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Germany’s Unexpected Love for MMA and Poker

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Coming from two distinctly different backgrounds, the physical sport of MMA and the tactical game of poker have some unique similarities that are hardly noticeable to the naked eye. But by putting both under the scrutinizing lens of a German microscope and analyzing the key ingredients to its mainstream success, MMA and poker have some surprisingly glaring resemblances that naturally enticed its German followers.

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dennis-siver-ufc-300x212When the UFC started in 1993, it was considered as a taboo combat sport because of the devastating moves showcased by its combatants. The bone-breaking arm locks, head-throbbing choke holds, and vicious strikes thrown by competitors from various martial arts disciplines triggered naysayers to brand the sport as barbaric. Texas Hold’em poker also had its fair share of growing pains when it first attempted to penetrate the mainstream market, especially in Germany.

During the middle part of the 20th century, the war-stricken European nation was content with playing 7 Card Stud; and even after the turn of the century when the whole world began embracing Texas Hold’em, Germany – with its conservative nature – took its time before truly accepting the game. When both MMA and poker became generally recognized in the 2000s, it increased the value of the UFC and the World Poker Tour tremendously.

pokerBrands like TapouT, Hayabusa, and MMA Zone were regularly seen everywhere during mixed martial arts events; while PartyPoker and Jack Link’s Beef Jerky embedded their logos on poker players’ shirts, caps, and even on the felt as well. This solidified the unnerving resilience of both MMA and poker, rising from the depths of insignificance and into the hearts of an ever-growing fan base. German fans love their sports personalities. Whether it is in football, basketball, mixed martial arts, or poker, Germans praise these athletes with an enthusiastic passion of a world-renowned theatre actor.

For instance, when UFC featherweight and lightweight contender Dennis “The Menace” Siver competed in his homeland of Germany in UFC 122, he received a deafening applause from the raucous Oberhausen crowd especially when he submitted his opponent, Andre Winner, with a rear naked choke in the first round of their bout. But even after a loss to the formidable Donald Cerrone, Siver wasn’t fazed and speedily got back up to once again climb the rankings of the division’s elite.

On the other hand, the current number one ranked poker player, Marvin Rettenmaier, basked in the limelight of poker stardom when he emerged victorious in the 2010 Spanish Poker Tour Grand Finale. Since then, success has been limitless for the PartyPoker sponsored player, winning more major poker tournaments and slowly establishing himself as a future poker Hall of Famer. Being a true legend in MMA and poker is a tough task, especially when both are extremely strategic, where one wrong move of an individual could spell trouble in the near future.

For Germany’s unsung heroes in the octagon and on the felt, the pride of carrying their nation’s flag to the world’s biggest and most dangerous stage is enough to create a lifetime’s worth of splendid memories that wouldn’t require a microscope to appreciate.


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Craig Lightner has written 3 post in this blog.

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