I’ve been a fan of the UFC for a long time. I remember watching Ronda Rousey rise to the top, and then very quickly plummet to the bottom. I remember watching Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier trying to settle their rivalry during the press conference. I remember watching Conor Mcgregor deliver Jose Aldo a heartbreaking defeat in only 13 seconds; and of course, I remember Derrick Lewis’ phenomenal post-fight interview with Joe Rogan (do yourself a favour and watch it if you haven’t already).
Even just watching it makes you feel like a MAN. Not to mention watching it in a bar filled with testosterone and cheap lager. There’s just something so great about watching two athletes kick the shit out of each other while you sit back and sink a couple of beers with mates. Although the one thing that has made me such a fan over the years is the realness. This isn’t wrestling, there (mostly) aren’t any steroids, no fake blood, and no overly paid actors dancing around in a ring. This is athletes who – more times than not – hate each other and are being paid millions to beat the snot out of each other in a controlled environment, where thousands of hours of training come to fruition. Well, at least it was… Don’t get me wrong, the fighting is still as real as it gets. But as of recently, that seems to be one of the only aspects of the sport that’s still real.
It’s hard to say who’s to blame, but I’m finding myself leaning more and more towards the WWE. But why? It’s no secret that the WWE is fake, and they don’t shy away from the fact. They have it all: floors that ‘fighters’ literally bounce off, fake blood, punches stopping visibly short of the opponent’s face, and musical chairs (but they hit each other with them instead).
You would think that fake fights with steroid-ed up actors in budgie smugglers would fall flat on its face, but money doesn’t lie. The most viewed Pay-per-view wrestling event to date sits at number 17 on the 50 best-selling pay-per-view events in history, and that includes boxing and UFC. So how does the WWE compete against the pantheon of fighting leagues as a ‘sport’ that embraces its fakeness? Through calculated experiential marketing strategies which places consumer experience at the forefront of its appeal. Wrestling is not so much about the fighting, but the stories it creates. It recognises that relying on a product’s physical properties (in the WWE’s case – the fights), no longer serves the changing expectations of consumers – and rather relies on hedonic experiences to draw in its crowds.
People want to have a reason to watch a fight, they want to see a rivalry between two athletes get settled in the most primitive way; fisticuffs. Ever since the very first fight in 1993, the UFC has always embraced this. But in 2018, saying that they embrace rivalry is an understatement. Of course, good promotion leads to good sales, but at the end of the day, the UFC is a sport about who can fight the hardest, not about who can talk the most shit. The UFC is losing sight of this, and it’s all in the name of money.
Let’s look at Conor Mcgregor for example; the fighter who holds 6 spots (starting at number 15) on the same 50 best-selling pay-per-view fights list. Sure, he’s a fantastic fighter; and sure, his trash talk is funny at times, but the fact that the UFC flaunts him around like an untouchable show pony really shows the diminishing state of integrity within the sport. In early 2018, he led an attack on multiple other fighters that resulted in three upcoming UFC fights being cancelled, and 12 criminal charges being placed upon him.
You would think that this kind of behaviour would land him in jail, or at least have him fired from the UFC. It would have for any other fighter, but not Mcgregor. Instead, they used the viral video footage of Conor physically assaulting the fighters as promotion for his next fight. And you’re damn right it worked, considering it reportedly brought in 2.4 million pay-per-view purchases. But a video has surfaced of Mcgregor apologising to fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov (try saying that fast 5 times) mid fight as he was facing an impending loss. The three words spoken: “It’s only Business”.
Apparently McGregor thinks he’s in The Godfather.
This is becoming a sad pattern within the UFC as fighters are realising that the big money is in fights with big promotion; and what better a way to have a big promotion than by calling an actual Wrestler into the octagon WWE-style to scream in to the microphone. But if all else fails, they can just do a Ronda Rousey and join the WWE after consecutive losses so they don’t have to actually be hit anymore!
The UFC needs to take a step back and reevaluate their priorities as a fighting league. At this rate,we’re going to start seeing fighters come out into the octagon sporting luchador costumes and start smacking each other with questionably brittle chairs. This is not a sport about who can talk the most shit, or who can bring in the most money. This is a sport about two highly trained athletes battling it out in a caged arena, and people need to start remembering this. After all, it’s called the Ultimate Fighting Championship, not the Ultimate Dick-swinging Championship.