by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Pardon The Interruption Co-Hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon)
It seems that despite the growing popularity of mixed martial arts and its increasing exposure in the mainstream, there are still many people within the sporting community who still do not accept MMA nor understand it, even at a fundamental level.
Case in point is this Wednesday’s edition of “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN.
On the show, which is one of ESPN’s highest rated and most popular series, co-hosts Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser [who are also columnists for the Washington Post newspaper] were speaking on this upcoming weekend’s boxing match between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and its possible implications on the boxing landscape when the conversation turned briefly to MMA, more specifically the UFC.
When addressing the thought that many young athletes are going into other sports besides boxing, Michael Wilbon stated, “Well, but they [young athletes] go into UFC, and that’s like bare-knuckles. That’s like a trip back to 1880’s and John L. Sullivan [the last bare-knuckles era Heavyweight Boxing Champion].”
While Wilbon was making the above statement, Tony Kornheiser replied, “That’s not boxing. That’s something you do on barges.”
Wilbon then continued, “But they sell out these casino/hotels, Tony.”
Kornheiser replied to this by making the assertion, “I understand that. [But] they sell them out in the same way that wrestling sells out different venues.”
These erroneous statements are just the latest in a long string of unflattering comments made by the “Pardon The Interruption” crew when it comes to MMA. Interestingly, they also come hot off the heels of Mike Freeman’s recent bashing of MMA – and the UFC in particular – in his column for CBS Sportsline’s website in regards to the upcoming De Le Hoya/Mayweather Jr. fight.
In Freeman’s column, he makes such statements as, “Boxing is fighting for its life, and in some ways the largest obstacle to its rebirth is its greatest competitor — the worst league ever invented, the UFC.”
“Which means it is good vs. evil, Halle Berry vs. Courtney Love, true sport against the mosh pit of sweat and bloodied skull fractures known as ultimate fighting,” further wrote Freeman.
Freeman then equated MMA fighters as, “nothing but thugs and ruffians,” despite the fact that Olympic medalists such as Matt Lindland, Hidehiko Yoshida, Karam Ibrahim, and Rulon Gardner have competed in the sport.
So, from mainstream sports websites to highly-rated daily television series on the biggest sports-themed network in the world, MMA seemingly cannot get an accurate portrayal, regardless of the fact that the sport is regulated and sanctioned by every major state athletic commission in the U.S.
Again it appears that regardless of how far we have come and how much MMA has grown, there is still a long, uphill battle to be fought before it truly becomes recognized as a legitimate sport by those who claim to be the purveyors of sports coverage to mainstream society.