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Talk Radio: Why is the media making such a big deal out of the racial remarks made by UFC stars Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans?

By Zach Arnold | May 22, 2010

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My reaction can be viewed in full-page mode at the bottom of this posting. The question is not one raised by me, but raised on talk radio. Trust me, after you read my response, you won’t confuse the headline with my personal opinion on this matter.

This passage comes from Sherdog’s radio show yesterday:

LOTFI SARIAHMED: “I mean I think it’s interesting, I kind of sit back, relax, and I just kind of laugh at the whole thing because it’s good to know that both Rashad and Rampage aren’t just putting on a show for the sake of putting on a show, they’re not a fan of each other, they genuinely do not like each other and I appreciate that as opposed to just putting on a show for the sake of putting on a show. I mean I’ve read a whole of bunch of different stories about how maybe this is in bad, maybe they’ve gone too far… no, not really. I don’t think so. I’ve gone through everything that they’ve said, I know the back-and-forth, this is what it is, I say bravo, it’s all in good fun. Not a big deal. By the end of this, one side of the other will give the winner respect begrudgingly if nothing else. but I have no problem with either side. I think I kind of look back and laugh.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Yeah, laugh for sure, that’s got to be the sane and logical reaction to some of this stuff, I mean the fact that I’ve seen some of the things that were said twisted into like questions of perception and potential concern. It’s just like, wow, where have you people been? How do you get people to come to fights? You talk at each other like this and that’s not to suggest that that’s the only reason these two guys are using the verbiage and using the insults and using the kind of stinging diatribes they are against each other just to build up a fight, but it’s definitely part of the equation. They also happen to not really like each other and I think you know to some degree it’s mind-boggling that some people are acting like they’ve never heard trash talk like this before. You know, just watch a Muhammad Ali documentary one day, see some of the things he used to say about some of his foils you know back in the day, want to talk about race relations? Some of the things he said about Joe Frazier and the such, it’s a time-honored tradition to approach things like this. And what Rashad said, Lotfi, and I guess I’m interested in your response. I mean, one of the things he said that kind of raised some questions, Franklin McNeil of ESPN was on the conference call, he used as far as I can tell by reading the transcript the words ‘detriment’ and ‘advantageous’ and asking Quinton a question and Rampage came back and said you know why you got to be using big words and stuff like that and it was laughed off and Rashad actually piped up and he said, ‘you know that’s what I can’t stand about Rampage’ is that he perpetuates the stereotype that Black people can’t (use) big words, don’t want to understand big words, and in fact Rampage is pretending that he doesn’t understand the words when in fact he does. Glorious stuff in terms of like a real direct you know out-of-the-ordinary insult hurled there at Rampage but interesting stuff nonetheless, Lotfi. What do you think about race relations Vis-à-vis the UFC 114 main event?”

LOTFI SARIAHMED: (Laughs) “We’re not going to exactly break ground here in regards with this tête-à-tête, I mean c’mon, let’s be honest here. This is, I mean, this is just funny more than anything else. People need to take it for what it is. There are no race relations. There is no big statement being made here, I mean Rampage is he perpetuating anything big? I mean probably, whether or not he believes it, who cares? Whether or not he is actually that way, who cares? Whatever. I mean these are two fighters who are going at it and part of their job is to sell a fight and whether or not this is, again, I think this is 100% legit. We’ve gotten e-mails from people showing pictures in Australia when they went nose-to-nose and there were no cameras involved. So, I mean, there is… it does seem like it’s legitimate, but I mean in terms of any bigger statement that they’re making here, c’mon guys.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Well, yeah, it’s certainly piped up that way. Later on that I should note that Rampage pretty much said you know, even if I do those two words, it’s part of my whole shtick, it’s my routine, it’s what I find funny to react to people who use words like that as I did, but you know that gets lost in the shuffle.”

A couple of minutes later after discussing the “Black-on-Black crime” remark…

LOTFI SARIAHMED: “Black, orange, green, blue, purple, white, whatever… I mean, these are two guys, part of what these two guys are doing is selling a fight. Part of what these two guys are doing is trying to get out there and get people interested enough to say, hey, make sure you tune in because I’m going to knock this guy’s head off. I’m going to take this guy’s head off his shoulders and punt him into the first row, that’s what I’m going to do. And then you say that just because you’re going to sell the fight. And now just because race is involved people are going to get all touchy about it. I mean, listen, does racism exist? Of course racism exists. Racism is rampant in a whole of lot of different places. Not here. Let’s relax and keep things in mind, keep things in perspective.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Yeah, for sure, for sure. It’s a very lighthearted, I think, discussion. I don’t know, some people might take it ultra seriously. I can’t say that I’ve seen that perspective out there but you know people have brought it up, people try to raise it as something significant and something worth debating or at least worth looking at and considering and as Lotfi says, you know of course the key part of all this is building a fight, pumping up that buy rate so they can collect a bigger paycheck at the end of the road at the other end and it appears to be working. The rating for episode two this week of UFC Primetime had 875,000 viewers, that’s a drop from the all-time record 1.2 million of the premiere last week and when I say all-time record I mean not just Primetime but any Countdown show actually eclipsed the record which was 1.1 million average viewers for the premiere of the UFC 100 preview show which featured the unforgettable scene where Brock Lesnar took down a door so this fight definitely reaching out there and definitely getting into the ether and getting into the public consciousness I think to a greater degree than most fight hype and we may be looking at a very nice PPV number, probably the highest of the year this year and probably only second to the Brock Lesnar/Shane Carwin that we’ll see here in 2010 if the interest in the Primetime show is any indication. This Primetime show of course this series has benefited tremendously from coming on directly after The Ultimate Fighter which always does serviceable ratings and this season has done actually quite well and outperformed in terms of how convinced people are that public interest has waned in the show and the format has stale, it continues to do very solid and very stable numbers on Spike and in the end provides a great entree for the 11 PM EST premiere of Primetime these past two Wednesday nights. The final episode to come next Wednesday and the PPV next Saturday.”

As for my personal reaction…

On a scale of 1-100, my interest level in this fight is at around 90 — and I consider that pretty high since I watch a ton of MMA-related programming. That said, every time I hear or read some of the remarks these two men have made towards each other in interviews or on conference calls, I try to drown it out as white noise and ignore it. The talk makes me less interested, not more interested, in seeing this fight. I want to see this fight because I think it’s a compelling match-up and I suspect that most UFC fans feel the same way.

I am reminded of a phrase that basketball commentator Mark Jackson says all the time, which is “you’re better than that.”

Just because someone else in the past made insensitive or over-the-top remarks doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate or acceptable to do so in 2010 in hyping up a fight. Yes, this is fighting, and a lot of grown men with jacked up testosterone levels can suffer from temporary insanity and act like neanderthals. I understood that a long time ago. With all of that said, don’t go to me with a straight face and claim that UFC’s audience is more high-brow than boxing or professional wrestling in terms of antics used to promote a fight. I’m sure current sponsors of UFC look the other way when they hear about the kind of remarks that these two men have made towards each other, but there’s also potential sponsors who may look at what has been said and go, “Sorry, I don’t want to be associate my brand with this circus.” That’s the risk you take when you allow such commentary to be made and hyped on multiple media platforms.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

3 Responses to “Talk Radio: Why is the media making such a big deal out of the racial remarks made by UFC stars Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    This is the most pumped I’ve been for a fight in a long while. I love the real tension between these two guys. And it’s an even fight on paper to make it even better.

    Obama stayed away from the race topic for his entire campaign. Even when racist stuff was happening, he never chalked it up to racism. He knew that as soon as he brought up racism, it was a slippery slope. And a smart guy like him probably knows that a black person has to work extra hard not to be labeled wrongly in America.

    Just think of it this way…. If Obama had two kids who acted like Bush’s…. Who were out partying and getting into trouble…. He would have never been able to be President. He had to have the model family in order. It’s under the radar racism like this that is still present in our culture in 2010.

    If I’m Rashad Evans, I would be pissed at a guy like Quinton Jackson. As Evans has alluded to, Jackson basically plays the dumb black card. For a guy as educated and as well spoken as Evans, watching fellow black athletes make fools out of themselves cannot feel good.

    Quinton Jackson is mentally immature. So it’s not a shock that he would think that “schtick” is funny…

  2. Mark says:

    I think it’s kind of absurd for an issue like African American media portrayals to be played out in a MMA fight. The same way it would have been when people were angling to turn Lesnar/Mir 3 into a conservative versus liberal fight after Lesnar’s ESPN interview ranting against Obama’s health care plan. Its two guys looking for every layer to toss into their war of words to sell a pay per view, nothing more, nothing less.

    Even in just the sport of MMA, Jackson isn’t even top 10 on the list of “offensive stereotypes portrayed” when you had stuff like Bob Sapp in a cage eating bananas in K-1, Sokoudjou being portrayed as an African savage in PRIDE and Krazy Horse bragging about his arrest record on an Elite show. And Rampage has far bigger personal problems than not knowing what detriment meant, as we all know. If he wants to be a goofball and act stupid because he thinks it’s funny, who cares. Tom Lawlor, Renzo Gracie and Akihiro Gono act dumber than they really are for laughs all the time too, so should African Americans be told to be more stoic in interviews than whites, Brazilians and Japanese people?

  3. Chris says:

    Some of the trash talk has definitely made me cringe a little. But good trash always walks the line of going too far and actually turning people off. I don’t think that’s been the case with the Evans-Jackson trash talk.

    I also love the fact that a fighter has finally called out Quinton Jackson for always playing the buffoon card. A Rashad Evans victory on Saturday would be very satisfying.

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