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‘Modern Warriors’: The MMA/Gladiator Connection

(Well, that’s what you get for leaving it in the hands of the judges.)

Friends, Romans, CagePotatoans, lend me your ears. We’re all familiar with the UFC’s famous gladiator introduction. And if you’re familiar with it, you probably want them to change it. Guess what? It ain’t happening. Dana White (along with most Americans) is fascinated by that era of Roman history and its various dramatic representations, be it in the movie Spartacus, HBO’s Rome or the upcoming movie The Eagle. One can’t help but be infatuated with their tales of valor, violence, and debauchery. We can all go peruse Wikipedia and learn about the roots of MMA in pankration, so there’s no need for us to delve into its lineage and bore you.

Let’s take a quick look at gladiators. Many of them were slaves or prisoners condemned to fight, though there are some who volunteered for the job. While most gladiators’ non-fighting lives were rife with pain and sorrow — I mean, they were slaves after all — stepping into the arena was seen as a blessing, a chance to showcase their skills, a place to hear the cheers of the crowd and the love of the people. Some gladiators were as popular in the arena as the Senators themselves. While outsiders saw combat as barbaric and violent, it was a necessary evil to the combatants in order to attain glory.

For the gladiator, it wasn’t always about winning or losing, though losing could prove to be fatal; it was also about getting the crowd behind you. Most people aren’t aware that many gladiatorial contests were worked (like wrasslin’) in order to garner fan support. Look at it like Chris Lytle making a deal to try and win Fight of the Night. If you fought valiantly, the crowd cheered — unless you kept losing. We’ve all seen that “thumbs up or thumbs down” scene in Gladiator; well that wasn’t exactly accurate, but it wasn’t too far off from the truth. Your life was potentially in the hands of the official over the games and if they weren’t entertained, you died.

It’s obvious how MMA fighters can relate to that, fighting for next to nothing in front of blood-lusting crowds who cheered if you were proven worthy. Especially more recently with your contract status being held on by a string following an unexciting fight, many fighters choose to go out on their shields rather than play it safely. MMA fighters are called “modern day gladiators” and the name fits. In fact, here’s a short-list of fighters who have been directly inspired by Roman society and the gladiators.

Ross “The Gladiator” Pointon – Remember him from The Ultimate Fighter Season 3? The Brit who loved to drink? Recipient of one of the worst gashes in MMA history? He went 6-10 in MMA and is now seemingly retired, but at least he won his last fight.

Lucio “Spartan” Linhares – He had a brief stint in the UFC, losing in a rhyming last name battle to Rousimar Palhares as well as Yushin Okami. He’s 21-6 overall and has won his last two outside of the Octagon.

Alessio “Legionarius” Sakara – Sakara is probably most famous for his passion for body art. You may also remember him from the Houston Alexander fight where we found out that Houston Alexander is for real, or at least was at one time. Legionarius actually had a career as a pro boxer, sports an MMA record of 15-7-0-1, and is currently on a three-fight winning streak. He returns at UFC on Versus 3 against Rafael Natal.

Vinicius "Spartan" Kappke de Queiroz – He fought at UFC 120, and was immediately bounced out for steroid use. The Chute Boxe product faced Rob Broughton in his sole Octagon appearance, losing by third-round RNC.

Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio – A lightweight fighter who had a few fights in the UFC, losing to Evan Dunham, Clay Guida, Tyson Griffin, and Hermes Franca. Despite his submission skills and BJJ blackbelt, he most recently dropped a decision to Shinya Aoki last September.

Roman Mitichyan – Yes, technically this isn’t a nickname, but I had to include him. He was the contestant on The Ultimate Fighter who had the meltdown in the doctor’s office after being told he couldn’t fight. (“I’m not a poosie” is still said around my house.) He’s 7-3 and was cut from the UFC after losing to George Sotiropoulos.

• It’s not only fighters, Bellator is Latin for “warrior” and their logo is a Roman centurion. And the Gladiator Challenge promotion is even more obvious about their admiration of ancient sport-violence.

Of course all didn’t end well for the gladiators and fans of the games. Outside pressure from Senators and magistrates led to disfavor of the contests in legislative circles. In addition, the increase in the popularity of Christianity in the Roman empire caused many to judge the games through a newer eye. Constantine I, best known to the uneducated as a character in a 2005 Keanu Reeves movie of the same name, was the first Christian Roman Emperor and the first to ban gladiator contests, stating “In times in which peace and peace relating to domestic affairs prevail bloody demonstrations displease us. Therefore, we order that there may be no more gladiator combats.”

Politicians pushing their moral values upon the people, telling them what’s good for them by banning certain things. Sound familiar? While MMA lacks the deaths and gore of Roman gladiator combat, we still have detractors in positions of power trying to tell fans that our sport isn’t good for us. Hopefully, MMA doesn’t go the way of the gladiators.

We’ve discussed how current MMA draws from gladiator culture. Recently, representations of the era in pop culture have clearly been drawing inspiration from MMA — and for good reason. I know, everyone thinks the Gracies invented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and all the holds therein, but that’s not necessarily true. Fighters have been using those techniques for centuries. The above video is from the Starz acclaimed series Spartacus (which is the shit, by the way), about the events preceding the famous slave revolt. This particular scene is where the owner of the "ludus" (gladiator training school) named Batiatus has made a wager with a smug punk rival of his to have his best warrior fight in the streets. I don’t want to spoil the clip, but the reason why we included it here is there’s a sequence that is remnant of a very famous sequence in MMA history. It is, of course, violent and vulgar, so if you are averse to that, close your eyes and ears.

Cagepotato Comments

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danomite- January 31, 2011 at 1:57 pm
fuck Channing Tatum and the cock he rode in on.
fatbellyfrank- January 31, 2011 at 1:52 pm
@ RWR and CCman, I would like to see Xena's knockers as well
RwilsonR- January 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm
@ ccman - I would have rather seen Xena's tits (and Marissa Tomei's) before she turned 40, but I'll still look at 'em now. They are still pretty damn nice.

@ FBF - good point. The pussification of our society will be the downfall of us all. Somebody should put that bitch Bob Reilly on TRT before he tears down western civilization with his over-sized cunt.
fatbellyfrank- January 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm
Didn't the decline of the Roman Empire coincide with the end of the gladiators?, if so, Bob Reilly better stop cockblocking MMA in New York or HE wil be responsible for the demise of our civilisation, pretty un-American actions there Bob, shouldn't he be fronting some homelands security commission for inciting un -American activities eg the downfall of civilisation as we know it?
Meaot- January 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm
Aww, c'mon, you know you watch Spartacus mostly for the tits.
dranokills- January 31, 2011 at 11:35 am
ReX13 Says:
Mon, 01/31/2011 - 18:39

dranokills >> i'm not buying Diaz as a GSP-beater, but he's pretty solid. Why you think he sucks?
solid? come on now he beats cans. he isn't UFC caliber, hes a yawnfest, and his interviews are like nails across a chalkboard.
IF he fights and beats daley maybe I will respect his skills just a tiny bit more, but lets be honest he wont be fighting anyone who is a real threat in strikefarce. I am just tired of his bitchassness, gangster wannabe behavior.....give him a REAL fight...and a fucking lobotomy
then maybe he will worth watching.
ccman- January 31, 2011 at 10:44 am
Dammit. Spell correction. Xena... dammit, who cares she has a nice rack and quit doing that stupid swahili chirp noise.

And carry over for the 209 pundits. Jake sheilds did bully beatdown 2 or 3 times and has actually gone to the judges even in that..... I hear ceasar gracie quit bjj and is now writing love poems to cyborg while waiting for his rectum to heal.
ccman- January 31, 2011 at 10:35 am
Rell the truth wilson.. did you get as happy seeing zena naked and dyking it up in sparticus as we all were finally seeing marisa tomei naked in wrestler? I love you dvr... I really do. (Sounds of on demand rewind in the background.) Gf betta hurry up. For lunch break.
ccman- January 31, 2011 at 10:31 am
@ donkey. Everytime brother, unless he was fighting sheildzzzzzz. Then he would be considered matrix next to buried in the action department.
RwilsonR- January 31, 2011 at 9:45 am
Is that Cecil Peoples in the judges booth in that picture? Poor dead bastard was probably pissed he had Cecil judging that night.

@ jazzninja - I was thinking the same thing when I read the article, but Spartan sounds a lot like Spartacus, and they show a lot of titties on that show, and I like looking at titties, and... what were we talking about?
Get Off Me- January 31, 2011 at 9:31 am
I believe that Arona's conermen in Pride were direct decendents of the guys who conered that gladiator who got slammed as well.

Jazzninja- January 31, 2011 at 9:26 am
Except of course that spartan is Greek (or rather Helenian) not, in fact, Roman. :P
Gabbo30- January 31, 2011 at 9:09 am
Your life was potentially in the hands of the official over the games and if they weren’t entertained, you died.

Jake Shields would be screwed with his lay and pray tactics...
imabigfan- January 31, 2011 at 9:00 am
I sea what you did they're, El Famous.
cecils_pupils- January 31, 2011 at 8:53 am
BOOM! - another hit has landed - BOOM!
BlackLesnar- January 31, 2011 at 8:39 am
@Rex13 Spartacus is the shit. Every chick gets naked too for an added bonus, including Xena.
El Famous Burrito- January 31, 2011 at 8:13 am
Hmmmmm...nowhere in this article does it discuss how Roman citizens would bear witness to the fitness of their modern warriors, so I can only conclude that they didn't trane very hard.
FaH Q NL15- January 31, 2011 at 7:52 am
O btw, Solid piece CP
DeepHalf- January 31, 2011 at 7:50 am
What I don't understand is when he went for the triangle choke at the 4:55 mark, and the other gladiator lifted him off the ground for an obvious power slam, why his corner didn't tell him grab an underhook on the near side leg or release to an arm bar.
FaH Q NL15- January 31, 2011 at 7:49 am
If only Fedor slammed Fabricio like that eh?
MyDonkeyPunch- January 31, 2011 at 7:47 am
"Your life was potentially in the hands of the official over the games and if they weren’t entertained, you died."

I wonder how many times Jon Fitch would have been gored?
ReX13- January 31, 2011 at 7:39 am
dranokills >>  i'm not buying Diaz as a GSP-beater, but he's pretty solid.  Why you think he sucks?I've heard Spartacus was pretty sweet.  Do all the chicks get naked?  (Say yes.)
imabigfan- January 31, 2011 at 7:23 am

and that's lunch for me.
imabigfan- January 31, 2011 at 7:21 am

stupid types are stupid.
imabigfan- January 31, 2011 at 7:20 am
In light of all the hate and do to my recent acquisition of Nick Diaz's favorite training supplement, I'd like to say nice piece. Fun articles are fun.