Pre-fight water bottles and post-fight vape pens. I love this stuff.
But not everybody does, as last week’s press conference combined with Nate’s puffpuff drew the ire of the persistent fanbase preoccupied with our sport’s image. You know, the ones who want MMA to have more “class.” Seriously? Come on… Kudos to Marc Raimondi for setting Scott Ferrall straight by reinforcing the reality of our sport. These are men and women fighting in a cage, glorified and praised for punching each other in the face.
Nothing they say in an interview or do in a press conference can sugarcoat what they do for our entertainment, or make it worse than it already is. It got me thinking, though: Who are these fans who want “classy” fighters? And, more importantly, why? The first thing that comes to mind is the word “classy.” Generally speaking, if something is considered “classy,” it’s exceptional, special, elegant, and often associated with the wealthy or “upper class.”
“Low class” or “no class” usually refers to the unsavory behaviors and words of the unsocialized poor folk. In case you case you missed the memo, the act of fighting is “low class,” an unsophisticated means of conflict resolution. And the people who traditionally fight for money don’t do it for fun. In history, it’s often been because they’re poor, desperate, and have no other options but to risk bodily injury to survive.
Years ago when MMA had legal/regulatory issues, I could understand concern about the sport’s perception. Those thresholds have been crossed, however, and MMA has reached the mainstream. Gone are the head butts and Condom Depot ads, replaced by Fox Sports and “Excellent Red” fight trunks. This is as classy as cage fighting gets.
My sense is the fans most insecure about MMA’s image are the ones most insecure about themselves. They’re afraid they’ll somehow be associated with the “low class” antics some fighters display, making them “low class” by proxy. So what they really want is for fighters to alter their personalities to better reflect on themselves.
Okay. Or maybe they believe “classing up” the fighters will make the sport more socially acceptable and less embarrassing to talk about with coworkers.
Perhaps eloquent, well-mannered combatants would be the ticket to a more educated, affluent crowd. Nope. And do you know why? Because MMA is violent. We can wax poetically about artistry and technique and athleticism all we want, but, fundamentally, this sport is about one person trying to beat up another, and most people will never be cool with this.
Clearly we are, though, still here after seeing Cyborg get her skull dented. There’s no need to apologize for watching two consenting adults do whatever two consenting adults want to do. But there should also be no confusion as to why it will always be looked down upon, no matter how pretty you package it.
To paraphrase Jung, it’s foolish to argue the existence of “the other” to someone who’s never had a mystical experience. Yes, you’re a freak for digging MMA. No, not everyone will understand. And they really, really shouldn’t.
(Frank Gonzales is a new MMATorch contributor. Look his “Like I See It” column once a week here at MMATorch. Follow him on Twitter @frankieagogo.)
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