FanPost

Porn, MMA, and the Common Trajectory of Exploitation

In 1994 I was a junior in high school and a (below) average wrestler on one of Illinois’ better teams. Dave was a star wrestler but a troubled kid that was not known for his veracity. He told us he competed in Kempo, that he trained with someone named Keith Hackney, and that a no-rules fighting tournament could be rented from the local Blockbuster. No one believed him, until we saw for ourselves.

It was also around this time that I saw my first porn movie. This was far past the "glamorous" beginnings of motion picture smut but still well before the "porn is mainstream" phase of today. In the halcyon days of VHS tapes, porn actors looked like…well, working girls. There was an inescapable sense that a limited market existed for their talents. You rarely said to yourself, "I can’t believe she does porn." Similarly, fighters in those early shows looked like hard-scrabble guys that couldn’t do too many other things quite as well. There was an acceptance that both actors and fighters sacrificed their health for little reward. Exploitation was the price of doing business.

As the 90’s gave way to the 2000’s, rental stores and VHS tapes acquiesced to DVDs and the rise of less conspicuous access to internet porn. The massive free tube sites didn’t exist and consumers were still conditioned to pay-to-play. All of a sudden porn actors looked like models. You started hearing about a number of performers becoming millionaires with mainstream crossover success. The porn business became "recession proof" and the economic savior of the internet. The UFC was in it’s boom phase too with top fighters looking more like athletes and becoming crossover hits. The free streaming sites didn’t occupy the space they do today and superstars like GSP and Lesnar helped fuel record pay-per-view sales. Both porn and the UFC marketed the illusion that the burgeoning industry spoils were accessible to any that believed in "hard" work. These industries now had the patina of avenues for both money and an even greater modern currency, media exposure.

An interesting thing happened at the decade’s end - porn profits cratered as the tube sites made paying for smut obsolete. Likewise, the UFC moved into the post UFC 100 phase accompanied by the steady decline of pay-per-viewers and profits (whether due to fewer stars, an oversaturated market, streaming sites, injuries, or a combination of these factors). But luckily for industry chiefs, a glut of young Millennials wait in the wings to grasp the ephemera of fame and money still lingering from the not-so-distant rise of the fight and fuck industries. A flood of young pretty girls continues to flow into the adult business providing cheap and talented labor to be exploited for a few casting shoots and then cast aside. Similarly, young talented fighters continue to pour into a corporatized MMA landscape where mega entities maintain union-free work environments and seek-out corporate sponsorships that keep profit at the top and exploit the momentary bulge of young talent.



\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.