I don’t understand you people (what do you mean "you people????"): Why is everybody so high on this whole "We're going on Fox!", "They're getting rid of the Gladiator!" development? I for one like the raw and non-mainstreamed feel of the UFC and ist product. No matter if you like "Face the Pain" and the Gladiator though, I wonder if it’s not premature to celebrate what’s happening here. After all, they are not getting rid of that stuff because they feel "Face the Pain" sucks, all of a sudden. They are not ditching the Gladiator because Dana White hates that intro. If that had been the case, this stuff would've changed along with the new look for the pre-fight-intros or along with some of the many other changes they've made over the years. The UFC is getting mainstreamed, starting with it’s production design. That's what's happening here.
As long as that only changes the intro-music...well, so be it. I don’t like the "Strikeforce
Challengers" –intro too much and suspect it will be along those lines. But that’s just a matter of taste. However, what if the whole thing gets the mainstream treatment beyond that? What if Fox and the UFC decide, that all that blood is not good for image and mainstream appeal so elbows need to go? Will you still be cheering? "Will never happen! They had shit like that in Strikeforce and Dana changed it back"? So in your oppinion, Dana White is above changing his tune if it becomes apparent that to further the sports success, the violence needs to be toned down? Is that a stance you’d like to put money on? Do you still remember that it was White who rescued the sport by doing just that: putting new rules in place, reduce the violence? Why would we as fans want the sport to become more mainstream than it is anyway?
I see the reason for a site like Bloody Elbow to try and convince us that mainstream appeal is wonderful. For the guys who run the site that translates into cash money. For the many helping hands it could mean job-openings as writers instead of a pat on the back. For the UFC it obviously means even more money in the bank. But the fan, what does he get out of it? More and better fights in a couple of years maybe. Assuming that with a more widespread popularity the appeal to become an MMA figher will draw more talent. Maybe. After all it will probably never reach the heights of sporting traditions like football, baseball or soccer in our lifetimes. Plus it will always be a sport that requires more than other athletic endeavours. Football may be just as gruesome to your body. But the mentality required to let yourself be locked in a cage to fight another trained killer combat athlete all on your own is still very different from blocking players of the opposing team with your mates at your side. It will always be regarded as brutal, even if they tone it down. Worse if they do not.
Other than a greater influx of fighters, I see little for us fans to get from this devlopment. Rogan may have to tone it down, the fighters will more and more become little GSPs delivering the quotes their image-consultant has agreed upon with their sponsors, building their pseudo-feuds with opponents (unfortunately, that shit is already happening. God how I hate the endless stream of "grudge matches"). The idea seems to be, that they will stop at the sport though. They won’t touch the ruleset, the core of it all. But what makes us think so? Other major sports have seen their rulesets changed only to make them better digestible to the mainstream public. Like the offside-rule in soccer that was introduced to encoure more play in midfield. MMA will see these same changes. To think the adaption oft he sport into the mainstream will stop at the sport, will not change it, is naive, I think. Some changes may be cheered by some…if they try to reduce the hard-to-digest grappling aspect for example. Many changes will be a matter of taste and if done right, the majority of fans will be happy. Only: That will be the new, broader, more mainstream fanbase. And many times their desires are not in tune with the hardcores that were there before them: You. Me. Us.
Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll gladly end up reading this five or ten years from now and think: "Man...you really had no idea. Look how cool everything is". But I can’t help but feel that we are cheering for something that will come back to bite us in the ass. That fans are inviting a change in hopes of being the even cooler guy at the watercooler tomorrow who was with the sport from day one and knows it all. But Susan from accounting still won’t care – Gladiator intro or not - and some of our stories may start with "Man, if only you could've seen the fights in the old days…"