Before we even invented tools we looked down at our meaty digits, saw four bony knots and had an epiphany of violence. It was simply programmed in our DNA. We shed blood in hieroglyphs and competed in Pankration depicted on Greek pottery.
Fast forward thousands of years and not much has changed. Combatants with new moves and new clothes are still doing battle in coliseums, but our ancient practice now coexists in the era of smart phones, emoji language, and a constant electronic logging of all our waking moments.
Fighters don't just choke out their opponents and disappear for months. These athletes provide us with 10-second Snapchat videos, constant Tweet updates and impromptu broadcasts on Periscope.
An online presence is now a brand identity. A tweet is a mission statement.
Take current UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, for example. After winning his last fight against Henry Cejudo, Johnson took time to plug his Twitch account.
Twitch is one of the fastest growing streaming platforms for gameplay. It's not just Johnson coming to play; Rampage Jackson, Max Holloway and newly-crowned Invicta Strawweight Champion Angela Hill are all among a list of fighters flocking to the site. So what's drawing so much attention from the fighting community?
It all seems like a millennial-American dream to a living off of your hobby. But for fighters it may offer more security for when they can no longer compete.
"Right now it's simply an extension of my brand," says Hill, adding, "but I'm hoping down the line when I'm finished with fighting this can be an alternate source of income. It's one of those things I can do no matter how old I am or what my body feels like."
It’s not just about chaining sick combos in Killer Instinct while the internet cheers. USADA interrupted one of the live streams to test Johnson as fans watched in real time. It was a moment no one would ever be a part of if it wasn't for new technology.
Through Twitch's service, Johnson provides exclusive content to his "Mighty Squad" subscribers. He can chat live, play against and receive donations directly from supporters in an instant.
Such exposure isn't always a floodgate of positivity. With your entire life on display, especially after a loss, a fighter is always ripe for critique.
"It's cool that fans can get to interact with and virtually hang out with the fighters they love, the only downside is that trolls get the same access," Hill explains. "It also gives fighters a platform to show their personality and really connect with fans on another level. Some fighters hate it but I kind of revel in entertaining, maybe I'll get sick of it one day."
Fighters live a different life than they did 100 years ago, or even 10 years ago for that matter. It's not clear how MMA and its fighters will continue to change in the face of the monolith of modernity. One thing is for sure, as the future collides with the present, this rabbit hole will only become deeper. In our lifetime, we may even live to see the UFC debut it's own virtual Octagon and create a whole new definition of the term "keyboard warrior."
"I think the perception of what a fighter is outside of the cage will change drastically," Hill said. "Maybe the next step could be some kind of virtual reality fighting game where you can actually get your ass kicked by your favorite or least favorite fighter. We can build it, we have the technology."