Mano a Mano

Gone may be the mud-wrestling at the military enlisted clubs and likewise the strippers from the officers’ clubs. The days of scantily clad women (and men as the night wore on), not to mention a whole lotta alcohol, are but a fuzzy memory. Ah, the narcissistic decadence of it all. 

Fast-forward a few years, and hello, mano a mano. 

“Ultimate Fighting” has been all the rage with young males on and off military installations and is touted as a pretty darn good recruiting-and-retention tool. (Narcissism is alive and well.) This sport, also referred to as mixed martial arts, was outlawed a decade ago as human cockfighting. With guidelines in place, it is now legit and big in warfighter circles. Give the target market what it craves and build cagefighters (uh, warriors) at the same time. It’s brilliant, efficient, and apparently effective on several levels. Why not, and why not more of it?! 

The Army has had the technique in its professional scope for some time. It established its Combatives School at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2001 and published FM 3-25 150 “Combatives” in 2002. The sport has evolved producing pro-worthy military fighters for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Commercial promoters also have gotten in on the frenzy and have sponsored events such as “GIs vs. Pros” (casino-based, of course). Will the next step be cagefighting? (That’s right, two guys in a cage.) It’s already happened at Fort Knox, Ky., and there have been military competitors in World Extreme Cagefighting. Who knew? (Someone should clue in Virginia Sen. Jim “Women Can’t Fight” Webb and Marine Gen. James “I Like Brawlin’ ” Mattis. These two are born cagefighters.) 

Ultimate Fighting is a smart move in a challenging market. If nothing else, it shows an understanding of a crucial younger audience. Where else can you fire weapons and fight legally (and often) except the U.S. military? The proud, the toned, and the tattooed have found a home. Score one for the body snatchers.

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