Monday, January 6, 2014

Feeding the Soul: Displaying Courage when Most Vulnerable

Violent, barbaric, and disgraceful, are three adjectives often used to describe Mixed Martial Arts. Many people believe that MMA is not a sport, rather an excuse to beat the crap out of someone. These people argue that MMA displays the militaristic and non-classy characteristics of our society.

Anti-MMA fans look to Ronda Rousey as the perfect example of this. Rousey, arguable the most physically-dominant female in the world, recently maintained her undefeated record against rival Miesha Tate. While maintaining an unblemished record, she also maintained her status as the most unclassy woman in the world, giving Tate the middle finger. After her victory, Rousey announced her next fight which will take place in February against Sara McMann. Complete opposites, McMann embodies coourage, determination, and both mental and physical strength, the true characteristics of MMA fighters. However this has not come easy to McMann as she has a had a tragic past.

Rousey lands a punch against Tate.
McMann started out as a wrestler, which came natural being from a wrestling family. Inspired by her brother, Sara was the only female on her high school wrestling team. She even earned a scholarship to compete at Minnesota on the wrestling team. While at college, Sara received some tragic news. Her brother Jason, who had been her inspiration to start wrestling had been assaulted and left for murder. Sara was devastated. She ultimately made the decision to transfer to Lockhaven University and became the first ever female wrestler at Lockhaven. Despite having memories of her brother every time she wrestled, she worked her way to make it to the 2004 Olympic Games. McMann earned a silver medal at the games as she was cheered on every step of the way by her fiancee, who also wrestled.

Even though she had not reached her goal of winning the gold, Sara is now proud that she knows she gave everything she had to win silver. After the Olympics, Sara was the happiest she had been since before her brother died. Her fiance Steve and her had planned to move to Washington D.C. to start their life together and have a family. Then, the accident took place.

After picking up Steve from the airport, Sara was driving home when her tire caught the edge of the pavement and sent her truck tumbling. Sara received multiple injuries and was knocked unconscious, but her fiance, Steve, did not survive. Here, one asks the question, how much tragedy can one person take? Sara certainly had now experienced a lot. She lost the will to continue wrestling after she got cut from the 2008 Olympic team. Here, Sara found a new sport, MMA.

McMann knew that wrestling was only one facet of MMA and in order for her to become a champion, she needed to learn all other techniques of becoming a lethal fighter. Sara has the determination to succeed and become a champion because of her tragic past. Deep down, Sara's family believes that competing helps her deal with the losses she has experienced in her life. Isn't that what true courage is though. I think about it this way. Sara McMann is reminded of the loss of her brother and fiancee everytime she steps into the Octagon to fight. This is where she becomes vulnerable. But despite her vulnerability, she has the courage to go on. To use her past as a strength rather a weakness. I believe that is the true meaning of courage. To be yourself even when you are your most vulnerable.

Sara McMann will put her talents and courage to the test when she takes on Ronda Rousey in February. This fight will feature two undefeated records and for the first time ever, two Olympic Medal winners. However, despite the outcome of the fight, McMann has proven that MMA is a sport that should not be characterized as barbaric, violent, and disgraceful. Rather a sport that shows determination, the will to succeed, and courage. I think we can all learn a lesson from Sara McMann that no matter what obstacles we may face in life, or how vulnerable we may feel, we must not lose the courage to be ourselves.


Michael Proska is a sophomore at Drexel University from Springfield, PA pursuing a Sport Management degree along with a minor in Statistics. Along with being a writer for the SMTSU blog, The Sports Complex, he has worked at Drexel Athletics and for the Philadelphia 76ers. Michael is also a member of the Army ROTC at Drexel University and the Secretary for the SMTSU.  Follow Michael on Twitter @mikeprosk.

 Connect with Michael Proska on LinkedIn. 

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