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9 December, 2014 at 6:38 am in Pets
Saturday's news that Phil "CM Punk" Brooks signed a multifight contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship sent the mixed martial arts world into a frenzy.
It is understandable. Brooks has zero athletic experience outside of his tenure as a professional wrestler. Wrestling is a very tough business, and you need plenty of athleticism to do what professional wrestlers do on a daily basis.
You'll never hear me disparage wrestlers for being "fake." I am a longtime professional wrestling fan. Yes, wrestling is scripted entertainment. But movies and television shows are scripted, yet they receive none Chelsea home jersey of the derision wrestling faces.
And wrestling hurts. There is a long list of wrestlers who took copious steroids and pain pills to try and get noticed and to cover up the pain they felt from throwing their bodies on a hard canvas hundreds of times each day. The steroids enlarged their hearts, the narcotics Bayern Munich jerseys 2015 damaged their immune systems and they ended up dying far too young. Until recently, wrestling deaths were an epidemic.
It was in this world that Barcelona Neymar jersey Brooks succeeded. He went through the same abuse as every other wrestler. His daily grind was the same. The only difference is that he refused to mask his pain with narcotics or alcohol, and he never took steroids to get ahead. As a devout follower of the straight edge movement, Brooks has been drug- and alcohol-free his entire life. He is a rarity in the world of professional wrestling.
He also never had the right look for professional wrestling. Wrestling historian Dave Meltzer recalls the first time he saw Punk wrestle:
He had long hair, bleached blond. He was thin by standards of a major league wrestling star. He wore baggy shorts and a jersey, so you couldn't see his physique. He neither had the look, nor was he any kind of a freak super athlete, the kind of guy you see do things in the ring that blow your mind. He also wasn't the kind of smooth technical wrestling whiz that stood out. There have been plenty of guys I've seen on those type of stages for the first time and thought, the sky is the limit for this guy. He hardly fit into that category.
Brooks was a square peg in the round hole of pro wrestling. But despite his look and despite the fact that he wouldn't use drugs to help him get ahead, he still made it to the top of the professional wrestling business.
He achieved his status because he is obsessively driven with being the best. His obsession with being the best professional wrestler in the world—and of reaching his dream of being in the main event of WrestleMania—drove him to heights few imagined he would ever reach.
His signing with the UFC created a backlash among mixed martial arts fans who would like to see the UFC retain some sort of sporting dignity.
How can the UFC call itself one of the best sports organizations in the world when they make decisions like this?
How can Ben Askren—one of the best welterweights in the world and a fighter who would compete with the best the UFC has to offer—be on the outs while a man who has zero professional fights gets a contract?
From a pure sports perspective, it makes no sense. But here's what you must remember: The UFC is not a sports organization. It is a sports entertainment organization.
It makes the same kind of decisions Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment make on a daily basis. Who can entertain fans? Who will draw the most eyeballs? Who will make us the most money? The UFC's decision-making process is far more heavily influenced by those three questions than it is by sporting concerns.
The only difference between the UFC and WWE is that WWE has scripted outcomes, while the UFC has real fights. Everything else, as Mike Goldberg says, is virtually identical.
And that's fine.
Richard Shotwell/Associated Press
UFC pay-per-view buyrates are plummeting. Television ratings are low. Who can blame Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta for looking at the state of things and deciding they needed a shot in the arm? Signing a man with zero professional fighting experience makes no sense for a sports organization.
But for an organization based on entertainment and drawing the biggest amount of viewers possible, it makes absolute sense.
I have no issue with the UFC signing Brooks. It is a good thing. He'll be featured on a main card, and he'll fight someone with a similar experience level. From all accounts, he is quite good at jiu-jitsu, and his obsessive nature will drive him to train every day, to improve his fighting game. He'll never be a UFC champion, but I do believe he'll surprise people with how quickly he picks up the sport. He'll probably even win a fight or two, even, so long as he's matched up with people on his same experience level.
The only issue I have with all of this relates to how the UFC presents itself. They can never again tell us, with a straight face, that the UFC is reserved for the best of the best. They can't tell us that Askren needs to face better competition before he deserves a shot in the UFC.
Neither of those things are true.
What is true is this: The UFC is a business. Businesses need to make money in order to thrive. And the best way for the UFC to make money is to put on fights that draw interest from casual fans. They don't care about the hardcore mixed martial arts fans, and rightly so. They know hardcore fans will order the pay per views every month, and they'll be tuned in for Fox Sports 1 events.
But hardcore fans don't pay the bills.
The people they want to attract are the ones who only tune in when something big is happening. They want the fans who see news reports about Brooks signing on ESPN and decide they want to see him fight. They want the hundreds of thousands of fans who used to tune in to see Brock Lesnar fight.
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And they want to keep guys like Askren—an excellent fighter who doesn't have the most visually pleasing style—away from the Octagon at all costs.
Mixed martial arts, as a sport, will never draw massive attention. It is too violent and too aggressive for your average soccer mom. Hardcore fans love the technical side of the fight game, but the fans the UFC Barcelona messi jersey is trying to reach don't care about that. Not one iota. They care about seeing big names fight, even if those big names aren't even close to being the best in the world.
Brooks will either fail miserably, or he'll have more success than folks are expecting. But his signing does not damage the sport in any way, because the UFC is not presenting sport. They are presenting entertainment in a sports environment.
Like everyone else in the world, they are chasing dollars.
I'd just like it if they were a little more upfront about it.