MMA After Hours
Cage Fighters Grapple with Poker
MMA is definitely one of the world’s most popular sports nowadays and its popularity hasn’t shown any signs of decline. As more and more individuals continue to pursue professional cage careers, their numbers are also matched by those who simply want to engage themselves in the sport not only for its health and fitness benefits, but for the kind of mental discipline it instills in its practitioners as well.
As the sport continues to encourage more and more people worldwide to troop to MMA practice and training gyms, it’s interesting to note how the most successful fighters in the arena are also taking to other sporting pursuits outside of MMA, but this time, not of the physically demanding kind. What we’re referring to is also arguably the one mind-sport that can go toe-to-toe with MMA in terms of global domination: professional poker.
Poker has a shared history with MMA in that both sports used to be negatively regarded (even banned in certain places). However, thanks to massive media marketing campaigns, globally broadcast tournaments, and celebrity players and fighters on both sides achieving cult personality status, both franchises have left their negative reputations behind. Both have since achieved phenomenal gains in the last ten years and continue to be major movers in the sporting world.
Poker has seen more than its fair share of MMA celebrity participants, and these professional fighters have been seen in a number of high-profile tournaments. Some, like Heath Herring and Rami Boukai, have even decided to retire as MMA professionals to become devote more time participating in the high-stakes professional poker circuit. Others, like Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Randy “The Natural” Couture, Terrence Chan, and Georges St-Pierre, have all been seen either as eager participants in poker charity tournaments or as professional tournament bets in such high-stakes partypoker showdowns like the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour. Unfortunately, none of the MMA players (with the possible exception of Terrence Chan) have been able to achieve notable performance stats so far.
As to how long the marriage between the two sports will last, it appears that they’ll be in it for the long run. Aside from the obvious welcome physical reprieve that playing poker provides MMA fighters, the card game also provides quite the appropriate venue for fighters to practice the mental discipline they’ve been taught to hone as cage fighters and apply the same to psyche and out-psyche their opponents at the tables. Nobody has been able to get a shot at any poker titles yet, so for now, they’ll all have to grapple with the sport and do some “ground and pound” just like everybody else.