If you're reading this right now, you probably know more about MMA than any of your friends (unless, of course, your friends are also reading this, in which case you're rolling with a tight crew). Much like the infamous internet wrestling community, we gather online for the most comprehensive and erudite coverage of a sport that for so long has existed on the fringes of North American mainstream culture. Because we slogged through the murky sports landscape to discover the Head Kick Legends and Bloody Elbows and MMA Manias of the world, we are entitled to a deeper understanding than our less involved peers. It's almost as if we're in a special club, and -- deep down -- we all kind of enjoy elitism.
As such, earlier this week when it leaked that the UFC has signed a massive deal with Fox to bring the most well-known and talent-rich MMA promotion to network television, I was more reticent than I would have imagined. After all, this is supposed to be the final nail of the coffin of the myth of "human cockfighting", wherein metaphorical and literal trolls like Tony Kornheiser declare our sport "repulsive". This is supposed to bring the best of MMA to the masses, on a platform available to anyone with a functioning television set. This is supposed to be what catapults our nobly savage sport into the pantheon of American athletic relevance!
But... I kind of don't want that. And I'm not even sure why. Of course, I'm thrilled for the fighters, the combatants who shed blood for my entertainment, above all else. This new stage will put more money into their pockets as well as attract a higher caliber of athlete to the sport, even improving my own enjoyment of the product. But as often as we malign detritus like Keith Jardine and Leonard Garcia, do we really want them squeezed out of the picture entirely? Isn't that part of the charm of the sport, that a gym rat who thinks he's training for a bar fight can compete under the brightest of lights? Isn't it a positive being the opposite of whatever Kornheiser thinks is good?
And don't you feel an air of superiority when someone asks you to list the greatest fighters of all time and they think you want hibachi at the mention of Sakuraba? Realistically, my friends who do follow the sport and who do watch most pay-per-views with me couldn't list 1/10 of the consensus ranked fighters that I can. While I do enjoy educating them on such matters, my pleasure stems more from the fact that it is I who passes on the knowledge rather than that they are learning more. I know that's incredibly self-centered, but I can't help it!
It really is hipster syndrome. I like knowing where all the good music is while everyone else listens to trash on the radio. I like knowing who all the good fighters are and which are the matchups to watch and what's going on behind the scenes with contracts and feuds and the myriad other delights I've discovered in my fandom. So while I'm overjoyed for the fighters who have so long deserved a bigger spotlight, it's somewhat bittersweet. I'll watch with glee the first bout in sterling Fox HD, but you can bet I'll later cross my arms and pitch a fit when Neil Everett tries to sound like he knows something about MMA on SportsCenter that night. And I have a feeling many of you will be doing the same along with me.