Dear Meryl Streep,
There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re a great actress and a master of your chosen art. I’m sure you had the best intentions when you gave your speech at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards. I’m no expert on US politics. But it does seem like your soon-to-be leader is a lot to handle, so I applaud you for speaking up.
What I can’t help but take issue with, though, is one of the examples you used to make your point. In case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you:
"So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts."
With all due respect, Ms. Streep, I must point out that you’re mistaken in saying that 1) mixed martial arts (MMA) is not an art form, and 2) that it’s not filled with “outsiders and foreigners.” Need proof? Here are a dozen examples for you to mull over.
You see, what I’m about to show you aren’t just highlight reel moments. These are stories told by master artists with their bodies. They hail from all corners of the globe and communicate through a shared language of skill and desire. Let’s begin the lesson, shall we?
1) Royce Gracie shocks the world
When MMA first started, it was a question of which martial arts style was superior. Among all the tough guys and jocks who entered the cage at the very first UFC, it was a scrawny Brazilian skilled in a secret combat art who emerged victorious. If “art” is meant to provoke and inspire, then Gracie certainly delivered.
2) Anderson Silva’s clutch win
(Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen – UFC 117)
Part of MMA’s appeal, Ms. Streep, is that a fighter is always just a second away from victory. Silva proved this by snaring Chael Sonnen in a last-minute triangle choke to reverse what was going to be a lopsided defeat. As your fellow artist Lenny Kravitz said, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
3) Cowboy’s crisp combination
(Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story – UFC 202)
Anyone who has ever trained knows how hard it is to land even just one punch. Here, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone lands a picture perfect three-punch combination capped off with a round kick to the dome. It’s poetry in motion, Ms. Streep. I promise.
4) Ronda Rousey welcomes women into the UFC
(Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche – UFC 157)
It might seem like a lifetime ago now, but it was Ronda Rousey who paved the way for women to fight in the UFC. Back in 2013, she fought in the first-ever female fight in the promotion’s history and ushered in a new era. How’s that for being inclusive?
5) The 13 seconds of McGregor vs. Aldo
(Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo – UFC 194)
This fight might not have lasted long, but there were a lot of elements that went into it—the pre-fight trash talk, McGregor’s perfect gauging of distance, Aldo’s overzealousness to land the home run punch, McGregor’s textbook counter off a feint. Those precious few seconds told a better story than a lot of Hollywood films. And to think that it was told by a pair of “foreigners.”
6) Mark Coleman finds redemption in a place that isn’t the USA
(Mark Coleman vs. Igor Vovchanchyn – Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals)
When Mark Coleman won the Pride Grand Prix in Japan, he had already been written off as a has-been in his home country. His comeback story in a foreign land is worthy of a screenplay. The fact that he fell and almost hurt himself while celebrating makes the moment all the more endearing.
7) Anderson Silva, a.k.a. Neo
(Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin – UFC 101)
Speaking of Hollywood, remember when everyone went crazy for the bullet dodging special effects in The Matrix? Well, here’s someone doing pretty much the same thing in real life. Instead of bullets, Silva dodged the fists of a former champ with frightening ease.
8) Matt Serra-Balboa
(Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre – UFC 69)
Fun fact: That classic Academy Award-winning story about an underdog Italian-American conquering the odds also happened in real life. Serra was never supposed to beat the soon-to-be legend Georges St-Pierre, but no one told him that. Yo Adrian, he (actually) did it!
9) That kick from Anthony Pettis
(Anthony Pettis vs. Benson Henderson – WEC 53)
You know what takes a lot of grace and skill? Head kicks. You know what’s even harder? Landing a head kick thrown while running across a cage towards a moving target. This brilliant move was part gymnastics, part Taekwondo. In case you weren’t aware, Ms. Streep, neither of those arts originated in America.
10) Cody Garbrandt’s got moves
(Cody Garbrandt vs. Dominick Cruz – UFC 207)
Dancing is an art, right? Well, how about pulling off a pop-and-lock in the middle of a championship fight?
11) Kevin Randleman, brought to you by Air Jordan
(Kevin Randleman vs. Fedor Emelianenko – Pride Critical Countdown 2004)
Here’s another move you’ll end up watching more than once. Launching another man in the air is hard enough, but to do it with that much explosion and air time defies physics. To borrow a term from ‘the arts,’ it was quite surreal.
12) Mark Muñoz’s farewell
(Mark Munoz vs. Luke Barnatt – UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Faber/UFC Manila)
And finally, here’s one that’s close to the hearts of my countrymen and I. Muñoz, a Filipino-American who fully embraces his heritage, performed his swansong in front of an adoring crowd in Manila. He may never have been a champion, but he flew our flag and made us proud. You couldn’t have painted a better picture for Pinoy fans.
So you see, Ms. Streep, MMA isn’t quite the uncultured icon of American provincialism that you have made it out to be. The fact that I’m writing this from the Philippines should tell you just as much. Perhaps next time you can choose a better example. NASCAR, maybe?