the Oscar De La Hoya–Manny Pacquiao fight this past December, which generated 1.25 million.

As for Snyder, the road to stardom may take a while. Due to an injury during training that required stitches on his face, he had to withdraw only weeks before his first MMA fight. Although Snyder’s injuries include black eyes and bloody noses, Snyder’s co-workers are very supportive of his UFC ambitions.

Initially, Snyder became interested in martial arts during his senior year at the University of Washington. In an effort to get in shape, Snyder and a friend decided to take a martial arts class offered through the school’s intramural program.

Snyder said they chose Judo because “[it] was cooler than Kung Fu.”

Once he started, Snyder couldn’t stop. He decided to train at established gyms in the International District — Seattle Dojo and Budokan Judo.

Established in 1902, Seattle Dojo is the oldest Judo Dojo in the United States.

Snyder competed in Judo tournaments locally and decided to train for MMA after watching the UFC on television. He trains three days a week at a gym owned by former UFC competitor Ivan Salaverry.

“Martial arts training is good background for MMA,” Munoz said. For this reason, Munoz, a Filipino American, thinks more Asian Americans will be stepping into the cage because of their background in traditional martial arts. In March, Munoz will be making his UFC debut on pay-per-view.

For those interested in MMA but don’t want to step into a ring, there are also places to just get a workout. “Many people who train are only looking to get in shape or just learn something new and fun,” said Kim, who practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at two dif-ferent gyms. “People who live in the greater Seattle area are lucky because there are so many great gyms and schools to train at.”

One of these gyms in the Seattle area is MKG Martial Arts International, home to 400 students in the Greenwood neighborhood.

“We have definitely had a surge of people inter-ested in MMA due to the interest from the UFC. They inquire because they know we do something similar and nontraditional,” said Andy Wilson, owner of MKG. “The majority of people want to work out as their primary concern.” Wilson opened MKG in June 2000.

Even in a slumping economy, Wilson indicated that he has not yet experienced a downturn in business.

Although MKG does not train MMA fighters, it teaches various forms of martial arts used in MMA, including Muay Thai (Thai Boxing), a form of Chinese martial arts founded by Bruce Lee, and Kali, a form of Filipino Martial Arts, and Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. Additionally, the gym offers Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and kickboxing classes.

While the average person may try MMA workouts, Snyder is waiting for his shot to compete in the MMA even if it means getting hit in the face. Snyder shrugged it off and said, “It’s crazy. But, I don’t mind it.” (end)

For more information on Tom Kim’s blog, visit blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/ultimatefan. For more information on MKG Martial Arts International, visit www.mkgseattle.com. For more information on Seattle Dojo, visit www.seattledojo.org. For more information on Budokan Dojo, visit www.budokanjudoseattle.com.

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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