Questions for Ben Fowlkes

Ben is trashing the Kimbo Slice/Tank Abbott fight:

This fight is not a serious MMA bout, and everyone knows it. It's a sideshow spectacle. It belongs at a county fair or highway bar (what my dad would call a "juke joint", if you will). When I heard that the original plan to put it on in New Jersey fell through because an "investor" pulled out at the last minute, I thought that perhaps cooler heads had prevailed. Sadly, there's always someone ready to scoop up a match like this in the hopes of exploiting its "World's Wildest Police Chases" type appeal.

I initially opposed Kimbo's entrance into MMA, then supported it briefly, and now I'm mostly against it again.

But where Kimbo lost me was when he immediately challenged Tank Abbott to be his next opponent. That's when it started to look like he had no interest in becoming a real MMA fighter. He just wants to make some quick cash thumping on very beatable has-beens.

So fine, why shouldn't he get paid? We all sell what we have, whether it's violence or business acumen or, in the case of the ring girls, the ability to smile and hold a sign at the same time.

But does anybody think this fight will actually be interesting to watch? It's being sold purely on name value, which the promoters hope will be enough to get butts in the seats. And while it may be enough to draw a certain type of crowd, you have to wonder what people are coming to see. An MMA fight between two skilled, ambitious competitors? No. A backyard brawl with different scenery and six dollar beers? Probably.

Of course, he could always land a big haymaker and upset Kimbo, but what would that do to change the landscape of the MMA world or your perception of either fighter?  It's not that I'm against this fight. I'm just against the reasons for this fight.

Riddle me this Ben, how is Kimbo vs Tank any different than Matt Hughes vs Royce Gracie or any of the Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock fights the UFC treated us to in the last couple of years?

How is it that the late PRIDE was so often held up as the gold standard of world-wide MMA when their bread and butter was spectacles, many of them more grotesque and less competitive than Kimbo/Tank?

As MMA Analyst writes:

Let's touch on the PRIDE promotional tactics. PRIDE loves to add these type of fights to their card because they had a love affair pitting David vs. Goliath. One of the biggest cases of the entertainment factor is Minowa or as many know him as "Minowaman". With his grand entrances and unbelievably risky moves he pulled in the PRIDE ring, he was one of those popular Japanese fighters that PRIDE fans in Japan loved to see. He would take fights while weighting 185 against guys like Eric "Butterbean" Esch and various crossover Japanese wrestlers. Other fights include Frye vs. Takayama, and the various brawler battles that PRIDE put on as a spectacle. They didn't have really any bearing in the division. Pitting Fedor against Zuluzinho was a complete joke, but PRIDE also tapped into the popularity of fighters as well. Sapp, Crocop, Fedor, and the list goes on.

If your objection to the Kimbo/Tank fight is not the fight, but the "reasons for the fight" why are you not objecting to the rumored Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva matchup? That match certainly has little bearing on the rankings and is solely being promoted to put butts in seats.

Takanori Gomi himself defended the spectacle approach to MMA matchmaking in a (now deleted) interview on Sherdog:

To say that Gomi is somewhat surprised at this assessment of K-1 HERO'S is one thing, though according to his answer, the focus on entertainment is a natural and acceptable conclusion to him that he has never quite questioned.

"It's necessary, so it's not really a bad thing," Gomi says. "You can't have title fight after title fight after title fight, because most people will not be able to follow it and get involved. You need to have entertainment for those who don't watch too often or may be watching for the first time to say, `Ah, those fights were entertaining. Let's watch this show again, next time they put on one.' Besides, doesn't your country enjoy fighters like Charles Bennett?"

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