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Christianity, MMA, and Champions of the Sport

By Robert Rousseau,
At UFC 68: The Uprising, Randy "The Natural" Couture once again came through in the clutch by beating Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight Championship Belt. Of course, it's hard to get surprised by a Couture upset victory.

After all, he's come through under similar circumstances on numerous occasions (most recently against Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell back in 2003). However, during the after fight interview with Joe Rogan, Couture did surprise- to an extent- by affirming a religious belief that casual fans may not have been aware he held.

"Something was said to me recently," Couture told Rogan. "Why do you believe in America so much? And the answer was (that) there's two people - Jesus Christ, who stepped up and died for our sins, and the American GI that steps up and dies for our freedom on a daily basis. This fight is for them!"

On that same night, Rich "Ace" Franklin fought for the first time since suffering a devastating defeat at the hands of Anderson "The Spider" Silva. The opponent? Jason MacDonald, a man that had won his last six fights. The result?

Franklin dominated the fight and took home a TKO victory after the second round. Following this, everyone knew that Franklin's Christian religious beliefs would be voiced. After all, Franklin had been making his feelings known about God for some time now. And once again, he didn't disappoint.

"I want to give thanks to God (for) seeing me through my training this time," Franklin said.

By the way, we're hardly talking about UFC 68 alone here. Along with this, at UFC 63 on September 23, 2006, Matt Hughes took on B.J. Penn in one of the most talked about rematches in MMA history. In short, this ended up being one of the greatest mixed martial arts battles of all time.

In the first round, Penn showed his ability to shirk Hughes's takedown attempts and out strike the then champion; in the second, Penn almost triangle choked the 'country boy' from Iowa.

But then the third round came. In a fight that looked as if it was decidedly going in the other direction, Hughes staged a furious comeback that eventually ended with the referee pulling him off of Penn as he rained down unanswered punches (Penn was in the crucifix position). Afterwards, Hughes answered Joe Rogan's questions about the sticky situation early on in the fight with a sense of pride and more.

"I knew I had all my guys in my corner; they weren't with me, but they were in my heart. Just like the Lord Jesus Christ was with me, so I had no doubt."

Strong words, huh? By all of them, actually. And the aforementioned are hardly the only UFC mixed martial artists talking about God openly on television. How about Diego Sanchez? How about when the TUF 2 fighters and Rich Franklin were found quoting scripture in the house? It's rampant.

Further, whether you're a believer or not you have to note the obvious.

Those who have strong religious beliefs seem to be doing great in MMA.

Think about the names. Randy Couture - can you say UFC Hall of Famer, anyone? - Matt Hughes (arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time), Diego Sanchez (TUF 1 Champion), and Rich Franklin (a former UFC Champion). All of these fighters are clearly believers. Further, they are openly using post fight interviews and more to voice their feelings on religion.

In other words, the aforementioned are some of the best MMA has to offer and also have strong Christian beliefs. This, of course, begs a question.

What does the correlation between success in MMA and strong religious beliefs mean?

The answer will depend on your slant. Perhaps you believe it's just a coincidence (after all, there certainly are highly successful MMA fighters out there that don't note significant religious beliefs after fights). Others may believe that it's because these great fighters believe in something (as opposed to nothing) and that's always a recipe for success. Still others might simply acknowledge that Christianity promotes good living. Plain and simple: good living is good for fighters.

And then, of course, there are many Christians out there that believe Jesus Christ is more than just an idea. Thus, these people may believe that it is actually Jesus Christ - God himself - that is behind these fighters' successes. Regardless, their success is a fact. Further, this combined with their beliefs and the way they run their lives equates to something.

Credibility. And that's important, because whether these fighters are simply opening their hearts to the public or are truly attempting to reach the masses and spread their beliefs, one thing is for sure.

In the end, the UFC stage is a great pulpit.

In sum, Christian beliefs are regularly being professed during Joe Rogan post fight interviews at UFC events. Further, some of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world are those discussing God the loudest on this stage. Is it a coincidence that some of the most successful MMA fighters in the world seem to be the biggest proponents of religion? Probably not. What does it all mean?

Well, that's for you to decide. Here's what we do know, though. This is just another reason why mixed martial arts is a sport of respect and admiration. Whether you're a believer or not, you have to tip your hat to people that could be full of themselves 24-7 but instead choose to stay humble and acknowledge that their successes are not about themselves alone.

After all, no man (or woman) walks alone. That's something we can likely all agree on.

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