POSTED ON APRIL 17, 2013:
Fists Up for Fans
Plus, who's looking out for the fighters?
What are some of the rituals sports fans perform? Scratch that, as it may be too broad a subject. Let's narrow this topic down.
What behaviors do fans exhibit when they meet their favorite athletes?
A few common acts of affection include shaking hands, asking for an autograph, or even posing for a picture.
This happens across the celebrity spectrum, too. Actors, musicians, and sports figures answer the same requests and same questions day after day. Most are happy to do so.
Remember that autograph you were determined to get when you were a kid? And it's on a folded-up napkin? Where is that napkin today? While some souvenirs are quickly lost, some souvenirs last forever. Usually, those are photos.
The fists-up pose -- or some variation of it -- is the go-to move for fight enthusiasts. You know the one: fists raised as if taking on the photographer, sometimes it's a similar look but with a thumbs-up, or some other little change. Fight lovers do this, and other sports have their signature ways to prove to your friends you met someone famous.
In golf, you get a flag or ball signed. Baseball might be a card or baseball signature. There is no shortage of Billy Sims or Jason White autographed footballs in the Oklahoma area, and a close encounter with Kate Upton can be proven by drool marks on your cheek.
When fans meet fighters, it is possible they will get a pair of gloves signed or perhaps the object of their ardor might happen to have a portrait available at the right moment. Either would make a fine addition to their collection.
But more often than not, fight fans will simply ask for a picture with their new friend, move in close to the fighter, and raise a fist. Soon after, you can count on a new Facebook or Twitter profile picture. No casting of stones here, because I'm guilty of doing exactly that. But why? Do we think about it at all? Why do we throw our fist up automatically before the camera flash?
Center, Pablo Veloquio
Several items factor in to our decision or non-decision. For starters, we have seen so many of these pictures it seems like the thing to do. It's ingrained. You have a minute or two with your favorite fighter, no time to plan out the perfect greeting, much less an ideal photo op. You toss your smartphone to a buddy and hope for the best.
The fighter naturally throws up a fist--because that's what he does for a living--and you follow suit.
And maybe that's the answer. When the fighter shows knuckles, you feel inclined to follow his or her lead. So why did he or she flex their bicep and make a fist?
That answer is much easier to diagnose. When fighters are coming up the ranks, they are required to have a certain look for promoters to take notice. A fighter can be a legitimate badass, but if a promoter puts a picture of him playing the tuba in the advertisement, no one will take him seriously. So fighters learn from an early stage in their career to show their fighting stance. Flash the fists of furry and scowl. You know, look pissed.
The combatants also use the fight stance/fist-up pose after weigh-ins as an attempt to intimidate the opponent and stare down his soul. But make no mistake about it, a fist will be involved.
Some fighters mix it up a bit. UFC Hall of Fame member Chuck Liddell flashes his signature thumb-up-pinky-extended look. And guess what happens to the fist of pretty much anyone who takes a picture with him?
What are the alternatives? Wrapping your arm around a (sweaty) stranger? Awkward. Request a stare-down? Hokey. If he or she throws up the fist pose, can you resist the sudden urge to join them?
Don't fight it.
A week ago, the MMA community suffered another death following an unregulated bout. Felix Pablo Elochukwu competed in his first mixed martial arts contest in Michigan and collapsed on his walk from the ring to the dressing area after three rounds. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. No autopsy results have been released so far.
This is an eerily similar situation that Tulsa experienced back in September of 2011 when former TU football player and novice in the combat community George Clinkscale participated in an unsanctioned bout.
Regulation -- done in our state under the watch of the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission -- does not prevent serious injury. It doesn't prevent death, either. There have been plenty of boxers pass away as a result of regulated, sanctioned fights around the world. At least three mixed martial artists have died following regulated bouts in the past six years.
In fact, in just about any sport, death is a possibility. No need to explain this to NASCAR fans. The Olympics are not exempt, and the National Football League commissioner's biggest fear is a death on the field.
Regulating mixed martial arts bouts will never eliminate injury or worse. The same goes for more traditional sports.
However, fighters, trainers, and promoters should do everything in their power to secure sanctioning and regulation of their events.
Remember, too, that most of these unsanctioned events feature amateur fighters. So not only do they skip any medical precautions that come with sanctioning procedures, but they're doing so for free.
An athletic commission's fee is a small price to pay when compared with the alternative.
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