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The definition of brawling according to the dictionary is "a noisy quarrel, squabble, or fight."
While some of that meaning can be used as part of the fighting definition, when we talk about brawlers, we're usually referring to fighters who throw strikes with reckless abandon. In this article, I wanted to discuss whether or not there is an argument for the fighting style to be considered a "martial art."
I think there's definitely an argument for it there as we have watched some brawlers defeat traditional martial artists. They often rely on their physical gifts but does that make their fighting style less of a martial art?
If we consider it, one of the most famous brawlers in history was actually a professional boxer.
Mike Tyson, the youngest heavyweight boxing champion in history, was once considered just a brawler. Now firstly we have to decipher why he was actually considered a brawler and it's not that hard. The first characteristic is the fact that he throws wild punches without considering what's coming back at him. Secondly, he's entertaining to watch due to this reckless abandonment he shows while throwing strikes. Thirdly, the devastating power he has when landing shots seem to wither opponents easily into submission. Now also, we have to consider that Iron Mike was actually a "world class brawler" and that some fighters with that style would not have the same success. So this is part of why we see brawling wouldn't be classed as a martial art as it utilises skills from technical defined styles.
The Style of No Style...
If we use early UFC fighter David "Tank" Abbott as a case study as he is the stereotypical "bar brawler" we all talk about, there's literally a UFC documentary where Tank gets drunk with one of his buddies and talks about his fights. Yet we don't give Tank the credit he is due as a martial artist as he is actually well versed in boxing and wrestling. Both are considered to be rough style martial arts with many talented competitors who compete in both. So what makes Tank Abbott a brawler, then, if he is in fact a talented martial artist? It's probably the fact that he is willing to go into an octagon/ring and engage in aggressive striking with his opponent. Aggression is another key factor in what makes a fighter more of a brawler. The sport of boxing probably lost more fans from watching the likes of Bernard Hopkins. Hopefully those fans came back for the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton, and those fighters with that entertaining brawling style. What else makes a good brawler who can compete with the world's best?
It's not enough just to have a few techniques as a "world class brawler." Physical talents play a big part when it comes to how much success a fighter has. Mike Tyson literally had the whole package physically, which is why he was such a devastating brawler. He had an awesome chin allowing him to take a good shot, devastating power to allow him to deliver a good shot, and speed which was usually unseen amongst heavyweight boxers. If you give him the basics of boxing to fight with, he was always going to be successful. While MMA fighter Tank Abbott had a lot of those attributes, he lacked the fitness to mix it with the world's best. Even then, it might have been hard, as better fighters than Tank found out. Forrest Griffin was a product of the original Ultimate Fighter reality series. His natural physical gift and his fight style made him a main stay amongst fans.
He held the UFC light heavyweight title briefly with an epic win over Quinton Jackson. Unfortunately for him, he managed to lose it to famed wrestler Rashad Evans. Yet he was still picked as an opponent for Anderson Silva because the Brazilian was having such boring fights. It goes to show how much brawlers are valued for their entertainment value in fight sports. While he's well versed in Muay Thai, Wrestling, and Jiu Jitsu, this never stopped Forrest with his wild, aggressive style. It was an entertaining fight while it lasted but Anderson won in devastating fashion. Forrest's reckless aggression worked against him but probably won him more fans for such a good fight.
We can't classify brawling as a martial art as it relies on a fighter's physical talents and aggressive fight style. It's the kind of stuff you can't teach but at the same time it doesn't make those fighters any less fun to watch.