by Damon Martin
With the UFC starting to gain more and more notoriety with the “Ultimate Fighter” garnishing great ratings and getting new fans almost everyday, the mainstream media is sure to start to notice mixed martial arts in America again. The last time publications like the New York Times really paid attention to the sport of MMA was in the mid-90’s when the Ultimate Fighting Championship debuted to the horror of conservative writers and the moral masses, and was quickly dispatched as “human cockfighting.”
Senator John McCain became one of the strongest opponents of MMA and the UFC, trying to ban in it in the United States. McCain, who is known as a big fan of professional boxing and football, had huge issues with two men fighting inside a cage, even with more sanctioned rules. Despite the fact that no fighter died or was seriously injured, even in the early days of the UFC, political figureheads like McCain saw fit to end MMA in America. They came very close.
The UFC was almost dead when the Fertitta brothers, who were already successful casino moguls, along with Dana White purchased the struggling franchise and worked very hard to legitimize the sport in the U.S. They worked with state athletic commissions to set up rules that would allow them to put on sanctioned shows and bring the UFC back to mainstream pay per view and a hardcore audience that still wanted to see professional MMA in the states.
Now, with the UFC back on pay per view and with the success of the “Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV, the media has started to pick up on the sport once again. But with prejudice that never seems to escape mixed martial arts, the mainstream media still bashes the UFC and MMA as a whole, still remembering the early days of the UFC when almost anything was allowed inside the octagon. Shows such as “Pardon The Interruption, (PTI)” which showcases Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon will come across a story occasionally that is remotely associated with fighting and take every chance to bash the sport.
When tragedy befell a woman who was fighting in a “Toughman” competition, the hosts of “PTI” took the chance to talk about how dangerous this sport is and how these “idiots” should be banned. Now, without doing a single second of research to know that “Toughman” competitions are absolutely nothing like professionally sanctioned MMA events, Wilbon took every chance to take pot shots at “ultimate fighting” as he called it, and never truly took the time to understand the sport or it’s participants. Kornheiser called the sport “total barbarism” and was not apologetic in the least to the fact that the event wasn’t sanctioned by a state athletic commission as all UFC shows currently are.
The worst part about the shows blatant attack on the sport, is that they followed the segment with an interview with former boxing champion, Lennox Lewis. Now, anyone who has followed the sport of boxing for the last ten years or so, knows they have had more deaths and seriously injured fighters than any MMA event. This hypocritical display was just one more shot at the sport of MMA in America.
On June 28th, the New York Times ran an article about “Cage Fighting” in Sioux Falls, Iowa again focusing on a smaller event and they somehow managed to get quotes that make professional MMA sound like nothing more than two guys slugging it out until one guy drops in a pool of his own blood. Although the article didn’t truly unload a mix of insults for the sport, they also again didn’t bother to focus on organizations like the UFC that have athletes competing in the sport that are former Olympic and NCAA champions. It seems that mainstream outlets like this only want to show the downside of the sport, never showing fighters like Drew Fickett who is working as hard as possible to work with charities to get more donations for their cause. On a side note to that…Fickett was denied by multiple organizations who didn’t want to take money from “an ultimate fighter,” but those same organizations have no issues accepting money from corporations who don’t knock anyone out, they simply rob the company blind and leave the former employees without a dime to their name.
Max Kellerman, who is a big fan of MMA and has been showcased on networks like ESPN and Fox Sports, continues to talk up the sport on national tv whenever he has the chance. On his show, “I, Max” on Fox Sports he even showcased fighters like Randy Couture for full length interviews on the broadcast. Kellerman has recently been seen along side MSNBC show host, Tucker Carlson on his show “The Situation.”
On the same day that the New York Times ran their article about “cage fighting” the show featured a segment about the sport as well. And to the delight of fans watching across the nation, instead of being another mainstream outlet that unleashes on MMA, both Carlson and Kellerman defended the sport. Now it was made very obvious that Tucker Carlson didn’t know that much about the sport, but he was pretty open minded to the idea of the competition. Kellerman again showed why we are all so lucky to have him as a voice of reason in the mainstream media world, as he pointed out that the show that the NY Times article focused on was not a state sanctioned event as the UFC events clearly are. Despite the highlights that were shown were again from the early UFC shows, Kellerman was fast to point out that no fighter has ever been seriously injured in a sanctioned MMA event and didn’t hesitate to mention that high school kids who compete in sports like football die every year.
The UFC and MMA in America are still pretty new to the mainstream world and hopefully over time more people like Max Kellerman will get on board and realize that the sport of mixed martial arts is one of the most exciting and entertaining sports. Until then, we’ll just have to keep an eye out for the next attempt to put our sport down, but don’t worry, the fans will be quick to keep those folks in line with the truth about the great sport of MMA.