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‘I cannot watch it’ - Sean O’Malley on Dana White’s Power Slap

The rising bantamweight star knows how serious concussions can be.

Sean O’Malley between rounds for his bout against Petr Yan at UFC 280.
Sean O’Malley between rounds for his bout against Petr Yan at UFC 280.
Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Even slap fighting aficionados know that their brand of combat pseudo-sports violence is a tough sell.

“Ninety percent of the people can’t stand this sport—they think it’s unfair,” SlapFIGHT Championship founder and Power Slap consultant JT Tilly recently told the New Yorker.

Slap fighting competitions, where two opponents stand across a table from one another and club each other across the jaw with as much force as possible—while the clubee stands, un-defended and unflinching—have become a viral video sensation over the last half decade. Enough so that UFC president Dana White decided to jump on the bandwagon, with his own Ultimate Fighter styled reality show: Power Slap.

The attempt to bring this niche spectacle into the main stream has brought fourth the expected chorus of backlash. But even hardened combat sports veterans are finding it difficult to stomach. Top UFC bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley gave his thoughts on White’s endeavor on a recent episode of his BrOMalley Show webcast.

“It’s weird because some people just love it,” O’Malley noted (transcript via MMA Junkie). “I could see maybe watching the TV series part of it like ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ like them at the house, meeting them, seeing their back stories. But the actual ‘sport,’ whatever you wanna call it, itself, I can’t watch.”

“I cannot watch it. I don’t know if it’s—I can’t watch it, because I understand what concussions are? I understand, I’ve been through them. I know how bad it is to do that to your brain. … I can’t even see it.”

He’s not the only one. Former UFC champion and old-school MMA legend Frank Shamrock called it “horrible. Sad. Sickening.” And rising light welterweight boxing contender Ryan Garcia called it “a horrible idea,” adding that it “needs to be stopped.”

At the moment, White and Power Slap front-man Frank Lamicella have plans to parlay the show’s first 8-episode season into a PPV slap fighting event. While ratings for the first episode were fairly dismal, the show did see a decent boost in viewership for their second episode. It only remains to be seen if it can find a big enough audience to make the whole thing pay off beyond the short-lived spectacle it currently appears to be.

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