I love MMA. There's no shame in admitting that, right? Not after I've burned the couple of Affliction t-shirts I drunkenly purchased back in 2008. No more shame at all.
Recently, however, my love is waning. Perhaps it's the over-saturation of the MMA market which is still being debated as either good or bad. Maybe it's the loss of stars that got me into the sport in the first place. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because Tito Ortiz won't fade quietly into the night.
What am I talking about? I could never turn my back on God's tool.
What has actually impacted my infatuation with the sport begins with the UFC. Yeah, yeah, I know there's Bellator, but with Pride tucked away in the back of my mind as a pristine memory, the UFC is where my fandom was cemented.
I remember the first live show I attended: Rampage vs. Liddell at UFC 71. You know, the fight that started Chuck's heart-wrenching journey toward a cozy UFC office gig. Before my buddy, Quinton, seemed to have a million excuses about wrasslin' and dirty oblique kicks to explain away losses. After the event, I posted a 140-character blurb encapsulating my fan-gasm to Twitter and Dana White responded. Dana. Fucking. White.
Back then, the UFC was an MMA fan's wet dream. At least that was the case for me. They had (most of) the best fighters. They had TUF. They had fan expos. They had Joe Rogan. They had LOGAN STANTON.
God, I miss her.
Then a funny thing happened: the MMA promotion-that-could became a real company. Dana White wasn't my friend. He never was. Where I was once enthralled anytime he had something to say in an interview, I now cringe anytime he basically calls Cris Cyborg a man, bashes fighters, or dishes general crassness anytime someone questions him.
PED's are no longer a curiosity or something to be confused with Alistar Overeem's horse meat diet; it's now an actual problem. On top of that, I can no longer fool myself into thinking the UFC was blissfully unaware of fighters who were/are juicing. Not when Lorenzo Fertitta looks like he eats testosterone for breakfast, lunch, and has a sensible dinner. Not when, after all his consistent lies and failed tests, the UFC did its best to support Chael Sonnen. Not when Vitor Belfort is still being looked at as a viable contender. Not when there's still money to be made.
UFC shows are more weekly occurrences than events nowadays. Sitting through them feels like more of a chore because the expanded schedule means lower quality fighters to pad them out.
Realistically, I now see the UFC as the McDonald's of MMA. Is McDonald's tasty? Some items are, sure. Is it good? Well, that's debatable. They are, however, everywhere. They serve the lowest common denominator which is great from a capitalistic standpoint. But if you like fresh, quality burgers, you don't look to McDonald's, no matter how many clowns stand in front of a camera to try and convince you otherwise.
"If you don't like our new BBQ Ranch Burger, then you're not a fucking burger fan."
I do believe the UFC is bound for some modicum of success on a global scale, but I also believe it will sacrifice the hardcore fans that got them to this point in the first place. I don't consume all burgers anymore than I consume all MMA. I like great burgers. I like great MMA.
For me, the veil has been lifted from the UFC. Maybe I'm an idealist, but there was a time when I thought the brand cared about its fans and product. Perhaps it does to some extent, but not enough to look at us as more than revenue streams. We're fans; we'll buy anything, right?
Ladies and mostly gentleman, this thinking is why we also have a Transformers 4.