Editorial by Rami Genauer for MMAWeekly.com
MMAd Libs: A Tool for the Uninformed Journalist

Dear Mainstream Media Writer Tasked with Writing about Mixed Martial Arts for the First Time,

Let me save you a little time. Your editor has probably dumped this assignment on you because you once wrote something about the XFL or skateboarding or maybe you’re the person who has to do the write-up for the annual Nathan’s hot dog eating contest and you’ve been pegged as the “spectacle guy.” In any event, you’re stuck writing about a sport about which you know virtually nothing. And let’s face it, research is hard. Professional MMA has almost 15 years of history to learn and the sport can be really complicated if you don’t know what techniques you’re watching. Do you really want to put all that effort into a dinky 700-word trend piece that every major media outlet but yours has already printed?

Of course not, and that’s why I’m going to help you. I’ve read the articles on the MMA phenomenon written by your equally ill-informed peers and noticed that they follow a neat little pattern. The pieces all sound about the same, so I’ve created an easy-to-use template for you. Be honest, if you tried to write a piece from scratch, it would almost certainly come out looking like this anyway. Why re-invent the wheel, right?

If you’re feeling uneasy that so much of the article’s content is out of your hands, don’t worry. You get to fill in the blanks to suit your local area and choose between two templates that reflect two different tones of coverage: Cautiously optimistic and “hatchet job.” If you’re feeling charitable, go with cautious optimism. If you’re over the age of 40, you’ll probably want the hatchet job template. But don’t let me tell you what to do, the choice is yours.

Here’s the template for a cautiously optimistic article about MMA. Just fill in the blanks, submit to your editor, and wait for the melodramatic letters-to-the-editor to come rolling in:

“The Saturday night crowd at (name of local sports bar) is hungry, but it has nothing to do with the wings and burgers coming out of the kitchen. The crowd is hungry for action. On the big screen, (name of recent UFC winner) punches, kicks, knees, and elbows (name of his opponent) on his way to victory and the crowd roars its approval. ‘We never drew crowds like this for a sporting event unless it was the Super Bowl,’ says (name of bar manager), manager of (name of local sports bar).

Welcome to the new reality of Mixed Martial Arts, also known as (choose two: ‘ultimate fighting’/’cage fighting’/’extreme fighting’/’no holds barred fighting’). With boxing in decline, organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship are drawing crowds and viewers that make mixed martial arts, or MMA, as its fans call it, the fastest growing sport in America. Just last month, (recent Spike TV event) drew more viewers in the advertiser-coveted demographic of males age 18-34 than (recent major stick-and-ball sporting event).

Mixed martial arts is a combination of boxing, (choose two: wrestling/kickboxing/jiu jitsu/judo/submission grappling), and other martial arts forms. Matches are held inside a cage or ring and continue until one contestant is knocked out, ‘taps out’ implying a submission, or the referee stops the fight. Rules are sparse, with only a few tactics like (choose two: eye gouging/groin shots/biting/hair pulling) off limits. Bouts are often (choose one: brutal/bloody), with both the winner and loser looking like they survived (choose one: a car crash/a plane crash/Abu Ghraib). ‘It’s a rush,’ says (name of first UFC fighter you can get on the phone), a fighter for the UFC, ‘but it’s also a really complex sport where anything can happen. You have to be good at so many things to succeed.’

The sport has come a long way since the early days, when it was advertised as (choose one: no holds barred/‘two men enter, one man leaves’/‘There are no rules!’). After getting banned from pay-per-view due to criticism from Sen. John McCain, who called it ‘human cockfighting,’ the UFC and other organizations went underground, surviving on (choose two: satellite television/word-of-mouth/the Internet/a hardcore fan base).

In 2001, the UFC was bought by Zuffa LLC, a company comprised of casino (choose one: owners/magnates/kingpins/bigwigs) Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and (choose one: longtime friend/former boxer/ex-gym owner) Dana White, who saw that there could be a sport where there was once just spectacle. ‘We took a different approach from the previous owners and ran toward regulation,’ says White. The coming years brought a spot on basic cable, increased pay-per-view buy-rates, and the popularity the sport currently enjoys.

The phenomenon is not limited to just the national players. Smaller organizations like (name an organization within your state, if none exists, choose one that contains the word ‘cage’ in the title) are cashing in on the MMA craze as well. At last Saturday night’s (name of local organization) event, local fans gathered to see a show that, while lacking the glitz of the UFC, provided the same vicarious thrills. The (choose one: rowdy/raucous/drunken) crowd cheered on the violence, saving their biggest applause for when (name of defeated fighter) was (choose one: knocked out cold/choked unconscious). ‘I like it because it’s real,’ says (name of local fan in attendance). ‘It’s even more exciting in person than watching on TV.’

Opponents of mixed martial arts have claimed that it is (choose two: too violent/too dangerous/a bad influence on children/evidence of the coarsening of our culture). Indeed, a recent law passed in (small town) prohibits mixed martial arts and ‘Toughman’ bouts from taking place in their city. But small towns will have a hard time holding back the mixed martial arts juggernaut. The fans have spoken and they want (choose one: their MMA/action/blood).

Next time: The MMA Hatchet Job Article Template