A few months ago, when Kimbo Slice met his demise at the hands of Seth Petruzelli and launched the controversy that would eventually bring down the organization, I remember vividly the words of Dana White declaring “these guys are bad for the sport”. As much as we shit on the man, there was no denying the truth he spoke. It seemed clear that under the scrutiny of a growing sport trying so desperately to become mainstream: each individual participating in it becomes – at least in a small way – an ambassador.
It would be idealistic to assume that every athlete represents the sport in its entirety. Rather, it’s the organizations themselves who showcase them that holds the brunt of the responsibility in how their own fighters are perceived. Last night’s “The Ultimate Fighter” represents, in my opinion, one of the lowest points in TV history, let alone the fledgling sport of MMA.
In case you missed this abortion of a show last night (which involved Nover eating boiled duck fetus), allow me the indignity of recapping: Tom Lawlor pissed in his own fruit platter to punish Team Nog for having eaten his food. After they had heartily devoured the entire urine rich platter, Team Nog decided to pull a similar prank on Dave Kaplan for eating Phillipe Nover’s sushi. Their weapon of choice: semen.
I wish that words alone could describe not only my physical disgust, but my intellectual outrage at the sight of such low grade cruel pranks. The animosity, the cruelty, and the blatant disrespect made me embarrassed to be a fan of MMA. Had any member of my family seen the show, I would have found it impossible to defend the actions of the the athletes that represent the sport that I now make a living off of.
In stark contrast to the juvenile and disgraceful culinary “delights”, the actual fight between Kaplan and Nover was excellent, which seemed only to accentuate everything that is wrong about the show. Although the actual technical aspect of the sport were on proud display, it’s practitioners were too busy making us squirm with their antics to make the experience pleasant to watch. They didn’t win over any new fans, and even if they had, these are not the kinds of people you want associated with the sport. In short, Dana White and Spike not only hurt their reputation, but the reputation of mixed martial arts in general.
The entire problem with the concept is how poorly it treats MMA fans. While only a small fraction of the show is devoted to the actual sport, the rest of it has devolved into a frat house movie that celebrates vulgarity, stupidity, and anti-intellectualism. It seems to me that the producers of the show feel as though the source material is not strong enough to maintain the attention of the average viewer. Even if this were true, it does not seem to me very logical to assume that base “drama” is a good way to attract new converts to the sport.
The show has steadily gone downhill, and last night clearly demonstrated that Spike has no real idea how to attract potential fans of the sport beyond the stereotypical muscle-head guido. They seem reluctant to believe that anyone with half a brain would take any interest in combat sport, and instead focus their attention on the crudest and basest of human instincts.
I love combat sports, but I am not a moron who enjoys the sight of grown men acting like immature idiots. I watch MMA because I find it violent and primal, even though it still obeys the civilized confines of rules and regulations. It is this contrast that allows our humanity to shine through; we are all murderous apes, but we are also civilized human beings, struggling with the duel nature of our humanity.
I hope that Dana saw his own program in complete sobriety, and realizes from the reaction of the MMA community just how unacceptable it was. Dana, your show is declining. The formula doesn’t work, and worst still, the ambassadors to your sport are too busy acting like jocks to be training hard enough to look skilled in the cage. Your show is bad for the sport, sir. You need to sit down with someone smarter than you who can explain just why that is. Maybe then you’ll gain the much needed perspective you need. I’ve had enough. Have you?