In a recent series, I wrote about why I thought your favorite sport sucks. Everyone has a right to like or dislike a particular sport or even defend it against someone like me who thinks that aspects of their sport are incredibly boring and lame. When it comes to MMA, I found myself with a stronger opinion, about the sport as a whole, which I wanted to share.
For background, I’ve included the original content from my previous article and elaborated below it.
Popular view: These guys are just like boxers but with a worse attitude, right? Too much violence for me.
Reality: Let’s right off the bat address the violence aspect of MMA compared to boxing. MMA fighters do in fact wear smaller 4-ounce gloves. In boxing an athlete is forced to wear larger gloves that protect the hands, which in turn allows the puncher to inflict maximum force against their opponent without injuring their own hands as easily. What does this essentially translate into? Harder punches being thrown!
What makes boxing even more dangerous compared to MMA? In boxing, after an opponent has just been knocked down and concussed the referee will give them every opportunity to stand back up and then send them right back in front of the person who just knocked them out. This will repeat until the braindead opponent is unconscious in many cases. Now let’s switch back to MMA where the job of the referee is to protect the fighters from taking unnecessary damage by stopping the fight when a fighter can no longer (or should no longer) continue. Submissions can result in broken limbs or an unconscious fighter, but generally fighters are smart enough to tap out before it gets to that point.
Combining striking and grappling makes for a much more dynamic and exciting event than the dying sport of boxing. Honestly, think about how many boxing gyms versus MMA gyms are in your town and tell me boxing isn’t a niche sport nowadays.
Now that I pointed out why MMA is better and safer than boxing, let me channel my inner Chael Sonnen and address some common issues with it. MMA fighters spent decades fighting for pennies, and now that there are legitimate opportunities to make money there are so many fighters who don’t, well…fight!
As a fan of this sport, it bothers me to no end that after having a fight promoted for months, the likelihood of it being cancelled due to a pre-fight injury is incredibly high (although promoters may say otherwise). Let me clarify: there are plenty of active fighters on the UFC and Bellator rosters; but there are only a handful of stars. You know, the people that you actually want to tune in to watch. Out of that bunch, injuries or an entitlement to hold-out for the matchup that they feel they deserve causes so many fight cards to fall apart. Let’s not forget the difference between a fighter that is broke and starving versus a fighter that has since made millions in their career: The desire to put your body on the line isn’t quite the same at that point.
It is becoming increasingly hard to be as passionate about a sport in which the athletes I want to watch are sidelined, while too many of the lesser-known athletes squander their chances to get me to care about watching them. For every exciting up-and-comer that is winning fights and gaining some headlines by doing and saying things that get my attention, there are two-dozen other fighters who think this sport is about them winning a fight and being a respectful martial artist. The truth is that they are entertainers! They are fighting for our amusement just like any other professional athlete. They would be playing in the park if it were not for the fans paying their salaries and showing up to the events. Think I’m wrong?
After having been to several UFC fights in person and watching countless MMA events on TV, why are the arenas nearly empty for the prelims? No one shows up until the main card is about to begin because — aside from the hardcore fans — they don’t care about the fighters on the undercard. Fans care about the fighters they know the stories of and have a reason to be excited about whether it be to see a rivalry, grudge match, or post-fight promo.
I cringe every time Joe Rogan sticks a microphone up a fighter’s face, after they win a fight, and asks them who do they want to fight next, only for them to squander the chance to get me to look forward to that event when they say “uh, whoever the UFC wants me to fight”. Great job, guy! I have already forgotten who you are, and am hoping that the next guy or gal on the microphone seizes the opportunity at free advertising that you blew.
Let’s face it, the UFC/Bellator and other professional MMA organizations have come a long way, but the majority of their oblivious athletes are inadvertently destroying the industry they think they are so nobly representing.
Many fighters forget that when they are on TV or in front of us in the arena they are entertainers not martial artists. Too many fighters feel it is up to the promoter to force people to want to tune in and watch them, or to get sponsors to pay them. They say things at a press conference like “I’m not here to talk, I’m here to fight.” No, you actually are there to talk and get me to be interested in watching you fight. The fighter is the one who must use their limited time in front of a microphone or camera to get people to care about their next fight. Otherwise they’ll be back to fighting in a regional circuit — where their only fans are their family and friends — and wondering what went wrong.
A handful of fighters have figured out that the recipe for financial and mainstream success in MMA includes speaking out and stirring the pot with other fighters in order to manufacture conflict. Yet so many others are stuck on the idea that fans want to see pure martial arts — and that simply isn’t the case. If it were, MMA fans would show up to the prelims. Or they would watch an amazing sport like wrestling or an obscure sport like judo.
Let’s hope that more fighters figure out the recipe for keeping us entertained; but if they don’t, there are plenty of other things to waste my time.
* All photos via Pixabay