By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
John McCain (pictured above) was laid to rest on September 1 having passed away on August 25 at the age of 81, bringing an end to his fight against brain cancer.
The former Arizona State Senator and military officer was among the most recognisable faces in U.S. politics, best known internationally for running against Barrack Obama for President of the United States in 2008.
During the Vietnam War, McCain was captured and held as a prisoner for five years, subjected to torture for refusing to reveal tactical information.
In Mixed Martial Arts, McCain remains one of the sport’s most influential historical figures.
“With Senator McCain passing, I’m so struck by the extraordinary and courageous life he led,” IMMAF president Kerrith Brown Stated. “His legacy in the evolution of MMA is also not to be forgotten. Through his forcing of regulation in the U.S., the Unified Rules and today’s MMA was born.”
The former Navy man was among the sport’s most significant detractors, at one time its greatest rival.
McCain infamously labelled MMA as “human cockfighting” in 1996. The term has become synonymous with the early days of the UFC and the sport’s explosion in popularity, as it gained traction from a polarizing lack of rules in the Octagon. McCain was later among the developers of the Muhammed Ali Act introduced into federal law in 1999 to protect the welfare of boxers.
Due to connections and business ties within the sport of boxing, McCain’s motives for taking on ‘the world’s fastest growing sport’ were questioned. Regardless, the UFC’s broadcasting revenue stream took a major blow and events were banned across the nation.
However, the political challenge ultimately served as the catalyst for UFC owners of the time to launch a counter-offence that would see the sport become the titan that it is today.
Changes were made for what would become the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, developed by expert veterans, spearheaded by UFC commissioner Jeff Blatnick and senior referee John McCarthy. MMA was subsequently legitimised and first sanctioned at the U.S. State level in the year 2000 before parent company SEG sold the promotion to Zuffa in early 2001; brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and business partner Dana White, who together took the sport to even greater heights.
Over time McCain developed a respect for the sport that enabled personal taste to be set aside. By 2014, he was telling UFC champion Jon Jones that he would be watching his UFC 172 light-heavyweight title bout with Glover Teixeira.
“I approve of them (MMA/the UFC) now, I don’t enjoy it as much as I do regular boxing, because that’s what I grew up with,” McCain said in 2015. “But I don’t have objections to it now.”
McCain stood beside now former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta in 2014, along with Bellator MMA promoter Scott Coker, allied as combat sport stakeholders committing to a study investigating the effects of head trauma.
John McCain remains a divisive figure in the MMA community, but that would hardly phase a man of his long service in the upper echelons of politics. Undeniably, McCain holds claim to a significant role in the sport’s history, as one of the most influential figures in MMA’s defining era.