EXLCLUSIVE (Part 2) | Ed O’Neill Talks MMA and His Favorite Fighter, Criticizes Ronda Rousey and Others for Excessive Violence
Television personality and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, Ed O’Neill, spoke with BJPenn.com’s Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio Show Sunday night about his upcoming role as color-commentator for the Metamoris Pro Jiu Jitsu Invitational II on June 9.
O’Neill is perhaps best known for his long-standing role as Al Bundy on the U.S. television series, Married… With Children. The Emmy-nominated actor continues to work in television, as he is currently one of the stars on ABC’s Modern Family. Outside of the spotlight, O’Neill has spent the last two and a half decades earning a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, an endeavor that brought him around not only some of the top jiu jitsu practitioners around, but some of the great MMA fighters too.
O’Neill is a native of Youngstown, Ohio, a city well known for its proliferation of hard-nosed professional boxers.
“In Youngstown, you know, there were a lot of great boxers- we called them fighters- that came out of Youngstown: you know, Ray Mancini- you know, ‘Boom Boom,’ but before him there were so many great fighters that came out of Youngstown that it was basically a fight town. So my whole young life was trying to learn how to punch and fight that way.”
When mixed martial arts began to get more and more popular, O’Neill remembers thinking that striking most MMA fighters displayed could not compare to boxers.
“I used to say Chuck Liddell couldn’t win a Golden Glove amateur heavyweight tournament,” O’Neill stated. “He couldn’t. He’d get knocked out by an amateur. By the way, that being said, all of them would.”
Of course, O’Neill recognizes that the two sports are entirely different. The kicking and wrestling and grappling used in MMA makes success for pure boxing nearly impossible in the sport.
“They’re not boxers, you know what I mean, but again, it’s a hybrid sport. You know, you’re not just boxing, they’re kicking- so that being said, they’re not concentrating, and they don’t have the teachers to show them how to box. They don’t have the great trainers, they don’t have Freddie Roach, you know, Cus D’Amato, Angelo Dundee: they don’t have those guys that are going to show them, because they simply don’t have the time to spend just boxing. But I see an improvement in the boxing.”
As a jiu jitsu practitioner now, instead of a boxer, O’Neill said that he has noticed a transition in MMA to favor striking over grappling.
“But it’s become now, it’s evolved- you know, when they say it’s evolved, it has and it hasn’t. To a great degree, it’s basically a stand-up sport. In other words, the punching and kick is what they want to see. They don’t necessarily want to see the ground game, because for obvious reasons, it’s not as exciting. The whole idea of the round thing, where it’s five minutes, if you know just a little bit of jiu jitsu and the guy takes you down with a minute to go, you’re probably going to make the round, you know what I mean? Or they stand you back up again, if you can’t submit him right away, they stand you up. They use the fence to stand up, you know, those gloves that they wear, you can punch a hole through a door with those gloves on. They’re not to protect the guy from being hit, they’re to give the puncher more power. Could you imagine if they didn’t wear gloves, and they’re striking like they are now? They’d break their hands. So those gloves restrict the grappler from choking- it’s hard to choke a guy with those gloves on; but they increase the puncher’s ability 50%. So it’s been going in the direction of the puncher and the kicker, you see what I mean? And not [in the direction of] the grappler. In other words, you hit the ground and they’re basically usually looking at the clock. Or you’ll see, for example, two world-class wrestlers who won’t wrestle. They want to stand, because one thinks he can punch better than the other guy. So it’s kind of bizarre, you know what I mean? I don’t know if I want to see wrestlers box for five rounds or three rounds. I’d rather see boxers box and wrestlers wrestle. Listen, these are problems that are going to work out by the end of the day. It’s a new sport, it’s going to have some bumps in the road.”
Of course, the sport has evolved in the sense that the skill levels and athleticism of athletes across the board have improved, said O’Neill.
“The other thing too, let’s not kid ourselves: the other guys [with] Royce [Gracie], they didn’t know what the hell he was doing. They didn’t even know what a triangle was. So these guys that he was fighting, they weren’t of the caliber of fighters that are around today. What you’ve got now: Matt Hughes, for example, is a great athlete, just to name one. Georges [St. Pierre], he’s a great athlete… Jon Jones, a great athlete! These guys are coming from great serious wrestling programs. I think Jon Jones’ whole family played professional football. These guys are great athletes. So in that respect, it has changed. You know, you’re not seeing- what’s that idiot? The big guy, Tank [Abbott]! There’s no more Tanks in there!”
The 67 year old O’Neill has been a fan of the sport for a while now, and of all the years of watching, he said his favorite fighter is none other than Hawaiian native, BJ Penn.
“I got to say that BJ Penn, he has no idea what kind of a fan he’s got in me. I’ve been telling guys about this kid the first time I ever saw him. I thought he was the most talented fighter going. I’ve just been amazed. I bought his book, and I cheer for him every time he fights. I just love to watch him fight. I’m a huge fan of his… Freddie Roach is kind of a friend of mine, and Freddie of course has said it- I was saying it, but Freddie Roach said it publically- he was probably the best boxer, pure boxer/MMA guy.”
Before ending the conversation on mixed martial arts, O’Neill did air some grievances he has with the sport. Call it his gentle side, or more likely his adherence to jiu jitsu values of control and respect, but O’Neill did not agree with the excessive violence that some athletes have inflicted on their opponents.
“Ronda Rousey,” for instance, said O’Neill, “I think she has been phenomenal. I mean you have to say that this armlock stuff she does- you know, she’s trained with us in Torrance and in Beverly Hills. She’s been rolling around with Rener and Ryron. She’s an amazing athlete, [but] I must say, I really wish- I don’t like to see the limbs torn out of the f***ing sockets, I mean I don’t think that’s good for the sport. Now, you know, the argument is, ‘Well, if they don’t tap…’ I think, listen, if Rickson Gracie catches you in an armlock, you’re not getting out of it. He doesn’t have to break your arm, you know what I mean? He can apply enough pressure that you’re going to go, ‘OK, I’m done.’ He will not tear your arm out of the socket, unless it’s a street fight in Brazil. But what I mean by that is the whole idea of jiu jitsu is control. And once you have somebody like that, I mean look: there’s a lot of guys that get out of armlocks, but not the right kind of armlock- you’re not going to get out. She’s good enough that she didn’t have to do that.
“Same thing with Frank Mir, you don’t have to tear a guy’s shoulder out of its socket. That’s my own personal feeling about it… One other thing that bothers me, I’ve seen guys knocked out, and they keep punching until the ref pries them off. What is that all about? You know when you knock somebody out. There’s lots of examples I can give. I think, you’ve knocked them out, walk away! Don’t you know you’ve knocked them out, or are you stupid? When you hit a guy right, it goes up your arm and into your shoulder like an electric shock. It’s the same way if you hit a homerun in baseball. As soon as you connect, you know it’s gone. It’s the exact same thing.”
Be sure to check out the other half of Ed O’Neill’s interview with Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio where he talks about his BJJ background and his participation in this weekend’s Metamoris II. You can listen to the entire episode of Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio below.