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  • The UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the premiere league for the world's best

  • mixed martial arts fighters.

  • These fighters are amazing, for years they've honed their skills, cross training in several

  • martial arts to become the best at hand to hand combat.

  • Gladiators are armed combatants who violently fought each other for the entertainment of

  • society mainly during and after the fall of the Roman Empire.

  • Gladiators participated in 'Ludi' or public games sponsored by the state and 'munus'

  • public entertainment sponsored by rich citizens.

  • These fighters were also amazing; they endured harsh conditions and years of training to

  • hone their skills.

  • Thousands of years, different regimens, training styles and technology separates these top

  • combatants but we think a bout between a gladiator and a UFC fighter would be an amazing match.

  • Let's discuss the fighters and the advantages or disadvantages they might have over each

  • other.

  • But how about we make the fight a tad more fair?

  • The gladiator can have a groin protector too.

  • Contrary to what a certain movie might portray, gladiators did not always fight to the death.

  • Only about 1 in 9 or 11% of matches ended with someone dying.

  • But, you ask, what about the chariot races, the crowds clamoring for 'pollice verso'

  • aka the crowd voting with their thumbs to kill a gladiator, ect.?

  • Well, a typical day of entertainment at a coliseum had several different events.

  • During the morning session, there were animal entertainments--mainly animals fighting each

  • other to the death would be showcased.

  • Around midday, when the crowds thinned for lunch, the 'b entertainment' such as the

  • executions of criminals and dissidents would take place.

  • These events might involve fights to the death between the condemned or the condemned versus

  • animals.

  • The afternoon games were prime time, reserved for gladiatorial combats, chariot races and

  • recreations of famous battles.

  • Thousands of years later, a full day of Romans games has jumbled into a single pop culture

  • narrative about gladiators chaotically fighting to the death.

  • Sometimes gladiators did fight hungry animals in contests called venationes or 'wild beast

  • hunts'.

  • Also, occasionally there were bouts to the death between gladiators.

  • But overall fights lasted until there was a decisive outcome, perhaps a competitor was

  • wounded or collapsed.

  • There were rules of combat and most bouts actually had referees who were often retired

  • gladiators.

  • The referees could caution fighters or pause a match.

  • Sometimes a ruler or rich sponsor watching a fight did weigh in to achieve a certain

  • outcome, but in general, most audiences wanted to see a well crafted match between skilled

  • fighters with a bit of showmanship.

  • This is not too different than the UFC bouts of today, audiences want a great fight between

  • professional fighters and judges and referees to ensure them to be so.

  • Historians dispute when and where gladiators and gladiator games started.

  • It's thought that Etruscans started the tradition and the bloodthirsty Roman Empire

  • continued and added on to the tradition.

  • Some young men of noble families volunteered to become gladiators when ludi grew very popular,

  • but the majority of gladiators were slaves and/or prisoners of war taken captive by the

  • Romans.

  • If in good health, a POW might be sold in the marketplace.

  • A lanista or gladiator trainer would purchase prisoners and train them to fight.

  • The lanista might be backed by sponsors or sponsors might rent gladiators out or put

  • up funds to train a certain gladiator for a certain fight.

  • Gladiators received board and training, but weren't paid a salary.

  • However, they could win prize money or receive gifts from fans.

  • Sometimes successful gladiators were able to buy their freedom.

  • Becoming a gladiator took a lot of training, and was quite an expensive investment.

  • Unless they were well compensated by a sponsor a lanista was not going to let a skilled warrior

  • die and lose money.

  • Actually that's somewhat similar to the general rules regarding fights and companies

  • carrying insurance for professional fighters of today.

  • Aside from the ethics and humans rights issues, if a UFC fighter is killed or seriously injured

  • it's bad business.

  • The typical UFC fighter doesn't actually make much of a living from fighting.

  • It's the highly ranked fighters who are household names who make bank.

  • Per a 6 year agreement UFC made with Reebok in 2015, in-ring sponsorships by any company

  • other than Reebok are banned.

  • However fighters can earn money via endorsements, often through video or social media posts.

  • In recent years, some UFC fighters have spoken out against the company's inadequate pay

  • structure and even tried to unionize.

  • Some UFC fighters made more money on the amateur MMA fighting circuit and found themselves

  • starting over with 'beginner' wages once they joined the UFC.

  • Lanistae often ran gladiator schools where the gladiators lived and trained.

  • There were multiple schools scattered through the Roman empire, each providing warriors

  • for a nearby amphitheater.

  • The gladiators lived in barracks style housing and were well fed; Lanistae knew that in addition

  • to thrilling matches, the audience wanted to look at beefcakes.

  • A study of 1,800 year old bones excavated from a gladiator graveyard in Turkey showed

  • that nearly all the gladiators buried there had a vegetarian diet primarily consisting

  • of wheat, barley and beans with little to no meat products.

  • Surprisingly, that's not too different from the approach many athletes, including UFC

  • fighters, take to their diets today.

  • Some of the bones also showed mineral deposits.

  • Apparently after training or fighting the combatants drank a health boosting tonic made

  • from the ashes of plants to help their bodies recover.

  • Yeah, that sounds sorta nasty, but 'Tropical Undertow', 'Feral Cherry' or any of

  • the other electrolyte packed sports drinks athletes consume today would probably gross

  • a gladiator out.

  • Lastly the bones showed evidence of healed wounds.

  • Gladiators received top notch medical care of the day and sometimes survived horrible

  • wounds.

  • Although not as high tech or scientifically accurate as the nutrition or health care UFC

  • fighters receive, gladiators were fit and healthy.

  • Unfortunately, archeology has yet to uncover any specific gladiator training manuals so

  • we don't know much about gladiators' daily schedules.

  • However, we do have art, graffiti and literature which provides some clues as to how the gladiators

  • trained.

  • The Romans revered the ancient Greeks for their Olympic athletes and used something

  • like the Greeks' 'Tetrad System' a four-day regimen.

  • Day 1) a short yet intense prep-day workout, Day 2) high intensity workout where fighters

  • gave their absolute best, Day 3) a rest day, and Day 4) a medium intensity workout.

  • And repeat.

  • The Romans understood that a diverse itinerary of activities was best for producing strong

  • fighters.

  • Many UFC fighters and other professional athletes adhere to the Tetrad System today.

  • It's still considered one of the best programs for achieving athletic goals.

  • Calisthenics or body weight exercises were a huge part of gladiator training.

  • They also weight lifted using halteraes, an ancient version of the dumbbells.

  • Generally when entering the school, the trainer would assess a gladiator's body and existing

  • fighting skills to help determine which type of combat specialty the gladiator should train

  • to become.

  • There were over 20 types of gladiators who wielded a wide variety of weapons and had

  • unique fighting styles.

  • A Thracian was probably the most popular type of gladiator, they fought sporting a curved

  • blade that was usually around 13 inches (or 34 cm) long, round shield and broad helmets

  • with a griffin insignia.

  • The Murmillo was armed with a gladius or longsword, carried an oblong shield and dressed something

  • like a Roman soldier.

  • The Retiarius or 'net figher' employed a net similar to a fisherman's to ensnare

  • opponents, a trident used for jabbing, and a four pronged dagger of last resort.

  • They didn't wear helmets, but some wore galerus or a metal shoulder shield to protect

  • their necks.

  • Beyond strength exercises, gladiators spent the majority of their time training in their

  • fighting style.

  • Trainees generally started with wooden training weapons and progressed through various ranks.

  • Once they began sparring with partners they would fight in the training arena attached

  • to the school.

  • These arenas, while considerably smaller than the amphitheaters where gladiator games were

  • staged, still were large, having seating for an audience of a couple thousand people.

  • These public mock battles cured combatants of stage fright and got them used to possible

  • distractions such as the roar of a crowd.

  • After a long day of practice or fighting a gladiator would rejuvenate themselves by spending

  • time soaking in Roman baths.

  • In fact spa treatments were considered so vital for a gladiator's rest and recovery

  • that most schools had them onsite.

  • An archaeological excavation at the site of a gladiator school in the ancient city of

  • Carnuntum, near what is now Vienna, Austria uncovered a large bath complex.

  • Not too different a practice from the whirlpool and massage treatments a UFC fighter might

  • receive after an intense day of training or competition.

  • To become a UFC fighter there isn't one set route.

  • Many UFC fighters have gotten their start wrestling at a top tier high school or studying

  • martial arts as they were growing up.

  • Even if a wanna be UFC fighter did neither of these things, if they were in their early

  • 20's, athletic, very determined and disciplined they still have a small shot at being a UFC

  • Fighter.

  • Here's how one path to becoming a UFC fighter could work: Our fighter has spent about 4-5

  • years becoming a good amatuer MMA fighter.

  • That means he gained a high level of skill in wrestling and competed at the college level.

  • He studied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ, and has an adult purple belt.

  • A Purple belt is the intermediate adult ranking and it takes a consistent practitioner about

  • 2.5-3 years to reach this status.

  • He also has 3 years of kickboxing experience, and some knowledge of Muay Thai and judo.

  • Our fighter is pursuing MMA as a lifestyle.

  • He adheres to a carefully calibrated diet.

  • He has a consistent training schedule based on the Tetrad system.

  • In addition to martial arts, he lifts weights and stretches for flexibility.

  • He's involved in the MMA community and has joined a local league.

  • He's actively building a network of colleagues and workout partners in the same way that

  • a gladiator would have a 'familia gladiatoria' or a chosen gladiator family of comrades.

  • He's started to fight on the amateur level and wins a decent amount of matches.

  • He's thinking about his 'brand' and building a social media presence.

  • He's maybe gotten some sponsorship from a local company such as a gym or sporting

  • goods store.

  • Our fighter keeps on grinding.

  • He spends another few years continuing to study and practice.

  • He's now a brown belt in BJJ and has masterful wrestling skills.

  • He's picked up some Taekwondo.

  • He's made a name for himself on the MMA amatuer fighting circuit and has won bouts

  • both nationally and internationally.

  • At this point he's ready for the UFC.

  • What he needs now is luck and timing.

  • By this time the UFC is probably already aware of him, their scouts attend amatuer MMA fights

  • and keep tabs on upcoming talent.

  • UFC also periodically holds casting calls to find new fighters.

  • Our fighter attends a tryout for The Ultimate Fighter and ends up being signed to a 5 year

  • contract.

  • Now all he has to do is rise through the ranks and make a name for himself as a UFC fighter.

  • Whew!

  • So what if our UFC fighter goes up against a Thracian gladiator of roughly the same height

  • and weight?

  • Each fighter may have a slight advantage if the fight is taking place in their home milieu.

  • While the UFC fighter probably wouldn't be disturbed by the crowds, his sense of space

  • may be off kilter, the amphitheatre has an immense fighting area as compared to a UFC

  • ring and also he would be dealing with the stench of a society who hasn't yet discovered

  • deodorant.

  • The Thracian would be cool with the modern crowd.

  • He can adapt to the compact fighting space, but is probably thrown by the lights and cameras.

  • Sorry Thracian, we're going with a modern arena.

  • Once the fight starts, the gladiator comes out swinging!

  • His sword gives him a superior reach.

  • The UFC figher's boxing gloves aren't great for protecting his hands against the

  • Thracian's shield.

  • However, the UFC fighter is quicker and rapidly adapts to the way the Thracian fights.

  • They both have tricks up their sleeves, but the UFC fighter has superior foot work aided

  • by his kickboxing practice.

  • The gladiator begins to have a little trouble as the UFC fighter keeps switching between

  • fighting styles.

  • The fight might come down to stamina.

  • A UFC fight goes for either 3 rounds or 5 rounds for a championship title.

  • Each round lasts up to 5 minutes.

  • In between rounds the fighters get a 1 minute break so a 3 round fight is max 17 minutes

  • and a 5 round fight max 29 minutes.

  • Fights may end early due to knockout, submission, doctor stoppage, etc.

  • From descriptions of fights found in literature, historians think that Gladiator fights on

  • average ranged from 15- 20 minutes.

  • The gladiator is slowing, with each move his sword and shield feel heavier, the UFC fighter

  • may have it.

  • But our Tharcian's warrior mentality was forged in a world without posturepedic beds

  • or toilet paper, he's beyond tough.

  • The gladiator feints and strikes, drawing blood.

  • That's it folk, the Thracian wins.

  • Yep, though it would be a tough match, we totally think that a gladiator would beat

  • a UFC fighter.

  • Now about the ladies…..There are a bunch of amazing and tough female fighters in the

  • UFC.

  • Their origin story would be similar to our UFC fighter's beginning.

  • Many years of various martial arts training, fighting on the amatuer MMA circuit and building

  • a rep before being signed to the UFC.

  • What about female gladiators?

  • Well, technically they were called 'gladiatrix' and were considered an exotic rarity, much

  • of the time they were showcased for titillation.

  • They were often portrayed in the amphitheater as Amazons, the female warriors of Greek myth.

  • Unfortunately, not a lot of information is known about them.

  • Some inscriptions suggest that they trained with private tutors rather than regular gladiator

  • schools.

  • Few records have been found regarding their battles.

  • Mainly they fought each other and wild animals, rarely did they fight men.

  • Generally they were equipped with a dagger, belt, rectangular shield, and wore loincloths

  • and helmets.

  • They may or may not have worn greaves or leg protection and manica--arm protection.

  • In 200 AD, Emperor Septimius Severus, angry over the ribald and harassing taunts from

  • audiences when gladiatrix were fighting, banned female gladiators altogether.

  • We think a UFC female fighter with her more consistent training and fighting opportunities

  • would beat a gladiatrix hands down.

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