Are you not entertained?
Dustin Poirier shined at UFC 257 with his knockout victory over Connor McGregor. If you asked me who I thought was going to win I would have said Connor McGregor. He’s the more polished fighter. However, when Dustin walked out, he looked different. He appeared confident and in the best shape of his life. I knew right then Connor had a battle on his hands.
This blog post isn’t about the fight though. Like most of my posts it’s about something that happened that got me thinking about something else.
Poirier is an intense guy and I enjoy his post-fight interviews. He made a comment in his post-fight press conference that I thought deserved a blog post of its own.
“I heard the boos on the entry, and I heard the cheers on the exit, and that’s exactly what a lot of these MMA fans are, fair weather.”
I thought his comment was the best thing about the fight. I love brutal honesty, especially when it’s directed at people who deserve it.
Many years ago, I learned that there are two types of MMA fans. In the early days when fights were held on Indian reservations there was only one kind. People who trained in fighting and could imagine themselves stepping into the Octagon. Then, the casual sports fan came along. It’s not my intention to disrespect sports people here, but what I have to say needs to be said. The sports fan came around late in the game when the UFC’s popularity started reaching its peak. I began encountering a lot of them after The Ultimate Fighter reality show aired on Spike TV.
This story illustrates my frustration with MMA fandom.
In the mid-2000’s I was serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. My first unit was a cutter that was on patrol six-months out of the year. My two best pals were Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts from Guam. We spent a lot of time talking about fighting. During port calls we would lay mats down on the deck and do drills before hitting the bars. I could talk MMA with these gents because they understood fighting.
After I got my transfer, I ended up at a shore unit. Unfortunately for me, there were no more black belts to train with. What there was a lot of were sports fans. Most of them were on the fatboy program, and a twinkie away from getting booted out of the service. One annoying fellow liked to follow me around even though I did my best to avoid him. He watched MMA and knew that I understood something about it.
The difference between us was immediately clear. He followed MMA like someone who follows every other sport. He kept track of fighter stats, the gossip, and the industry news, basically all the shit that I find trivial. What annoyed me the most about him was that he thought he knew something about fighting because he watches it on TV. Talking to him about MMA wasn’t like talking about it with my buddies on the cutter. On the cutter we didn’t argue about who the GOAT was. We didn’t even talk about the latest fights. We talked about living the martial arts life.
My last straw with this dude occurred after we had a conversation about the so-called GOAT. This was around 2010, and I said Fedor Emalianenko has a good shot at being the GOAT. He laughed and said Fedor Emlienenko hasn’t beaten anyone good. His comment stunned me. All I could do was stare at him like he was an alien. I was shocked, that this man, if you could even call him that, just casually dismissed Fedor Emalianenko.
A few years ago, my co-worker put it into perspective for me. Sports fans are consumers. Their goal is to be entertained and they spend a lot of money. The athletes are the product that is supposed to give them what they want. When an athlete doesn’t perform at the level they expect them too, they feel ripped off. Professional athletes put up with it because they get paid to do something they enjoy.
I thought what my co-worker said was fair. Top professional athletes get paid ridiculous amounts of money to do something they enjoy. The people who miss out then are the fans who allow themselves to get swept up in the stats, the drama, and the merchandizing.
Rather than being sources of inspiration, sports are reduced to cynical consumer products that distract the from the banality of the fan’s life.