April 17, 2014 | Vol. 117 -- No. 52

Lee would do well in MMA - if he was fighting in his 30s

Crunch Time

EA Sports has given mixed martial arts fans and gamers a treat for the upcoming UFC video game.

The company announced that movie star and martial arts legend Bruce Lee will be an unlockable character in the game. This allows fans can now live out their fantasy of playing “the Dragon” against today’s top competitors - at least in the realm of video games.

Although Lee’s model will have his likeness and sport yellow trunks - a homage to the yellow jumpsuit he wore in the 1973 hit “Game of Death.” I doubt gamers actually will get a chance to throw the Dragon’s famous one-inch punch or perform his flying side kick, as cool as that might be.

For years, fans have debated how Lee, who passed away in 1972 at the age of 32, would fair in modern day combat sports - specifically MMA. Some argue that the Dragon would decimate any competitor that stands across from him in the octagon. These fans probably harken back to the man they saw dispatch anonymous henchmen in movies like “The Big Boss” and “Enter the Dragon.”

In an interview, Chuck Norris said that while he and Lee were not fighting in “MMA-style matches,” they had both participated in bare-fist matches and would have done well in today’s era of competition.

Then there are others who say that modern-day fighters would beat Lee because his style is considered by some as “one-dimensional.”

UFC president Dana White considers Lee the father of mixed martial arts. I agree with him on this because Lee was someone who would devote his time and energy into studying different disciplines, including judo, Kung Fu and boxing rather than just sticking with one style of martial arts.

One of the disciplines Lee studied was Wing Chun, a style that not many fighters outside of China would know or have taken the time to study. There is also Jeet Kune Do - which Lee developed himself. Jeet Kune Do is an eclectic martial arts hybrid with moves that are simple.

Just knowing these two styles could be an advantage for Lee in competition because other fighters may not be used to facing someone who has trained in those styles.

Another thing that would help Lee in today’s era of combat sports is his dedication to training. The Dragon was someone who - in Norris’ words - was a “fanatical trainer.” He is known as one of the most diligent celebrities when it came to maintaining his peak physical condition.

If Lee were to enter mixed martial arts when he was at the peak in both health and star power, he would do well in competition.

He would breeze through the regional competition at the amateur level and earn some championships in the smaller promotions before making it to a top organization like the UFC. However, at this point is where he would experience a few losses before climbing back up the rankings.

Lee would have also been a fan favorite. While his name alone would boost ticket sales, his humble beginnings and behavior would be something fans would gravitate toward.

But that would be Bruce Lee’s MMA career if he was fighting in his prime. If the Dragon was still alive when the UFC was going through their boost in popularity, he may have steered clear of getting in the octagon.

Although fighters like former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture and IBF light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins found success in their 40s, Lee would have been in his late 50s to early 60s and facing athletes half his age. While he certainly would have made a lot of money in a couple of fights, he would not be as successful as he would be had a much spryer Dragon stepped into the octagon.

But if Lee were still alive, would he even need to be in MMA to prove how great of a fighter he was? I don’t think so.

Al Stover can be reached at al@cheneyfreepress.com.

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