One of the founders of the original Ultimate Fighting Championship (back when it was supposed to be a showcase for comparing different martial arts) was Art Davies. In those days, the idea was to put a judo man against a wrestler, a karateka against a boxer, and see which art was best with the fewest rules. There really were few rules in those days--no biting, no gouging, no fish-hooking--but Davies and his partners promoted the event as brutal, bloody stuff. That was silly, since their partners the Gracies provided their biggest star, Royce Gracie, and his whole appeal was based on the fact that he was a normal-looking 185-pounder who could submit fearsome-looking brawlers without any blood or concussions.
Now Art Davies is back, and his new idea is "XARM." I'm sure that stands for "Xtreme ArmRassling" or something else that would have been trendy in 1993, but we don't have time to wonder, because I'm dying to tell you the premise. Are you ready?
MMA arm wrestling.
They put two MMA fighters at a padded armwrestling table and tape their wrestling hands together. The fighters wear MMA gloves. They're attempting to win in the traditional armwrestling way, by pinning the back of the opponent's hand to the table, but they're allowed to punch, elbow, kick, knee and grapple while they do it. I admit to a certain bias from the beginning; I don't know who thinks it's entertaining to watch people arm wrestle, but it ain't me. I do enjoy watching a good MMA fight, but here's what makes no sense:
1. They took away the part that makes MMA great. MMA has a million ways to win and a million ways to lose. It's a chess match. Boxing has the knockout, TKO, and decisions. Wrestling has pins and points. Judo has throws, pins, and the occasional submission. BJJ has points and submissions. But MMA has all those, which means you've got to defend everything while being open to every opportunity. It's fun to watch.
XARM takes that great idea and says "Hey, let's narrow it down to putting the other guy's hand on a table!"
Let's don't and say we did, guys.
2. They tried to put some MMA back in--but it's weak sauce. The punches, the kicks . . . . sounds good in theory (well, no, it sounds stupid even in theory, but bear with me, I'm going somewhere here.) The problem is, while you're trying to punch and kick, you're taped to the other guy with a table between you. I'm serious about this. Why would I want to watch two guys trying to throw roundhouse kicks to the head past a table with no chance of using good technique when I can watch Georges St. Pierre throw actual roundhouse kicks to an opponent who can defend himself?
3. Based on number 2, I'm guessing that most armwrestling fans who see the XARM are going to feel the same way. I'm sure if you put in the time to learn it, there's a lot of technique and strategy hidden away in armwrestling competition, and I doubt those fans want to see their favorite moves interrupted by head slaps and knees to the ribs. But I've been wrong so, so, so many times before, so don't take my word for it.
4. They're sponsored by violent video games, and their selling angle is blood and guts. In 1993, Art Davies could maybe be excused for thinking that his target audience was beer-bloated rednecks who wanted to see people bleed and were kinda hoping somebody might git kilt in "THE OCTAGON." Now that the UFC has gone from broke to turning millions in profits by becoming a sanctioned sport with more rules, weight classes, and less "BLOODSPORT!" advertising, though, the message should be getting through. If XARM were a blood sport, most people wouldn't watch it. But since XARM not only isn't a blood sport, it's awfully tame, that over the top advertising looks even sillier now. What they've done is allow some of the offense from MMA, but in a stilted, off-balance, weak way . . . . and they've balanced that out by removing just about all of the striking defense, since you have to stand toe-to-toe and "take it like a man." They're running quotes from their "fighters" like "I think everyone here is going to the hospital" and "I came here figuring some of us were leaving in body bags."