Thursday, December 18, 2008

ASU on the MMA scene

No sport is experiencing the rapid growth that the world of Mixed Martial Arts is currently enjoying. With each UFC promotion drawing more viewers than the last, the sport is a bonafide global phenomenan. Recently, Arizona State has seen its ties with the sport take on a national spotlight.

On Dec. 13, former ASU All-American wrestler Ryan "Darth" Bader became the latest winner of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter 8." Bader's light-heavyweight title on the show has earned him a six-figure contract with the UFC, MMA's top-notch promotion.

Bader, who wrestled for the Sun Devils from 2003-2006 and won three Pac-10 titles, was the second straight ASU alum to appear in the finals of TUF. His roommate, former ASU wrestler CB Dolloway was the runner-up on the TUF 7. He was dominating eventual winner Amir Sadollah in the championship match until he got careless and Sadollah submitted him with an arm bar.

Despite the loss, UFC head honcho Dana White gave Dolloway a shot in the octagon. "The Doberman" made the most of it on July 19, when he defeated Jesse Taylor (who would have been in the finals of TUF 7 if not for a drunken romp through Vegas got him kicked off the show) with his go-to-move, the peruvian necktie. It was the first time in UFC history that the move had been succesful in a submission.

Bader needed only his fists to claim the crown last Saturday. A first round haymaker to the head of Vinicius Magalhaes earned him the belt and the big payday.

On his website, Bader says the allure of MMA fighting always surrounded the ASU wrestling team.

"After joining the ASU Wrestling team, I met some of the friends that would lead me into my MMA career. It seems like during my 4 years at ASU, MMA began to gain popularity and a lot of guys that I competed with and against are now in, or are entering MMA. Guys like Johnny Hendricks, Shane Roller, Jake Rosholt, and Josh Koscheck are competing now, not to mention my ASU teammates and coaches, such as CB Dollaway, Aaron Simpson, Jesse Forbes, Cain Velasquez and Kellan Fluckiger. At ASU, we were all fans of MMA and a lot of the guys above helped Jesse Forbes (TUF 3) prepare for his fight against Matt Hamill."

Bader and Dolloway both train at Arizona Combat sports in Tempe, an MMA training center notrious for producing some of the sports best up and coming strikers.

A lot of people shy away from promoting this sport, noting that it is too violent. But I think ASU should laud the accomplishments of its athletes. MMA is a sport of dedication and intensity, and while it often carries a certain stigma around of the sport being a bloody, testoerone-driven free-for-all, the accomplishments the former Sun Devils are acheiving in the sport are a result of an incredible amount of hard work and athletic talent. Something I can show a lot of love for.
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