By Zach Arnold | April 3, 2012
As our friend Jack Encarnacao noted on Sunday night, Twitter timelines exploded with Wrestlemania chatter from… many MMA writers. There was a similar timeline explosion on Monday night when Brock Lesnar returned to WWE and laid out John Cena. Anyone who saw Lesnar’s return saw grown men practically lose their minds, screaming like cavemen scoring raw meat when Lesnar started bouncing up and down on the ramp way.
Jack’s point about how most MMA writers/reporters are, in fact, huge (closet) wrestling fans is interesting when you juxtapose it to the hardcore MMA fans online who populate message boards. They hate anything involving a scent of the wrestling business to MMA. And, yet, it was Lesnar who was easily the #1 PPV attraction for UFC. Only Georges St. Pierre even came close to matching his showings business-wise in the last couple of years.
My initial takeaway from watching WWE fans explode when Lesnar showed up was a relatively simple one. It goes to show you that MMA, for many wrestling fans, is a substitute and not replacement product in their lives. Wrestling fans always are paranoid about legitimacy. Brock Lesnar is their symbol of legitimacy. UFC gave him the rub to come back to wrestling as, pardon the pun, The Ultimate Fighter. WWE fans are often tortured souls with crappy matchmaking and even crappier disdain from the promotion. The promotion has a nasty habit of punishing those the hardest who are the most loyal supporters while doing everything it can to win over people who look at the product as a circus.
So, Lesnar is a huge breath of fresh air for WWE fans. He’s their vessel to support someone who was involved in real fighting and is back to take over their world. This is why you will have to endure non-stop Lesnar talk in both pro-wrestling and MMA circles. Hell, I had a couple of well-respected people involved in MMA on a high level this weekend ask me on the phone about Brock Lesnar being at Wrestlemania in Miami. It was the subject most discussed this week in MMA circles offline.
When the media went nuts for Wrestlemania on Sunday night, it also give me pause to the whole drug issue in MMA and why most MMA writers cover the drug subject the way they do. If most of the MMA writers are big wrestling boosters, it would certainly help explain why so many of them are conditioned to guys who are hardcore PED & pain killer drug users. No business has had more high-profile tragedy on this front than wrestling in the last 30 years in the States. It’s ridiculous the amount of guys who have died under the age of 50 due to the abuse they’ve put themselves through. You would naturally think that drug-related tragedy would strength the resolve of those who want to clean up the drug culture but, instead, it’s basically made a lot of wrestling supporters numb. They throw their hands up in the air, give up, and say that everything should be allowed… which makes WWE’s position of not allowing Therapeutic Use Exemptions for testosterone all the more remarkable while athletic commissions regulating MMA are giving it the green light.
Beau Dure, who used to write at USA Today, summarized his thoughts over the weekend on why the MMA media reacts so differently to the issue of drug usage in the sport as compared to writers in sports like baseball & football:
How many sports, when faced with time of reckoning on drugs, have fans/pundits argue they should be legal?
I don’t know of any. In baseball, some argued that stats aren’t tainted. But then McGwire (has) nowhere (been voted) near (the) Hall of Fame.
Yes — I’m referring to the “nobody cares, dude” backlash against anyone writing about TRT in mixed martial arts.
But we’re talking about sports now. Plenty of Americans are on painkillers, steroids, etc. Olympic athletes rarely get TRT TUE. (Only two granted for over 10,000+ athletes.)
Fighters’ pleas that they all have low T should draw skepticism. But the doctors prescribing TRT for all these fighters have no agenda and no reason to benefit, right?
WADA’s far from perfect. But on specific issue of TRT, no other group of athletes I know has challenged it. Why MMA?
Most drugs have side effects. We make tradeoffs if drug helps us lead “normal” life. Fighting isn’t “normal.” Are you at all suspicious that so many fighters claim levels of 80 [year olds], while (Don) Catlin says he found two legit TRT TUEs in Olympics? (The) standard for getting TUE should be reasonably high. But I still find it strange that fighters, more so than other athletes, have this great need.
Which gets back to my initial [question] — why is this a bigger controversy in MMA than elsewhere? And some MMA fans/pundits go farther, wondering why steroids and other PEDs are illegal. I don’t see that elsewhere.
The UFC Sweden show can’t come fast enough. Neither can ABBA’s new release, either. You know you want it.
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This week’s MMA Link Club featured stories
Thought I’d point out this item from the dreaded Las Vegas Review-Journal talking about the conviction of Russell Pike for tax evasion. Yes, that Russell Pike of Xyience fame – an early sponsor of UFC.
Eddie is a -220 favorite, 11 to 5 favorite over Aoki in Cleveland on the 20th.
When this was announced yesterday, a lot of hardcore fans sighed because it wasn’t Gil vs. BJ Penn or Gil vs. Anthony Pettis.
Wait… I thought UFC would overtake the NFL and soccer as the biggest sport in 10 years?
The ratings for The Ultimate Fighter have not done well (so far). The dynamic has been fascinating — hardcore fans online love the show because the match-ups have been notable in quality. However, casual fans are not hot about the show at all. I’ve watched the show with a few casuals and they remark in the difference between what Spike focused on and what FX focuses on. FX focuses on the live fight, making the taped portion largely boring & mundane. And, yet, I think this current format on FX will produce a better result in terms of actually preparing the tournament winner to having some immediate success in the UFC, something that has not happened for a while now on the show.
But is there a way to find the balance between what Spike did and what FX is emphasizing now? Sure. Focus the first 20 minutes of the show on the pre-fight atmosphere & conversation (with some taped highlights from the week), then air the live fight, and then focus on the locker rooms after the fight since that’s where the most verbal action seems to be taking place this season.
Bleacher Report: Why Demian Maia’s move to Welterweight is the right decision
Josh is a -140 favorite (7 to 5). That sounds a bit low, at least if you use the standard conventional wisdom going into this fight.
For a ‘minor’ promotion, they sure are booking a lot of worldwide talent and I expect that trend to continue. I’d like to see more of the women fighting, though, so hopefully things will be picking up on this front.
MMA Payout: China on the UFC schedule in 2012
When it comes to mainland China and promotions like WWE or UFC making promises… I’ll believe it when I see it.