Recently, I enjoyed a conversation with a writer I follow, from another genre. He told me how much he enjoyed MMA, and we shared some stories of how the sport had grown over the years.
Then, he implied that as a whole, the MMA game is a bit more “classy” than that of boxing.
I didn’t agree. I tend to think both have ups and downs.
He made me think of something. About five years ago, I covered a Strikeforce MMA event at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, WA. Next door at the Tacoma Dome Convention Center was the Tacoma Golden Gloves — the state’s biggest amateur boxing event.
I arrived and noticed how different the two crowds looked.
The boxing event featured lots of youth, so lots of families were in attendance. These were diverse, in both age and background: in fact, a nearby ZIP code is said to boast the most ethnically diverse in the country, and this crowd reflected that.
I smiled as I remembered back when I trained at a South Seattle boxing gym. I was a part of that crowd — even to just support the gym. It had its ups and downs, but it was a good experience overall.
The MMA crowd? A totally different matter. It was dominated by people in their 20’s and people who seemed to want to appear to be in their 20’s. It was not nearly as diverse, and featured a lot of posturing and aggressive looks. At one point two scantily clad gals, looking dazed and confused, walked up to the middle aged woman manning the Golden Gloves ticket booth — and were directed to Strikeforce.
“No, you’re over there, honey.” (She was right.)
Oh, and the MMA show? It was really, really not good. Bob Sapp headlined against Jan Nortje. (Stop laughing.) His halfhearted display, in front of the Seattle area where he began his athletic career, was really the beginning of that career’s nosedive.
Maybe he was fooling himself. But he wasn’t fooling anyone in the crowd that night, though.
(Strikeforce would come back to the area the next year with a very strong show — highlighted by Jorge Gurgel and Conor Huen’s standup war, Tim Kennedy’s dismantling of Nick Thompson, and a nice bout between Sarah Kaufman and Shayna Baszler. Please don’t take this as an attack on Strikeforce — they are missed, badly.)
The writer I was speaking to, who was so excited about the quality of MMA people? I think he was fooling himself too. He was excited for the sport, and so was able to look past some of its seedy underbelly. It probably happens to all of us.
Everything has its ups and downs, unfortunately. Yesterday’s article from Kelsey Mowatt with Vitor Belfort’s defense of his testosterone usage failed to convince me that this matter is being handled fairly. You may enjoy this article from our friends at Cage Potato by Brian D’Souza about the resulting exchange between Kevin Iole and Dana White on the issue, as well.
I still love this sport. I’ve met so many incredible people in it. Sure, there are a lot of great fights to be watched — and hey, maybe I’ll be a part of presenting some of them to you this week. That’s an honor for me.
But let’s not fool ourselves. Sure, this sport is something I’m proud of.
But from the dodging about performance enhancing drugs, to the odd relationship between journalism and promotion, this business has some ugly elements too — and we’ve really got nothing to be arrogant about.