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From the Coliseum to the Cage: The Rebirth of Combat Sports In Modern Society The Roman Empire was

the clear and dominant World Power in its reign from 330 AD to 1453 AD. There cultural, political, as well as scientific developments helped shape the modern world as it is today. However one of the most infamous products of the Roman Empire were their gladiator battles. Slaves were armed and forced to fight one another, usually to the death, in hopes of obtaining glory or freedom. The popularity of these fights rivaled to none in the Roman Empire, and flocks of the rich and poor would make their way to see these fights. With the abolishment of these fights by Constantine at the end of the Roman Empire it seemed combat sports had no place in modern society. However, this happens not to be the case, and MMA or mixed martial arts is becoming the fastest growing sport in the world. How is it a sport where two men battle each other in hand-to-hand combat has become so popular in our civilized modern society? The answer is simple; even though Rome fell just under 600 years ago people have remained the same. Though not to the death like the gladiators before them, today’s fighters have still produced some of the most violent and bloody spectacles in sports. So why is it MMA has grown in popularity then? The answer is simple, just like the Romans before us; people still have the love of violence and competition. It is a primal instinct that has been instilled in people as well as animals to prove dominance. It is this natural instinct that drives the fans of these violent sports as well as the fighters themselves to compete in them. Just as spectators erupted in excitement as a gladiator delivers the final blow to his opponent, so do fans today as one fighter

knocks another unconscious. Though gladiator fights were to the death and MMA fights are not, both still can attribute their success and popularity to the love of violence in human nature. The UFC or Ultimate Fighting Championship is the fast growing and most popular MMA organization in the world. It is the dream of many aspiring fighters to one-day fight in this league just as many gladiators dreamed of one day fighting in the Coliseum. Six figure salaries; sponsorships, women, and becoming a household name are just some of the reasons people sacrifice their bodies in hopes of of reaching the top tier of the MMA profession. Once in the UFC fighters face only the toughest of opponents, but with victory comes this profound glory. This is the case for arguably already the greatest fighter of all time Jon “Bones” Jones. Holding the longest title defense streak in all weight divisions, Jon Jones has become a legend amongst not only the MMA community but in all of sports. His fame has led him to become the first mixed martial artist to ever be sponsored by Nike, a feature in GQ, gracing the cover of the UFC video game, and a salary of just under $1,000,000. His success is similar to that of Spiculus, a first century Gladiator, who after countless victories was awarded wealth, slaves and a palace. His fame continued to grow with each passing victory, so much so that upon being overthrown in 68 AD Emperor Nero asked to be slain at the hands of Spiculus. However was not the case for most Gladiators, who were simply fighting for their lives. Most Gladiators were slaves who fought in hopes of one day to be awarded freedom and better their lives. The battle between Priscus & Verus in the first Century AD is one of the most famous accounts of this freedom being earned. As their intense battle raged on for hours,

both fighters conceded to one another simultaneously, and the crowd as well as the emperor were so pleased both fighters were granted freedom, and left the stadium arms around one another. Like these two famous Gladiators before them, UFC fighters Stephan Bonner and Forrest Griffin also fought in hopes to better their lives. Though not for freedom, these two fought for a contract to help better their lives as well as their family. Their fight was intense and bloody start to finish, neither fighter willing to concede until the final bell. The match was so close, and even though Forrest Griffin was named the winner; both fighters, arms around each other, received the news they’d both be receiving contracts by UFC President, Dana White. Some enter the cage to fight for fame, whereas others enter for hopes of a better life, either way it is the hope for a better tomorrow that motivates the fighters today as well as the gladiators of the past. MMA like gladiator battles of Rome gained popularity because they brought together many cultures, and participants came from every aspect of life. Fighters can be broke or wealthy, and came from all corners of the world and still have success. With them they bring aspects of their culture, which can be seen in their fighting styles and personalities. Famous fighters like Anderson Silva and Antonio Nogureira came from horribly poor backgrounds and closely relate to most gladiators of Rome. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum fighters like BJ Penn and Chad Sonnen come from wealth just as Emperor Commodus, who fought in the arena on occasions did. Brazil snaps limbs with its unique form of Jiu-Jitsu, Thailand delivers deadly knees, elbows, and kicks with Muy Thai, and the United States tends to take opponents down with its Wrestling. Just as culture influences fighting style in

present day MMA so did it in the Roman Empire. Gaul’s stuck by their basic sword, Thracians used their widely feared Rhomphaia (type of spear), and the Sarmatian’s preferred their Kontos (lance). This clash of cultures as well as personal backgrounds is what makes every fight unique. When different styles collide the outcome is almost always unpredictable and is a huge reason why the UFC like the coliseum before it, has seen much success. Though abolished hundreds of years ago, one does not need to watch a Hollywood movie to see what a gladiator battle would have been like. A simple journey to an arena to watch a mixed martial arts fight and one can have an accurate depiction of what these events would have looked like in the Roman Empire. The love of violence, thirst for fame, and mixing of cultures are what gave gladiators there