Luke Thomas and I have been doing these video chats for a couple of weeks over at MMA Nation and now I'm dragging them back to BE. We're calling them The MMA Tete-A-Tete: Coarsening the Discourse and you can see the whole collection on Luke's YouTube playlist.
In this installment we talk about the marketing of UFC 143 and make our predictions for Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit.
We also discuss:
- What's going on with SBN MMA, ie Luke's move to MMA Fighting and what's happening to MMA Nation
- The Fox/FX/Fuel TV deal so far
- UFC 143 PPV prospects
- The mis-marketing of Nate Diaz and Nate's idea for an NFL Films style of UFC documentary film-making.
Luke Thomas: Alright, so you were talking about Nick Diaz so before we get out of there, let's wrap up on that. The final thought, I made my case that, yeah, listen I understand why they're marketing him that way, but I'm not buying the angle. Your last take on it before we move on.
Nate Wilcox: Well, my last take on it is this. The UFC has a problem in that they overmarket the violence of their fights consistently. You know how everybody remixes CDs nowadays so that's it's always the loudest thing you've ever heard on your MP3 player? It used to be there was a lot of contrast in a CD mix where it would go from quiet to loud and now everything is loud all the time even if it's some twerp with a guitar, it comes on like louder than Slayer in your headphones and the UFC is at that same level.
They're always at that high band wavelength like, "Gahhh! This is a crazy fight! Boom! Boom! Knockout! Limp Bizkit...blah!" and it's just, it just becomes white noise after a while. You could have the second coming of Mike Tyson in MMA and he could be grabbing people by the hair and slamming them into his knee and have these spectacular piledriver knockouts and they would only be able to market him as violent as they do Josh Koscheck right now because the way they sell the violence and so I think they need to tone it back a little bit and mix up their music and the frenetic pace of the editing when they sell. Show some Nick Diaz in a medium length shot beating the crap out of Frank Shamrock or B.J. Penn with just a sustained beating or the Paul Daley fight. Have no sound or just the sounds of the punches. Show that, the ballet of the fistic violence. Let's see that and let's see it in a way where it has some impact and not just a wash of overemphasized hype. Let's save the hype of the violence for the really spectacular moments.
Luke Thomas: And I think the best way to tell somebody about something, at least about fighters is to show them through their fights. Have them explain themselves and what they were doing. I don't mean in a procedural way but, "He said something to you there. What did he say and how did that make you feel?" They do that sometimes on their countdown shows but they only allude to their moments.
Boxing is so good with that, now boxing lends themselves more to it because boxing has 12 rounds and the rounds are shorter and there's these little dramatized moments but the drama unfolds like a new chapter every new round and okay, we've got a three round fight. It's a little harder to do but they last a long time and five round fights, it's definitely possible. Somebody should just do a book called ‘Fight Stories' and you take the better fighters like the Shogun-Henderson fight or the Couture-Rizzo fight and have somebody sit down with both those guys and have them walk through when they got kicked in the gut and how it shot pain through the arches of my feet and I looked at the clock and it said 2:27 and I thought, "Oh no!" talking about fear and trepidation.
That's when guys, they may put on a poker face and when the UFC shows those clips of guys getting knocked out, that's spectacular to see Carlos Condit knock out Dong Hyun Kim but it's kabuki theater at the end of the day. I don't want to see kabuki theater in the highlight reels. I wanna hear about the drama of a bout and when you live it live, watching the Shogun-Henderson fight live was fucking thrilling.
If you can recreate the feeling you had when you saw that fight, there's no better way to sell somebody. There's no better way to sell MMA and frankly, it doesn't just make it entertaining, it legitimizes the fighters, it humanizes the fighters because they're giving you the human element of it, even if they're human element is kind of crazy and it legitimizes the sport. I think a dramatic component missing and frankly, I keep coming back to it and you're gonna kick my ass for it but listen, to promote a fight, there's a lot of different ways to do it and that pro wrestling model of theatrics and this, that and the other, at the end of the day, it's unserious. And I'm not saying it has to be like we're discussing Plato. I don't mean chinscratching serious but I mean a little more thoughtful. When you get that kind of content, you get just enough. Not too far but just enough and I think that's a great, great, great way to sell sports fighters, UFC and the fights, themselves.
Nate Wilcox: We were talking about this in a chat earlier this week between the two of us and I think it was the missing piece to me. People have complained for a long time about the UFC having an inability to create stars. They had the initial wave of the Chuck Liddells and the Randy Coutures that came out with The Ultimate Fighter, the only stars they really made were GSP and Brock Lesnar and Brock Lesnar came from the WWE fully made so really just GSP is the only star.
Luke Thomas: [Jon] Jones is getting close. Jones is getting close.
Nate Wilcox: Jones is on the verge but he isn't quite there yet. They have this inability and I realize when we were talking about the storytelling, I'm like, "They don't do enough to talk about the fights."When they do the countdowns, they do a lot of footage of the training camps and the back stories and lives of these guys but frankly, that's not what's interesting about these guys. What I would like to see is an NFL films style approach. Imagine if they had a documentary film crew at every event doing some behind the scenes and doing some new footage. That's the thing about NFL films that's so killer.
You watch the game on ESPN or CBS or whatever and you see a lot of great live coverage but then when you see the NFL films version a week later, it's a whole new version shot on film. Different angles, different sounds. They really mic the field. Imagine if they were micing the Octagon, just the Octagon, tuning out the crowd and sometimes maybe even tuning in the crowd to give the impression of what the fighters hear when the crowd roars and they can't hear anything else but if you can hear every grunt, the kind of things these guys are saying to each other in the clinch, the bone-thudding impact of the punches, that would be tremendously dramatic.
NFL Films is what made me a football fan as a kid. Those films every Saturday that would make the Oakland Raiders or the Dallas Cowboys into mythical figures. Randy White wasn't just a pretty good defensive tackle, he was a fucking force of nature that came roaring over the center in slow-motion and forearm-shivving the running back on every hit and they would talk to guys in the locker room like, "Oh Jesus, when I found out we were playing the Cowboys next Sunday I almost cried because I knew I was gonna spend 60 minutes of Randy White kicking my ass.
If they had the fighters talking about that, back footage of the trainers going, "Ohhh, when my boy got hit with that right cross, I almost cried," that kind of stuff, if you found out more of the backstory of the actual fight and the actual drama and these guys talking about what was their perspective of going into that third round when they're hurt. Somebody breaks their hand and has to go back out there. What's what like? That would be I think something they could do that would really build these guys into legends more than just sort of interchangeable commodities.
Luke Thomas: Two points to that. I could do that now. For example, I could talk to Urijah Faber and say, "Hey, when you broke your hand against Mike Brown or both your hands, what happened the next round?" but that's not the same as a documentary crew with an artistic eye retelling that story and putting footage in there and sitting down with Faber at length about one moment and getting more and more and more out of him. I've got a 15 minute window to ask him a bunch of shit. My question about his broken hand maybe in passing and people are like "Well MMA media asked that all the time," but MMA media can do that but they're sort of hamstrung. That's not what their role is. Their role is sort of informational. They're not selling you the moment in that way and beyond that, it's not even just the fight. Certainly the fight is great but if you look back at the Ali fights, it's back to them promoting the fights, like Joe Frazier talking about how he thought he was disrespected at press conferences and you can see the press conference footage and you can see Ali calling him an Uncle Tom and all this stuff. It's not just the moment when they're actually competing, you can sell the whole process.
Nate Wilcox: The build.
Luke Thomas: I think the next time the build comes around, you're more invested in it and you think about it more clearly.
Nate Wilcox: I was thinking about Ali-Frazier earlier when you were talking about ways to build fights and there was a huge talk element to building those fights but then the fights delivered and built on the talk and the talk is just a prelude. The talk explains why Frazier hated Ali so much and why Frazier didn't want his corner to throw in the towel even though they thought Frazier was literally about to die and if you've seen the Thrilla in Manilla that's like two guys climbing Everest with no oxygen and trying to kill each other on the peak. There's nothing comparable to it and if you read the Norman Mailer account, the George Plimpton account, you see the documentary footage, it's just at a whole ‘nother level to where it's one of the great epic sports tales of our era and I think the UFC/MMA has the potential to match that but it hasn't come close yet.
Luke Thomas: And another thing is when you have these fights all the time. For example, Mayweather is fighting Cotto. He announced it for May 5th. Today is February 1st. February, March, April, we have three whole months to think and digest and prepare and analyze and compare and contrast and anticipate. You can run through this huge gamut of emotions about heightening interest and you can have that moment. I actually think that's going to be a really good fight but that's neither here nor there. What I'm pointing out is, "Hey, we had Shogun-Henderson last month." I thought that fight was incredible but you didn't have a lot of time to really sink your teeth into it before you're moving on into the next one.
We mentioned this last time. UFC 145, the Montreal show, got canceled and they moved it to Atlanta. That Atlanta show, I really hope Jones and Evans are healthy because you're gonna get time to sink your teeth into it a little bit and when it comes around, it's gonna fucking rule! It's gonna fucking rule! I really feel like that's missing. It's everything we're talking about here but if there's no time to digest then I just don't know. I just don't know.
Nate Wilcox: And that's another reason why canceling the 145 in Montreal was so key. Now there's no major MMA after early March and we have this long lull. It's not just that we know about Jones-Evans in advance, there's no other competing UFCs for several weeks in front of that so we'll really be jonesing for a UFC. We won't be stumbling from one Saturday to Saturday, fight after fight after fight after fight. It's gonna be a big fucking deal. I'm pumped and I can't wait and god help us that they both stay healthy.
Luke Thomas: Before we go, the last thing we'll do, predictions. Condit/Diaz, who do you like?
Nate Wilcox: I have to go Diaz. It seems like he's more of a force of nature in a five round fight. Condit definitely can scrap and mix it up but I think that Condit relies on getting things into a clinch range to really get an advantage over Diaz and Diaz is very tough, too much to clinch with and he's gonna be working your body and everything and I think that boxing range or kickboxing range, Diaz is gonna control the initiative and light him up and wear him down but it should be a great fight.
Luke Thomas: Do you expect Condit to land significant shots?
Nate Wilcox: Oh yeah. Diaz always walks into some shots. Look what Paul Daley did and Condit definitely doesn't hit as hard as Daley but he hits hard. He hits really hard and he can mix it up like he showed with Dong Hyun Kim, he can mix it up and if he gets you stumbling or bent over, he'll throw a knee flying right into your face and that'll finish anybody.
Luke Thomas: Yeah,I feel like what's great about this bout for the reasons I described. You can go check the piece on MMAFighting.com but also from a technical perspective, both guys are really coming into their own now. They both have their liabilities obviously, but I feel they're really like, they're getting good. They're getting really good. I like Diaz to win too. I wouldn't be surprised if Condit won but I definitely think Diaz is going to win. It'll be late. It'll be fourth or fifth round decision but as I mentioned today, he's gonna win I think Diaz, but he's gonna catch an ass-whooping along the way and watching that will be truly spectacular.