The rulesets and cultures of MMA and soccer may differ greatly, however, there are some similarities that can be drawn when looking at the competitors who have graced the two sports.
From pies and pints to diving and derbies, you better be careful where you use the term ‘football’ in the 21st century. The most popularized sport throughout Europe, it would be a sin to refer to ‘the beautiful game’ as soccer on this side of the Atlantic, but looking over to Western culture, things are quite the opposite.
Only really propelling into the mainstream in the 1960’s, soccer isn’t part of America’s sporting heritage. The growth of both men’s and women’s soccer has continued to soar in the US, mostly due to the MLS (Major League Soccer) arriving in the mid 90’s. Some of the sport’s biggest stars have ‘Gone West’ since the Designated Player Rule was adopted in 2007, such as David Beckham and Kaka.
If there’s one sport that is sharing just as much limelight in Europe as it is in America, it’s MMA. Originating with stars from the likes of Brazil, Japan, and of course the USA, within the last decade European MMA fighters have been causing a stir on the grandest stage of all, the UFC.
Pioneers such as England’s Michael Bisping, to the notorious ‘Pride of Ireland’ Conor McGregor, these stars have been the undeniable reason to why MMA is booming so much throughout Europe today.
3. Wanderlei Silva and Pepe
At first glance, both of these bald-headed, bulldog-like athletes should give you feelings of instant intimidation. Whilst we should know in the sport of MMA not to judge a fighter’s killer instinct off of their looks, there’s no doubting both Wanderlei Silva and the Real Madrid player Pepe carry their mean demeanor over to their competitive duties.
One of the great pioneers of the ‘Chute Boxe’ style, the term violent doesn’t do justice to Wanderlei Silva’s style of fighting. ‘The Axe Murderer’ had a brutal aura around him that he carried from his early Pride days to his years in the UFC. Known infamously for his devastating knees and soccer kicks which were eventually banned in the Unified Rules of MMA, they don’t often come as vicious as Wanderlei.
Speaking of soccer kicks, the Portuguese International Pepe has shown off some of his own during his footballing career, and I don’t just mean targeting the ball. As well as his outward appearance being similar to Silva’s, his hard-tackling, tenacious defending and rough around the edges style draws close similarities to the fighter’s feared presence too.
2. N’Golo Kante and Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar made his professional MMA debut well over a decade ago, and as he displayed in his last fight at UFC 211, he is far from finished. Throughout his UFC career ‘The Answer’ has fought a who’s who of names, and more often than not his opponents have towered over him particularly in his lightweight days.
Another man with the same frame as Edgar who continues to outwork his competitors is Chelsea’s player of the season, N’Golo Kante.
The French International is known for the outstanding shift he puts in on the football pitch, often creating the illusion he is in two places at once. Much like Edgar’s never ending cardio and high-output of strikes, these two athlete’s work ethics have caused them to be very highly regarded in their professions.
1. Joey Barton and Jon Jones
Oh, how the ever so promising career of Jon Jones came crashing down so suddenly. Just as ‘Bones’ seems to be getting back on track, the list of his controversies thinks otherwise. Nike sponsorship gone, UFC poster boy no more, and a fan base that is starting to become fairly impatient with the many inconsistencies Jon Jones has in his life.
Now if you’re not the biggest footballing fan, I don’t blame you if you’re unfamiliar with the name Joey Barton. Firstly, Barton did not share the same stardom that Jones experienced in his MMA career. He was never the next big thing for English football, because unlike Jones, Barton’s controversies occurred throughout his career, rather than when he was already a ‘star.’
Violent tendencies have become a common theme both off and on the pitch for Barton, making him one of football’s most controversial characters. Detaching one of his teammate’s retinas to stubbing a cigarette out on a man’s eye. Although Jones may have his fair share of drug-related controversies, it’s fair to see he is by no means hated in his sport as much as Joey Barton is.