Don’t believe the hype. UFC v Mythbusters. Deconstructing the facade of American MMA.
"Its real fighting, dont cha know?" :
Well start with an obvious one. It started as close to real fighting and got witch hunted to the edge of oblivion. UFC then began to advertise itself as a sport, embraced rules and a sporting network and the rest…they say…is history. Real fights feature people attacking each other in a myriad of contexts, along the lines of their own best interests to subdue their opponent and neutralise them. Anything lethal is banned from MMA along with anything that may cause long injuries. Numbers are always 1v1 with no weapons and fights only exist on one terrain. These contests occur in a set time frame that irrationally is split into sectors. A man arbitrates the fight in the cage and 3 men outside the cage judge the winner. Clothes are also banned and competitors compete semi naked, quite unlike a lot of real life fights. UFC neither started MMA, nor did they exemplify it.
"It’s a sport, dont cha know?" :
A sport is a fair competition of athletic merit, contested under a rule set. UFC as a fight league has a number of issues. UFCs effective monopoly of the big time means its basically the only game in town and exists in the context of an independent promotion, not an organisation of interlinked leagues. This makes the contest less legit as it creates a undue pressure from the company’s power structure and means the organisation exists in a vacuum completely divorced from a meritocratic accountability. Interference from the organisation itself is commonplace and in a number of ways the company’s commercial imperatives take precedence over any supposed sporting structure.
Sports leagues all have a number of features. The rational for progress is success under fair rules. Ranking, promotion and relegation are based on competitive success. Fair competition during contests is protected and rational match making exists based on a format. In short, as a sport, people aren’t gifted title shots irrespective of performance, successful and relevant competitors aren’t relegated or matched up to lose due to arbitrary judgements based on the commercial imperatives of a third party or even more shamefully due to personal relationships with the central org. No one is "in the mix" as a ranking structure is visible and this structure or a clear competition format dictates the order of play. Competitors are not owned by the org. They are given a fair opportunity to compete in the context of professional protocol. Jon Jones doesn’t get harassed by the organisation and its competitors for refusing to change a title fight in a ludicrously short time. Boxing itself doesn’t even function this way. No one complains if mayweather pulls out of a title fight rather than switch on short notice. No one complains because he is obviously the one making them money. The production team and the undercard effectively are limbs of his commercial power to begin with. If Jon Jones is so worthless, then just have the card without his fight. As for the free and fair competition, it’s a myth. The reality is that when a fitch performance will get you fast tracked to a murderers row of bad style match ups and cut after one loss, but terribly inept guys like Garcia continue to be retained, this is not free and fair competition. A flat tax of "3 losses and youre out!" is bad enough when its applied over the whole roster, encompassing a lot of differing talent levels. When an elite guy losses 1 and is cut, and an inept guy losses 5 and is retained, its even more ridiculous. When a brawl, a drugs suspension, a failure to honor contractual obligations and continually striking an opponent outside of the rules all get ignored by the org in the case of Diaz, but striking outside of the rules get you banned for life in the case of Daley, this is clearly unequal punishment. When Kongo is publically ostracised and harassed for fighting within the rules and Diaz is given title shots for breaking them…this is not fair sport. Likewise Sonnen. No sport promotes people based on their ability to sell. That’s the job of a marketing team, not competitors. In a sporting context, looking good is job of performance art cross overs like gymnastics and synchronised swimming, not a contest of duelling opposites.
"It’s a world league, dont cha know?" :
The talent pool is tiny. The bulk of competitors are American, irrespective of international rankings. A sizeable minority are brazilian. A small percentage is left for token athletes from other nations.
If we look at the current UFC HW roster for instance - 15 out of 28 fighters are American. 6 are Brazilian and the remaining 7 are from 5 other nations. This is hardly the exception. At LW 42/73 are American. Another 11 are Brazilian, and 6 are Canadian. The total of fighters who are not from local countries is 13.
The UFC roster of fighters not from local nations is - 79 out of 378 fighters.
HW : 7
LHW : 8
MW : 13
WW : 17
LW : 13
FW : 10
BW : 6
FlW : 2
WBW : 3
There is elite talent pulled in from a collection of the biggest games and names in the sport, However these guys are essentially sprinkled on shit as the bulk of competitors are of a far worse level and are local. The home advantage afforded to Americans is massive. In any sport home advantage is massive. When that home advantage is in an international context, it is even more critical. The illusion that Americans are the best fighters is maintained by this home advantage, and a clear favouritism shown to wresslers in the rules. Americans aren’t the best fighters. The are simply cheap and numerous cannon fodder that exist locally to make the international elite look good. Lots of unemployed wrestlers exist locally and they are used. Again the talent pool is tiny, because you would need to be nuts to go into fighting, given the pay structure.
UFC is a local promotion with some elite international talent. There are fight leagues all over the planet and most of them arent UFC. In wrestling talk, UFC is internationally a traveling circus. But most of the planet is owned by other orgs in other territories. UFC has a hard time pulling off a successful card East of London, and for instance something like M1 has had cards in America and its bread and butter is Europe, Russia and Asia. Pride has 100 thousand attendances and was on national tv viewed by millions. MMA internationally declined in some areas, stagnated in others and some of the best developing markets are simply not UFC territories.
"The best fight the best, dont cha know?".
Dana often gave boxing crap because May wouldnt fight Paq. The reality is that part of the allure for this fight was two prime athletes and Paq has risen up weight divisions to the point of looking unstoppable. The UFC had its own prospective superfights. Jones v Silva, Fedor v Brock, and Anderson v GSP. These fights didnt happen for a number of reasons. Dana can take some credit here as the best usually do fight the best in their own weight division, eventually. Thats if they survive and develop their game under the harassment of the orgs commercial imperatives. The best in boxing are the best in the world. Only recently can UFC boast anything like this dominance over the marketplace. Theve used it for evil, and corrupted the sport rather than enhanced it, and the talent pool is still tiny.
"It’s a fair contest of different martial arts, dont cha know?".
See above. Tiny talent pool, wrestler location, wrestler friendly rules in a wrestler friendly arena. Conversely, some styles of fighting are harassed by the organisation.
"Its the fastest growing sport in the world, dont cha know?".
Not so much the slogan itself, but the hype that goes with it. Dana compared the UFC to football. And thats football, not egg ball. There are football teams that are bigger than the UFC all by themselves. There are hundreds of nations, with dozens of leagues in each of them. The numbers for viewership and for participation dwarf mma to a nail clipping. The money involved dwarfs ufc to a fart in a hurricane. And as for the fastest growing sport in america, mma was one of the few that declined the slowest in recession. Thats hardly cause for hubris in a pastime that plateued and declined years ago.
"MMA is the evolution of fighting, dont cha know?".
Fighting is fighting. Grappling exists and so does striking. What evolves are fighters abilities to succeed in a context. The context isn’t fighting, it’s the cage and the rules of the sport. These rules expressly forbid free fighting by banning anything lethal or likely to seriously damage someone. In addition the org leans on free competition for commercial reasons and promotes people with favourable match ups along the same lines. The cage itself is not neutral. Its an enclosed ground in art of war speak. Its favours some styles at the expense of other styles.
The bottom line.
What is happening in the cage isn’t free and fair competition under a rule set, as undue harassment exists extra to the rules from the organisation itself. They have the arbitrary power to coerce competitors to act outside of their own best interests in a fight.
What is happening outside of the cage is pure wwe. Outside of the cage itself, there is no rules whatsoever with regards to allocation of opportunity under competitive merit. Match ups, relegation, promotion etc are all arbitrary tools of the org to bump and knock competitors in line with their own commercial interests.