Wednesday, July 15, 2009

100 Down, Way Too Many To Go

UFC 100 may have been watched by millions, but I was not one of them. Loyalty to boxing may be to blame. But there seems to be a simple reason for the MMA hysteria. It starts with a number.

We are obsessed by numbers. When you're 39, you have free range at booze, drugs and loose women. But once you turn 40, apparently it's time to settle down and get old. Hey, you're over the hill, right? If a guy says he's been married for 49 years, jokes about unhappiness ensue. Married for 50? A love that cannot be touched. We build up these milestones like they have some kind of significant meaning. Well, they don't. They're just numbers.

UFC 100 is one of these milestones. It was the biggest fight in mixed martial arts. On the grandest stage, the so-called sport showed us all what it's made of. Fans and sports writers across the country proclaimed that UFC had arrived. Time to get with the program. It's boxing for the 21st century boys. Looks like I'm stuck partying like it's pre-1999.

Look, I'm a boxing fan. But not a boxing "fan". You know those people; they claim they love the sport, but explain their lack of enthusiasm due to the fact that the heavyweight division is so barren. Yes, my favorite boxer (Lennox Lewis) was a heavyweight, and yeah, when the big boys are rockin' the fans come a-knockin', but I don't need it to enjoy boxing. Good boxing is out there, and its not really that hard to find.

And that's what UFC buffs have marketed around; the fact that boxing is dead. OK, I'll give you the fair-weather fans. Let them drive your pay-per-views up. But don't think that UFC is grabbing them for good. Remember the numbers.

Like #100, which has gotten everyone up in a frenzy. You know when boxing's 100th main fight was? Well, the first heavyweight champ was John Sullivan in 1885, so it was a long freaking time ago. Most people won't recognize a fighter until Jack Dempsey, who won in 1919. If you're celebrating where you are as a sport at #100, then boy, you know nothing. You haven't even begun.

Oh, but that's point, they say. Look how big we are in such a short span. Well, what's the road from here? Do UFC fans really expect to keep expanding at this rate? It'd be bigger than the NFL in a decade. Not gonna happen. Also unlikely is plateauing at this point and averaging the millions of viewers last Saturday's fight attracted. There is no basis to this, no history. If anything, this was the peak. 100 is not a milestone, it's a pebble in the history of UFC. It means nothing.

The only argument I would give UFC fans is that MMA is a representation of a change of interest in young Americans. Boxing was two men beating the hell out of each other, yes, but it was art. MMA is simply beating the hell out of each other. And on a much greater scale. It's in-your-face brutality, a concept adored by a generation raised on reality television and violence. Don't dance around, kill! Mob mentality, fill the Colosseum! How apt for a country that is starting its Roman descent.

Am I missing the boat, perhaps? But I'll be playing my boxing violin as I go down drowning, not cursing the iceberg that drug us there. It's a fad, in my book. Nothing more. Like Bender from The Breakfast Club, I too share a disdain for guys who roll around on the floor with other guys. But hey, if you want blood, you got it.
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