Watching Riley Cote of the Flyers fight, there really isn't a detectable influence of mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu -- he has yet to take down Colton Orr, put him in a compression lock and feed the pain until he submits. But that's because Cote uses MMA training for strength, conditioning and stamina; it's a regimen that's given him a serious admiration for MMA fighters. "If you step into a cage, you've got some serious balls," he told the Canadian Press this week in a great little feature on the intersection between MMA and the NHL; in preparation for UFC 83, the organization's first big event to be held in Canada.
Big Georges Laraque is a fan. So is Jared Boll of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who said "I'm completely gassed after throwing [punches] for 30 seconds on the ice. And look how long some of those fights go." But the money quote came from Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins, one of our favorite new players in the League:
"You've got to be pretty crazy to get in an Octagon," Lucic said. "It's fun to see, it's entertaining for me. I love the UFC." He didn't hesitate when asked what he likes best. "For me, knockouts are a big thing," Lucic said. "When you see them landing those punches and taking each other down, that's exactly what you want to see in a fight. I think my generation is more and more interested in that freestyle kind of fighting and I think it's going to be popular for a long time."
More hockey players are expected to follow Cote into off-season MMA training, and here's hoping the relationship between the two sports goes beyond the gym. Sure, you're going to have people like Sen. John McCain who consider MMA to be "human cockfighting" (until his inevitable election flip-flop, in which he'll call it "the personification of America's fighting spirit" or some such), and guys like this columnist that believe the NHL dabbling with UFC would be akin to a Go-Kart track accepting advertising from the makers of "Grand Theft Auto." But all of those young, male fans that hockey desperately needs to court in order to grow its product in the U.S.? Yeah, they're watching UFC right now ... just like you can this weekend on Y! Sports (plug away!).