Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The New UFC

Let me start with a simple statement that will make a whole lot more sense in a few paragraphs: I have nothing against MMA at all. In fact, I kinda like it.

MMA, of course, would refer to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Or, if you prefer, UFC. Or Strikeforce. Or Bellator. Or any other promotions out there. Or a combination thereof. Mostly, though, the most well-known and preferred brand/league is, of course, UFC. Kinda like WWE for pro wrestling fans.

As a Wrestling fan (we’ll save the “Sports Entertainment” debate for another time, but we know it as Wrestling in these here parts), I can certainly appreciate how UFC has appropriated what makes Wrestling so popular and adapted that to an actual sport where matches are not choreographed or pre-determined. Totally cool with all of that.

I don’t follow UFC all that much; I certainly thought about it at one point, but I just never really got in to it on a regular basis. I prefer my sports scripted, thank you; that’s just how I am. It’s much easier to guarantee solid action and the right outcome according to my tastes.

As for how I prefer competition, that has become an entirely different story. I’ve actually discovered a happy medium between Wrestling and MMA. The hype and pageantry are lavish; the personalities are all unique and charismatic; the rivalries and struggles are very real and very fierce; fans have their favorites that they cheer and boo; and, best of all, no one gets hurt.

The participants don’t lace up any boots or wear any trunks. They train for hours and days on end, but rarely a sweat is broken. Reflexes and strategy are key, but the combatants throw no blows. They control others who do that for them – and those warriors are much more colorful, flamboyant, and compelling to watch. The moves they are programmed to perform are stellar enough to defy gravity and physics, making the matches much more exhilarating to watch. With enough training and talent, the field is much more open to new blood as there is no physical preparation involved at all.

It’s official: the world of professional video game competition is my UFC. More specifically, the annual EVO Championship Series. Want a good summary? Check out, right under this, the Finals of EVO 2010:

You can probably tell by the above video that the EVO Championships focus specifically on fighting games. No Halo-like shooters or Gears of War-type multiplayer battles. These focus (at least this year) on games like Super Street Fighter IV, Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat (9), and games of that type. Where one player faces another with the winner advancing and the loser going home until all of the tournaments held around the world lead to the crowning of a new champion each year.

Whereas UFC fans cheer for Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar, Georges St Pierre, or Wanderlei Silva, those that follow the EVO Tournaments follow the exploits of stars such as Justin Wong (the subject of a documentary called King of Chinatown), Daigo, Ricky Ortiz, Mike Ross, and Gamerbee. These are the competitors that a new breed of video game and fighting sport enthusiasts have made quasi-celebrities among a smaller – but ever-growing – set of fans.

This year, Orlando hosts one of the EVO Tournaments. Set to happen June 10-12 at the Wyndham Resort on International Drive, CEO is proud to present not only the road to the EVO Championships, but also a screening of the King of Chinatown documentary (see the trailer below). King Of Chinatown is a fascinating look at the world of professional video gaming that goes a long way in helping explain the whole phenomenon.

The tournament is presented by one of its players, Alex JeBailey, head of CEO. Alex has been gracious enough to let Count3rCu1ture be a part of CEO 2011 and I will be taping from the event that weekend. Along the way, it may help to explain why so many – including myself – substitute the letters UFC with EVO.

Be on the lookout for Count3rCu1ture coverage of CEO 2011 the week of June 13-17 as we open the doors to the that Tournament and to the world of EVO.

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