This is a little old, but I wanted to cover it on BE. Luke Thomas appeared on the Jordan Breen Radio Show on August 26th and made an argument that viewing MMA through a pro wrestling lens is a mistake. There's been a good bit of response to Luke's comments, most of it focused on his unfortunate decision to insult wrestling fans as a group. There's actually a substantive argument presented on the show and I wanted to present Luke's case (transcribed by Zach Arnold and you can read the whole thing at Fight Opinion):
LUKE THOMAS: "Well, this whole nonsense, this guy's a heel, this guy's a babyface, this is a turnface, this farrago of absolute inane [expletive], shut the [expletive] up. There's a reason I don't watch pro-wrestling. You know why? BECAUSE IT SUCKS, that's why. I don't like FICTION. Thanks. I like sports and I'm not alone. I'm not alone. I mean, listen, are there obvious, obvious familial relationships between MMA and pro-wrestling? Yes, of course, you have to be a buffoon to argue otherwise. From Japan, in America, and the way the UFC has structured it's business and the way in which they promote, yes, of course, of course there is no denying that and you would be really, really dishonest in saying otherwise. But STOP pretending you can distill MMA on pro-wrestling's terms. You cannot. It's real as much that may pain you to think."
JORDAN BREEN: "I do find it really interesting, too, that any time there's anything that can be considered a triumph for pro-wrestling in the sphere of MMA, it's used as justification that somehow pro-wrestling is somehow a legitimate entity, like it's a finishing school for something higher. You know, we look at something like Silva/Sonnen and the message taken away is, OH, WELL SONNEN TALKED TO ROWDY RODDY PIPER ABOUT HOW TO CUT TO A PROMO AND HE REALLY LIKED PRO-WRESTLING SO CLEARLY MMA WOULD BE NOWHERE WITHOUT PRO-WRESTLING. ‘Anderson Silva only became great because he got pro-wrestling help from Chael Sonnen. Chael Sonnen got him over, as they say in the business,' ‘eh Luke, ‘eh? ‘eh? ‘eh?"
LUKE THOMAS: "Or the other thing that I love is like, hey is MMA boring? Throw in a little pro-wrestling atmospherics and suddenly it's interesting. Saying or, what was the one that really got me? The one that really got me is the only difference between pro-wrestling and MMA is that MMA is real is like saying the only difference between monkeys and humans is that humans can talk. It's like, uh.... not exactly. I mean, the genetic similarity between humans and apes is 99% but we're pretty different at this point. The branching of the trees is trending away and that's the real critical consideration here. As much as the UFC, in fact, no doubt about it, employed a lot of the WWE's game plan for their growth and their development and their promotion, they're trending towards the sporting audience. That is the audience that they're creating. I know that FOR A FACT. I know that for a fact in meetings I've had with SBNation, they are dying to get more of the actual sporting audience and everybody loves a little trash talk. That's sport-wise, baseball, basketball, everybody loves theater. I mean, my God, in D.C. the theater between Albert Haynesworth and Mike Shanahan, where are your pro-wrestling constructs now, assholes? You know I don't see anybody be like, ‘oh Albert Haynesworth is the typical heel!' You know, that seems to fall away very conveniently in sports they don't pay attention but you could just as easily apply it. But the reality is..."
More from Luke and Breen in the full entry.
JORDAN BREEN: "The reality I think there is that they might try to do it but the real truth is MMA has become the sport for pro-wrestling fans and essentially people who've never liked sports before, so trying to say that if they followed other sports is completely in anathema. They never would, that's why they're so into MMA and I think that the funniest irony for me, you mentioned the UFC trying to follow some WWE business plans, you know, in terms of where they do events, like they're interested in Germany for instance and to me the central irony is people going, ‘Well, you know, it proves that pro-wrestling, you know, it validates pro-wrestling and proves pro-wrestling is worthwhile because the UFC is trying to copy the WWE's playbook!' when really, essentially they're trying to follow a treasure map to gullible, ridiculously easy-to-fool marks.
LUKE THOMAS: "That's so much... How much more interesting is human success and fallibility and the contradiction between them and trying to make sense of it all. That, to me, trying to unpack that and make sense of it and roll with it and have fun with it, that to me is so is why sport will always beat pro-wrestling and not to say that pro-wrestling hasn't been hugely at popular. Obviously the 80s were the hey-day, but that... I mean, listen, who is The Rock, right? Who is that guy? Well, Dwayne Johnson is Dwayne Johnson. The Rock is a character and Dwayne Johnson is an actor. It is a human caricature played by a human being. But, to me, Dwayne Johnson as entertaining as some of The Rock's rants may have been when I was 18 years old or whenever, Dwayne Johnson's life is vastly more interesting and you know or even locally, let's take John McCain. I don't care whether you like John McCain or hate him. Here's a guy who was a war hero and also left his first wife for his second for really no good reason, you know this is a guy who has served America for many years, fought for America and was tortured in prison, I mean my God one of the best Americans ever, and you know... kind of just left his family hanging and to me that is the essence of who we are. I am many, I contain multitudes. To me, you know, that is why I enjoy sports so much more. Chael Sonnen, for all his inanity, I bet he's a much more interesting guy than sort of this person he portrayed himself to be and I think if pro-wrestling fans lose that, then you lose part of the reason why sports and our athletes who participate in our sport, THAT is what makes them so interesting."
LUKE THOMAS: "Yeah. I would just say that you're only cheating yourself, you know, you're only hurting yourself. You're only giving yourself a very narrow window into a world that I would ask you to believe is significantly more complicated and significantly more interesting because of that complication. You know, you don't have to have final resolution about somebody, you know somebody's either black or their white, and I mean that sort of as a moralistic thing, ah, well they're evil or they're good or they're strong or they're weak. You know, they're much more than that and you don't have to have a satisfying feeling about them being predominantly one or the other. You could just say, I don't know who they really are and I say that all the time about people and that's OK and that's still, to me, vastly more interesting than anything else. And people change over the course of their career. BJ Penn isn't the same guy he was earlier and that's human development that has changed him. He's a father now, he's got lots of money now, he was a two-division champion, you know he's a much different human being than he was before, you know why lose sight of that?"
LUKE THOMAS: "Well, I can say this, I don't know pro-wrestling terminology and I think I'm probably a lot more informed because of it."
I'll be back with more on this debate including two very interesting rebuttals from Cage Side Seats, but I wanted to get Luke's case out there in his own words first.