BY FRANK PARLATO
Former Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) featherweight champion, Michael Thomas “Mike” Brown will conduct a seminar on Thursday, Aug. 11, from 6:30-9:30 pm at Southtowns MMA, in Blasdell, NY.
The seminar is open to athletes of all skill levels and ages. Admission is $50. A picture and autograph session will follow afterward for athletes in attendance.
The event is the first of its kind for the Blasdell gym, which is owned and operated by MMA instructor Nick Pasquarella.
Brown’s seminar will focus on striking and grappling techniques such as clinching, takedowns, escapes, throws, and submission holds and locks.
Southtowns MMA is one of the first gyms in the area to dedicate itself to the growing MMA sport, training students who want to compete as well as those who want to learn self-defense and improve fitness.
As a professional full contact sport, MMA was legalized in New York State on April 14th, 2016 after years of debate where opponents criticized it as a brutal spectacle with potentially dangerous outcomes. New York State was the last state in America to legalize MMA.
Proponents argued that the growing interest in a regulated sport would bring in national events, professional athletes, world class coaching, and stimulate local economies, if it was legalized.
Brown’s visit is one of the first evidences to validate the latter claim with his seminar and expected tour of the area. In addition to his Thursday evening seminar, Brown will be giving a closed-door Friday seminar offered exclusively to law enforcement personnel.
Brown’s fighting career culminated in his 2008 World Extreme Cage Fighting Featherweight Championship which, afterward he successfully defended twice.
At 5’6”, and145 lbs. Brown has defeated a battery of notable MMA opponents with KO punches, and a spate of submission holds such as the kneelock, the rear-naked choke, the guillotine choke, the triangle choke, the am-triangle choke, the heel hook and the key lock.
Although he is still listed as an active fighter – his last fight was in 2013 – the 40-year-old Brown has turned to coaching and is often seen in televised MMA events in the corner for fighters at UFC events.
His upcoming WNY appearance seems to have sparked interest locally.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from our students, but the response has been overwhelming,” said Pasquarella, “We’ve even opened the clinic to non-members and some other schools whose athletes wanted to attend.”
“Actually, we wanted to do this a couple months ago,” Pasquarella explained. “Mike’s been eager to check out some of the hidden talent in WNY. But, this was the first weekend all summer when he didn’t have to be at a televised or Pay-Per-View fight to corner someone.”
Brown’s appearance here in WNY and the appeal of MMA to youths will be seen by some as something not to be encouraged.
A recent study concluded the injury rate for MMA is higher than any other full contact sport.
A professional MMA fighter can expect, on average, according to the study, to incur an injury in roughly 22 percent of his fights. Many MMA fights are canceled or fighters substituted due to slow recoveries or retirement due to injuries incurred from previous fights.
Still, while many say that MMA is too brutal, it was
once a true bloodsport with virtually no rules, no weight divisions, no rounds, no gloves, and with a referee who had little or no control over the bout.
In the days of the legendary mixed martial arts fighters, like Frank Dux, Vic Moore, James Hydrick, Ron Van Clief, Oso Tayari Casel, and John Keehan aka Count Dante, the fights were unsanctioned by sporting regulating authorities, oftentimes illegal and “underground” – as a dog fight or a cock fight is – driven financially by gamblers who often waged immense bets and by the fighters’ desire to prove they were invincible.
These underground fights, which paved the way for the present MMA, were not televised, were attended by invitation only and held in homes and private clubs, sometimes on large flat rooftops, sometimes in remote areas, and often offshore.
The fights would last until one fighter was thrown out of a slightly raised, but rope-less ring, or off the roof, or voluntarily and abjectly surrendered, or, as what happened in most instances, knocked unconscious, often with amazing ferocity and quickness.
Frank Dux, who has been called, “The Father of Mixed Martial Arts”, was the inspiration for the 1988 movie Bloodsport, starring Jean Claude Van Damme as Frank Dux.
His notable and controversial career is an example of how much and how little MMA has changed.
It has been said of Dux by those who witnessed it, that Dux’s typical MMA fight would last about one minute and end with his opponent lying unconscious, often bleeding, with broken bones and missing teeth.
Almost anything was permissible in many early MMA fights: Kicks and stomps to the head of a grounded opponent, groin shots – Dux said he wore a steel cup over his groin for protection- punches to the back of the head, head butts, elbow strikes, and, as it was rumored but never confirmed – “Dim Mak” or “touch of death, a strike using seemingly less than lethal force targeted at specific areas of the body which allegedly left an opponent immobile.
Today, the savagery of mixed martial arts has been tempered by a desire to be legal and profitable and protect valuable and talented fighters.
Most professional MMA associations have officially adopted the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, which require combatants to wear light, open fingered gloves, prohibit head butting, stomping, low blows etc. and have timed rounds with intervals for rest. The referees take an active role in stopping fights before serious injuries occur.
But the fundamentals are the same.
MMA bouts still allow striking with hands and feet with the intention of disabling and knocking an opponent unconscious, and grappling to strangle, or suffocate and locks which can cause imminent bodily injury that, in order to prevent it, an opponent must ‘tap out’ and admit defeat.
Fighters like Mike Brown, coming up during a time of MMA transition owe much of their inspiration to the fabled fighters of the past who fought not for money but to prove to themselves they were as good as they claimed.
As Brown, as a youth, was inspired by Dux and his legendary ilk to be as tough as a man can get, it is fitting and part of the tradition of martial arts, that Brown, through his seminars, travels and teaches affording students access to the techniques of a modern day master.
For those interested in MMA for competition, or learning about the skills required to face an opponent in a win or lose all confrontation, whether in the ring or on the streets unexpectedly one day, this seminar offers a rare insight into the world of MMA and mutual combat from the perspective of a world champion.
Southtowns MMA is located at 3984 Burke Pkwy, Buffalo, NY 14219. For more info. firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call Nick at 716-649-2300.
For law enforcement personnel wishing to attend Mike Brown’s Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Seminar, please contact Matt at 310-926-8591.