It's time for our nightly (semi-nightly? most nights? stay tuned, this is a new feature!) rundown of the three biggest stories dominating the discussion in the MMA world.
1. The Vancouver Sun runs an anti-MMA op-ed
The Vancouver Sun ran an opinion piece by Daphne Bramham in the wake of UFC 174 that was less than complimentary of the sport. MMA fans tend to have issues with opinion pieces in general. If the opinion doesn't echo their own, they tend to get overly emotional. That certainly was the case with the Bramham article, which lost many fans just two paragraphs in when she said, "But that doesn’t necessarily mean that what they do is sport. It’s spectacle."
My only issue at that point is with her suggesting that mixed martial arts isn't a sport. It is a sport, a sport absolutely rooted in spectacle.
Fans should never forget that the mass appeal of the sport is undeniably less in "athletes participating in a technically demanding sport," and far more in "those guys are going to beat the shit out of each other!"
Beyond the spectacle, people seem to lose their grip on the realities of a sport that can be unrelentingly violent.
The UFC pushing the notion of MMA being the "biggest sport in the world" blinds many to the reality that there is a significant part of the population that will always find two men beating on each other in a cage to be objectionable. It's hard for many to watch a sport where someone can be rattled, knocked to the ground and hit several more times as they drop to the ground. They aren't interested in learning the nuances of the sport, and it's unreasonable to expect them to. As many have a positive visceral reaction to those skilled in the application of violent techniques, as many (if not more) will have a similarly negative reaction.
There are the usual points to be made about how Bramham should have "educated herself" and her article--which was undoubtedly sensationalist at times--came from a place of ignorance, and featured a weird statement about how the acts in a cage fight are criminal in other sports (of course, those sports aren't fights). However, I took it as an honest reaction to what she watched. She took in the spectacle and found it horrific. She then expressed those feelings and found some quotes and statistics to back up her point. I have a hard time getting too worked up about that.
We should just be happy that Bramham caught a relatively violence-free card.
The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani saw two men who have plied their trade in the UFC discuss different issues with the promotion.
First up was Jason High. High was on the show to discuss recently being cut from the UFC roster following his shove of a referee. High came across as honest and contrite about the situation. He made no excuses for his behavior following his loss to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Khabilov.
He did, however, mention something that has been a bit of a disturbing trend for the UFC.
High stated that he found out about his release "just like everybody else," by seeing the news come across his Twitter timeline.
Maybe I'm old fashioned, but you'd think the UFC would make sure fighters have been notified of a massive life change prior to announcing it to the world.
Jon Jones would appear on the show a bit later, hyping up tomorrow's release of the new UFC game put out by EA Sports before getting discussing the controversy surrounding his upcoming rematch with Alexander Gustafsson.
The UFC had announced the rematch prior to Jones agreeing to the fight. This led to an extended period of time where the conversation revolved around Jones being "afraid" of Gustafsson and talk from UFC president Dana White that Jones instead wanted to face Daniel Cormier.
Jones saw the reasoning for the UFC announcing the fight prior to his accepting as clear, "I just kind of identified it as being like a strong arm technique on their part. Get fans pushing for a fight prematurely." Jones continued, "I hadn't even heard that date before...I thought it was unprofessional, a bully tactic."
These two moves are easily described as unprofessional, and signify some of why there will always be a segment of the MMA fan population who are highly critical of the UFC's business practices.
3. Is Kimbo Slice REALLY signing with Bellator?
I wish I knew the answer to that question.
I'm also actively hoping that the answer is "yes."
As I sat through UFC 174, a bit of a cooler during a period of otherwise hot shows for the promotion, I saw several people ask if fans were happier with having paid for Bellator 120 or UFC 174.
In the interest of importance and "the highest level of the sport," there's no denying that UFC 174 was the better event. But Bellator 120 was probably simply a more entertaining watch.
That's a product of many things. A significant reason is that it hearkened back to a time when MMA wasn't so serious. I loved PRIDE, but there is no denying that much of PRIDE was absolutely ludicrous garbage. Pro wrestlers with very little training being thrown in with high level mixed martial artists, ridiculous matchmaking with no real end-goal, it was the theater of the absurd and it was beautiful.
Rambo wasn't There Will Be Blood or No Country For Old Men, but sometimes you just want to see shit blow up. And that's what PRIDE provided.
And that's the role that I want Bellator trying to fill. Not to the same extent as PRIDE. Not with the possible fixed fights or the no-hopers being paired with the world's best. But a mix of high level fighters--Bellator has only a small handful of fighters who can truly be talked about among the ten best in a weight class--with brilliant spectacle. If they can't compete one-for-one with the UFC (they can't), they can simply try to be the more "interesting" promotion.
That's what Tito Ortiz's win over Alexander Shlemenko was. That fight made no real sense beyond hoping that Shlemenko would be able to beat up an old man and gain a little attention. Instead, it was Ortiz simply being way, way too big. But it was still a thrill in one of the weirdest ways MMA could provide. MMA is badly missing that element now. That sense that something truly strange might just happen.
And that's what makes the rumors that began circulating--and probably were created whole cloth by some bored dude on Reddit or whatever--so intriguing.
Slice is pure spectacle. I don't believe that losing to Mitrione really damaged his brand that much. You get him on TV with some marketing behind him and you (probably) still have one of the better drawing personalities around.
So much of Kimbo's career was pure insanity. Why wouldn't I want to pay for a rematch between Kimbo and James Thompson? Rampage Jackson vs. Kimbo? Yes! Tito vs. Kimbo? I will cherish recordings of that press conference for the rest of my life. Mo Lawal vs. Kimbo? Easy sell.
Oh my god, I just realized that we could see Doug Marshall vs. Kimbo Slice and my jaw hit the floor.
Please, Bellator. If the rumors aren't true, throw a big ol' pile of cash in the direction of Mr. Ferguson.
If you do, please consider my wallet open.