On the continuum of sport and dramatized exhibition, there’s a difference between Deion “Primetime” Sanders and “Hollywood” Hogan.
With all due respect to the entertainers, Ultimate Fighting Championship is boxing and World Wrestling Entertainment’s bastard offspring.
After watching Rashad Evans tactically obliterate hulking brute Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, I was temporarily considering rescinding my stalwart belief that UFC is not a sport, but rather neatly crafted spectacle masquerading as legitimate sporting competition.
In full disclosure, I must admit that Evans-Jackson and the preceding undercards were the first UFC bouts I’ve seen since the MMA has been popularized. Since then, UFC has made desperate efforts to establish itself as a legitimate sport and well-respected business.
From UFC’s website: “Athletes train up to six hours a day or more in preparation for an event. Almost all have studied martial arts as a lifelong vocation and many are college educated. In addition to their UFC careers, many of these men are business owners. They are also students, professionals or managers working for diverse types of companies.”
Still, try as I might, I can’t coax myself into endorsing UFC President Dana White’s gravy train of mashed-up potato heads. Perhaps I’m too much of a purist.
Don’t get me wrong.
White has made a valiant effort to distance UFC’s brand from its most appropriate comparison, the WWE. For one, after Paul Daley sucker punched Josh Koscheck at the conclusion of a fight, iron-fisted White handed down a lifetime ban. Inasmuch, White wasn’t afraid to denounce UFC biggest star’s dumbfounding antics.
After defeating Frank Mir for the heavyweight title in July 2009, Brock Lesnar refused to imbibe in the organization-sponsored drink, Bud Light, because, “Bud Light won’t pay me anything.” Then the former WWE bad boy proceed to tell the world that he planned to extend the pounding he gave Mir to his wife — in the bedroom, if you know what I’m saying.
Unafraid of branding his cash cow, White verbally wailed on Lesnar, and, as a result, Lesnar was more, well-adjusted, you could say, during his post-fight news conference.
All the discipline meted out by White doesn’t detract from the fact that UFC is composed of a league of ass clowns. Take UFC away from these guys and all they are celebrity bouncers.
Worse is the hypocrisy tantamount to UFC’s success.
Far too reliant on capitalizing off America’s obsessive lust for savagery, UFC is a full-blown blood sport, just like dog fighting, which isn’t accepted in the mainstream and is instead relegated to the underground.
Not only that, but much like the X-Games, UFC has a death wish. It feeds the fascination known as sports extremism — the idea that something is largely dependent on the glorification of violence. Many critics have made the same argument about boxing, but UFC makes a concerted effort to push the envelope by shaving padding off gloves and allowing tactics not seen outside of a street fight.
In short, America’s growing obsession with UFC mirrors its fixation with reality TV. Lost to the viewers, though, is the innate fabrication present in reality TV. Same goes for UFC. That’s why I’m going to stick to boxing.
As much as Don King ushered in a new era in boxing, one of glamorization and bloated personas, the sport will always have Muhammad Ali as a figurehead. That’s more than UFC can say. Instead it has to rely on the likes of Jackson and Lesnar, a knock-off and far-less entertaining Hulk Hogan, to convince us that UFC is really primetime.