Some of this might be uncomfortable to listen to and there's a lot I don't agree with (the Wiman vs. Stout fight was excellent, for starters), but it's a viewpoint that should be heard. I am not posting this to rehash the debate about whether or not Anderson Silva had a right to fight the way he did on Saturday. My view on that is well known and I will always love MMA no matter how large or small the sport becomes. Rather, I'd like to take a closer look at what some members of the mainstream and the mainstream media feel about UFC 97 and Anderson Silva, particularly.
Chad Dukes and the rest of the crew of the "Big O and Dukes Show" on 106.7 WJFK in Washington, DC express their frustration with UFC 97 and more especially, Anderson Silva. No one group or person speaks for "the mainstream" but somehow I get the sense their anger isn't isolated to their studio.
Perhaps after UFC 100 more good will can be restored. Maybe all of this criticism is cyclical, but it's troubling to me when a staunch ally of MMA who has not only helped me in immeasurable ways (I doubt I'd have a radio show without him), but has fought tooth and nail with the brass at CBS radio to get them to pay more attention to MMA decides he's had enough. Again, I do not agree with several points he makes, but his perspective is not so easily dismissible. Like it or not, it is half-hearted performances like Silva's that can generate nasty blowblack from a intrigued if only moderately interested mainstream audience. I will still watch no matter what. He will not and there are a lot more people like him and me.
Again, I will make this as clear as humanly possible, so if you cannot grasp this idea when it's stated this plainly there's little I or anyone else can do for you: I am not now nor ever suggesting fighters must throw caution to the wind for the sake of the audience. If fighters pursue the fight for the duration of their bouts and cannot finish one another and the mainstream still decides to walk away, so be it. Let them walk. But if they walk because our alleged king cannot bring himself to put in anything more than an apathetic performance, we have a very serious problem. We not only lose fans; we lose more of the media outlets that bring us closer to the fans. Those of you seem to think that those media entities that cover MMA now will always cover MMA are living in a fantasy world. MMA is not football. We still have positive equity to build if you really take mainstream ascendancy seriously. And those in the MMA community who believe in that goal have a responsibility to put in our best efforts to lift our beloved sport beyond the fringes of the sporting community.
It is not our place to specifically dictate to Silva which strike to throw or takedown to attempt, but it also cannot be denied when fighters - particularly ones of considerable ability and prestige - elect to leave something in the ring, our sport loses portions of the mainstream audience and media who could've been converted and nurtured along.
Consider this: I have the only show in the entire Washington, DC listening market (a top 10 market nationally, mind you) devoted to covering MMA. If the brass at CBS decide the push behind MMA simply isn't what worth the trouble - a push in large part provided by Chad Dukes - MMA will cease to be covered in this market. That's not an exaggeration, that's a real possibility. The local rock station DC 101 and sports stations such as ESPN 980 won't even touch it. And the news radio stations won't even return emails about booking MMA fighters or talking about UFC events. If WJFK ceases to cover MMA, there will be no one in radio or television going near it. Scared yet? I am.
Look, is there a push for gore and blood among the casual viewing audience? Yes, no question. Are many fans simply interested in a little late night carnage and demolition? Of course. So I am not suggesting we give in to their craven impulses. But what we should do is promote how excellent our sport is when it's firing on all cylinders because the reality is this: are there sports fan who are intrigued by MMA but need more coaxing? More than you can imagine. When fighters in this sport choose to not put in maximum effort and get a pass from MMA hardcore apologists who either don't care about the mainstream or think we've already reached it, the UFC and MMA can kiss goodbye any hope of moving this sport closer to the center.
I expect this to fall on a lot of deaf ears. You may not have any of this on your mind. But I bet Dana White does. That's enough for me.