Lessons from Dream 14 in Japan and UFC 114 in the US

Here is a powerful quote by the 19th century scientist, Charles Darwin, that captures the essence of Dream 14 and UFC 114:

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

Dream 14
Is MMA in Japan dying?  There was a time in history when Japan was arguably the center of the MMA universe.  In the old days, Pride Fighting Championship in Japan had the best MMA fighters on the planet.  In recent times, some of Japan's biggest superstars have fallen on their swords:  Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto lost to the less experienced wrestler Joe Warren at Dream 9.  Shinya Aoki took a lopsided beating by Gilbert Melendez at Strikeforce Nashville.  Hayato Sakurai was submitted by Nick Diaz this past weekend at Dream 14.  So what exactly is going on?  Is Japanese MMA really deteriorating?  With the collapse of Pride FC and the rise of the UFC, the center of the MMA universe has shifted dramatically.  The best MMA fighters have all migrated over to the UFC, leaving a vacuum of talent in Japan.  If you are not training with and fighting against the best on a regular basis, you will simply not progress as quickly.  You will not EVOLVE fast enough to stay ahead of the competition.  In Japan, the Japanese are now mainly training with and fighting against themselves or 2nd rate international fighters.  In the US, the fighters are training with and competing against the best of the best from around the world - every day.  So as a group, the fighters in US MMA organizations are progressing at a faster rate than the Japanese fighters.  This logic is the underlying reason why Japanese MMA is deteriorating versus American MMA.  In actuality, it is simply that American MMA (ie. the UFC) is progressing and evolving at a faster rate than that of Japanese MMA.    

UFC 114
Rashad "Sugar" Evans is a poster boy for Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.  If the theory is applied to the sport of MMA, then the MMA fighter that evolves and responds to change the quickest, should survive and thrive.  Of course, the analogy with Darwin's theory is not exactly apples-to-apples since Darwin was talking about traits and gene pools.  However, the essence of the theory is very applicable to the sport of MMA.  It is not the strongest fighter that survives.  It is not the fastest fighter that survives.  It is not even the smartest fighter that survives.  It is the fighter that EVOLVES that survives.  

If you look at Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, he is basically the same fighter he was several years ago.  He has always been very strong, has consistently packed dynamite in his fists, and has always had very strong takedown defense.  His recipe for success is to use raw power and strength to beat the living daylight out of his opponents.  To this day, he has very elementary submission skills, cannot fight off his back, and has very rudimentary Muay Thai.  He rarely, if ever, throws a roundhouse kick.  While Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is still a phenomenal fighter (and definitely near the top of the food chain in the light heavyweight division), he has not evolved.  He has not responded to the changing game of MMA.  Instead, he has simply relied on his strengths and the same recipe.    

On the flip side, Rashad "Sugar" Evans was predominantly a wrestler a few short years ago.  He has added Muay Thai, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to his arsenal.  Rashad learned to flow smoothly between the arts.  He is a sponge for learning and progressing.  Renzo Gracie tells us that Rashad has excellent submissions and is definitely a Black Belt in No Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  While his Muay Thai is still not at an advanced level, he improves with every fight.  In a nutshell, Rashad has evolved with the changing nature of MMA.  He has adapted, grown, and progressed.  He continues to EVOLVE.  In a few years, Rashad "Sugar" Evans will be a completely different fighter.  Meanwhile, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will likely be left behind (unless he suddenly decides to become a sponge for knowledge).  It happened to Chuck "The Ice Man" Liddell.  It happened to Rich "Ace" Franklin.  If you don't EVOLVE, you wither away.   

Whether you are a recreational martial artist or a professional MMA fighter, the key to success is to EVOLVE continuously forever.  There is no end.  There is no finish line.  It is about continuous self-improvement for the rest of your life.  It is about always learning new skills, philosophies, techniques, and more.  If you apply this same approach to all the other areas of your life, you will also enjoy success in those areas of your life.  Dream 14 and UFC 114 simply highlighted what a smart man named Charles Darwin already knew in the 19th century.  It is funny how life really does come full circle. 

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