MMA Opinion: Snapshot

Holly Holm punch
s.secure.espncdn.com / ESPN / UFC
Years ending can be a time of reflection. Often that reflection includes looking over old photos. If you were born in this century, you probably could not imagine having only a limited number of photos or photo-taking capabilities. The advent of technology and its catapult social media has created an environment where only the very best images ever need to be seen. In fact, even the good images can be doctored to be great before any exposure of the awful truth – we’re humans! So far has this phenomenon evolved that it is sort of a big deal if someone posts what might be considered a candid shot that is not perfect. Where the hair is a little (only a little) out of place and little baby Chase’s birthday cake got a little (only a little) messy. Chase is probably a poodle by the way.

Cynicism aside, fighting is made up of moments too. And at the professional level of Mixed Martial Arts, those moments are captured for all time. No question, the above mentioned social media monster will meme-ify and blast some of those worst moments into viral infinitum, but there is more to consider than that shallow, surface-level material. In ye olden times, you had a limited number of exposures in your camera. You had to make every shot count. Film was expensive and you had to actually have it professionally developed – another cost by the way. One might anticipate that familiar gasp when the holiday photos were pulled from the envelope only to find little Billy was not looking at the camera or grandma had the red demon eyes. The horror!

It seems there is a little of that spirit alive in the lives of fighters. Like other sports, there are scores of highlight shots available to view the fighters at their best and worst – officially licensed or otherwise. Somehow though there seems to be a distinct difference in the fighter snapshots and our old family photo album. Remember albums of any kind? Pour one out for cassette tapes! Usually the shots we save, doctor, post, and revel in are only the best. We try and only remember our very best times – even to the point of trying to mask terrible times to make them look good. Professional fighters get no such luxury. The record of their work includes those blurry, out-of-focus, less-than-post-worthy shots that if pulled from our old-school 1-Hour Photo envelopes would quickly be discarded.

There is a question lurking here. Are snapshots capturing any level of truth or telling anything like a story? Are highlights and lowlights who the fighters actually are? Big picture (pun intended), are fans capable of coalescing all those moments into a whole? There are more obvious examples where these questions cause real meditation, e.g. B.J. Penn, Anderson Silva (asterisks and all), or Chuck Liddell. Then there are captures that looked at presently or different times only confuse. If someone were to look at two fights for example; Max Holloway versus Calvin Kattar or Holly Holm versus Irene Aldana, and saw those performances isolated as a snapshot of who they were as mixed martial artists, the conclusion is simple – they are incredible and clearly two of the best to have done it (which is true). But are they less incredible if you pulled out some of the other shots? Demon grandma shots?

Maybe the next time a spectacular highlight is shown – and remember, someone in that shot has a lowlight – think of those pictures of yourself on some cliff somewhere living your best life now and call to mind the 1200 photos in your phone that didn’t make the cut. Even better, those photos that were never taken because you would never put that version of you out there. Respect to the fighters that pose at such risk and put themselves out there. Hopefully they can be worthy of and recipients of respect for the whole picture.

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