Thought I’d blog about this as I came across the story whilst surfing some MMA sites to keep up with the latest news. Kyle Maynards story is certainly an inspirational one, but has he bitten off more than he can chew by finally getting an MMA fight sanctioned? Initially I was gonna post this under WTF as i couldn’t quite believe it and so did a bit more research first before having a rant, then decided that this shouldn’t actually be a rant after all. If you don’t understand why I’m saying this because you don’t know who Kyle is, study the promo poster above and look carefully at Kyles pic in the bottom right hand corner. You see now? He is a congenital quad-amputee, a very rare condition meaning he was born with no arms below the elbow and no legs below the knee.
Kyle is a remarkable man. He has been in the news in the states since around 2004 and has been interviewed by Larry King, Oprah and various other high profile media types. A competitor his whole life, he has never let his disability get in the way of him doing what he loves – and what he loves is combat sports. He decided he wanted to try out for wrestling and after a long hard road where he didnt win a match for 2 years and a patient coach he eventually become a formidable high school and collegiate wrestler, wrestling against able-bodied athletes. He has been given his BJJ blue belt by Paul Creighton (himself a black belt under Renzo Gracie) and I’m pretty sure they dont just gift wrap those out of sympathy for “unfortunates” who they feel sorry for. For sure Maynard earned it, just as he has worked for and earned everything he has achieved in his life.
He has written a book (called No Excuses) and can type 50 words a minute despite having no fingers (I assume he uses a special adapted device fastened to the end of his arms for this, but it is still pretty amazing). I have nothing but respect for this guy, he is truly amazing and demonstrates what a human is capable of when they put their minds to it!
So what’s all the fuss about?
Simply because His latest goal that he has set himself is to participate in an MMA fight.
When you first read that you immediately think “how the hell can a guy with no arms and legs fight an mma match and not expect to get killed”. I think a lot of the “anti” brigade who have come out on the net about this in their droves haven’t really done their research and collected all the facts. Alan Conceicao over at Total MMA has published one such piece calling it a freakshow:
..What makes this so much more than just your garden level exploitation that almost any amateur MMA show often becomes is that the participant is missing the majority of all four limbs. The term “freak show” is adopted from, well, “freak shows”: Vaudeville type acts that depended on the gross deformities or wild actions of the participants, whether human or non-human, to sell tickets. Kyle Maynard is not being trotted out towards the typical southerner mouth breathing MMA fan as an inspiration, it is for the novelty value of a man without arms and legs being put in a position where he will be punched, kneed, and kicked. There can be no good from this, and if you pretend that you’re interested in the well being of the sport, you too should be mortified
Well to him I would say that it took me just a few minutes of googling to find out that yes indeed the fight will take place under full Amateur MMA rules, however Maynard will be regarded as a grounded fighter and therefore cannot be kicked or kneed to the head by his opponent.
To be honest with you I think Maynards opponent is actually the one at a disadvantage for the following reasons:
- If Maynard were an able-bodied “normal” man he would be a monester as he is ridiculously strong anyway. He would probably be a huge light-heavyweight or even a heavyweight, the MMA fight will take place at 135lbs – advantage Maynard.
- To move forward (from what I’ve read) Maynard kind of crawls on all fours, this will make it almost impossible for his opponent to score punches to the head from a standing position unless he is himself very agile and quick on his feet – advantage Maynard.
- Maynard is a good wrestler and he can get you down and keep you there, we dont know anything about his opponent so we can’t say for sure that Maynard will have an advantage but at worst it is likely to be pretty even in terms of wrestling ability
- It is going to be pretty difficult to submit Maynard, how can you armbar or kneebar a man with no elbows or knees?
- If he manages to mount Maynard how will he hold him there? I would imagine it would be far easier for Maynard to get out from underneath than it would be for an able-bodied opponent as there is actually less of an opponent to hold down and Kyle isn’t hampered by having to free his legs when mounted.
Personally I think Maynard has a great shot at winning it.
There are of course some other concerns: How will the ref know if Maynard is tapping? How will Maynard wear gloves? Well I assume he will stil be able to tap verbally and i believe he will wear gloves that have been modified and taped on. He has to wear them otherwise the effect of his punches given the point of contact would essentially be like strikes with the point of the elbow and cause cuts and this is an amateur rules fight (no elbows). NB: Maynard can actually direct his arms forward in punching motion like anyone can, he just doesnt have a fist on the end, he just has the bone at the end of his arm.
As an MMA fan who knows what a struggle it has been to get our sport accepted – and the job isnt completely done yet – when i see stories like this my first thought is “oh no, they are finding more ways to mess up all the good work that has been done”. But you have to do a bit of research and form your own opinions based on fact. A lot of the internet fans of MMA just jump on the bandwagon of people like Alan Conceicao and start slating the whole idea. But when you read actual interviews with Kyle like this or this you get the bigger picture.
As to whether it’s a good idea or bad one, I’d have to say there are definite arguments for and against. I am ok with the idea of this guy competing, but with some reservations: I don’t think it’s a fair fight, as I have explained I think everything in this fight favours Maynard. I give him a lot respect for wanting to compete in the first place and being so driven. But his opponent is in a bad situation in my opinion: It’s lose-lose for him. If he wins the fight, he’s the guy that beat a guy with no arms and no legs. If he loses, he’s the guy that lost to a guy with no arms and no legs. Also the way the fight will play out – with Maynard being classed as a grounded fighter from the opening bell – put’s “the mystery opponent” at a massive disadvantage straight away (I have already gone over the other reasons why this favours Maynard).
I may get criticised for saying that, given his obvious physical shortcomings, but it’s the truth. For this reason I’m not sure I’d want to see him keep fighting, as in a sense it makes a mockery of the MMA rules and for that reason and that reason only, I dont think – if he does carry on – that his matches should be billed as MMA rules. To carry on calling it MMA isn’t fair on his opponents, as to fight Maynard they immediately have to relinquish a large part of an MMA fighters arsenal of weapons.
I want to stress I don’t think Maynard fighting affects the sport of MMA as a whole. Kimbo got to fight on a much bigger stage and he was just an internet celebrity brawler (granted he made a half arsed attempt at training properly before he got bored). Ken Shamrock continues to fight way past the time he should have retired gracefully, suffering some embarassing beatings in the process and people lap it up. Maynard is credible given his previous sporting pedigree and the fact he has trained for years just for this occasion. Also as the referee of this fight says in this article, one fight can’t derail the MMA steamtrain now:
“No (single) fight can have that large of an effect on the sport,” said Cam McHargue, the MMA trainer from Georgia who will serve as the referee for Maynard’s fight on Saturday. “Remember Sammy Vasquez?”
Vasquez became the first fighter to die from injuries sustained in an MMA fight in North American in December 2007.
“Some people do, but almost everyone has moved on,” McHargue said. “It didn’t have a dramatic effect.”
Maynard is a huge fan of MMA and wouldn’t want to damage the sport I’m sure. In fact he has a chance to be able to highlight the fact that MMA is a very technical game and isn’t about two meatheads wanting to smash each other up. If a person with a disability like his can compete and win then anyone can with dedication and correct application of technique. That’s a good message to portray to the uninitiated who are still sceptical about what they percieve as “cage fighting”.
I’m definitely interested in how all this plays out and I will be scouring the net on sunday to find out how it all went down. I hope there’s some video somewhere as I’d love to actually see the fight.