Kickboxing is the Compassionate Sport that MMA Is Not

This past weekend at GLORY 15 Istanbul the world of combat sports was given another glimpse into the dark side of being a striker when Tyrone Spong’s shin snapped upon landing a low kick on Gokhan Saki’s knee. It’s something that we saw just four months again in MMA at UFC 168 when Chris Weidman checked a low kick from Anderson Silva that saw Silva’s shin snap. We were then “treated” to endless exposition about checked leg kicks, streams of faux-expertise in the matter and public declarations from Chris Weidman and Ray Longo as to the intention of the move.

Hell, we even got a special professional wrestling-style finishing move name out of it; The Knee Destruction.

It’s safe to say that the Silva/Weidman injury left a bad taste in the mouths of some longtime fans. What was most damning might be the reaction that we saw from fans. Matt Serra’s iconic, “good, fuck ’em” call became a metaphor for the reaction of a large portion of the MMA community. The king was dead, long live the new king; fuck ’em. It was troubling, to say the least.

Kickboxing’s fan base here in the United States is not quite as large as MMA’s, but at the same time, there is a lot of overlap and people starting to take the sport of Kickboxing seriously. When I think about the two leg breaks I think of two iconic images. The first comes from UFC 168, the reaction of Chris Weidman as Anderson Silva lay writhing, screaming in pain on the mat.

ufc168_11_weidman_vs_silva_029What we see is the UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, fingers pointed to the sky sprinting around the Octagon after his victory. Now, there is nothing technically wrong with Weidman celebrating his victory. I mean, he defeated the fighter who many consider one of the best of all-time in MMA, he deserves to celebrate.  Chris Weidman also was concerned about Silva and did, of course, check on him. This isn’t really about Chris Weidman, though, it is about the public’s reaction and the public image. The image tells a story, though, all while encompassing MMA and the UFC’s public image. MMA is a brutal sport where fighters get injured and forgotten about, now look at Anderson writhing in pain on a blood-stained mat to solidify that image in your head.

Now for GLORY 15.

saki_spong_g15A stoic Tyrone Spong fell over after the leg break, the look on his face was pained, but he refused to lose control. The immediate reaction from Gokhan Saki was disbelief, his gloves were covering his head as he closed his eyes in horror. He then rushed to Spong’s side to not only console him, but to apologize to him. Saki speaking about his win was proud of his victory and accomplishment, but was still in shock and visibly upset about Spong’s injury. It was natural, human concern. The ref hadn’t even called for the bell at this point.

Kickboxing as a sport is still growing here in the United States and the fight between Gokhan Saki and Tyrone Spong was one that fans were very excited about. The world was going to be watching and whatever happened in this fight was going to be a huge moment for not only the fighters, but for GLORY and the sport of Kickboxing itself. What happened was a freak injury, a replay of what we saw at UFC 168, but fans were able to take away positive images from the affair. Fans are talking about this leg break, but there is nothing mean surfacing, just concern and respect. The way that it should be.

Saki fans aren’t gloating at Spong fans and Spong fans aren’t calling Saki names.

This is how you grow a sport. This is how you project a positive image and it doesn’t come from marketing, it comes from respect for not only the sport but the athletes within it.