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Talk Radio (UFC 114): How much has the unnecessary racial remarks damaged the impact of UFC’s first main event with two Black fighters?

By Zach Arnold | May 29, 2010

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Any time you deal with a topic as sensitive as this, there’s always a mine trap or a firework you step on. I thought the Sherdog radio round-table on Friday handled this subject about as well as they possibly could and do so in an honest fashion.

I’ve give you a sample of some of the conversation, but full-page mode will get you all the quotes. Trust me, this is well worth your time reading. It took me a while to type this out, so give it a read and respond in the comments section as to what you think about the topic matter at hand.

Does Rashad Evans even know what he’s talking about?

JORDAN BREEN: “One of the major things in building up the card has recently been the Ali/Frazier I type of race baiting that’s gone on. Tomas, anything to take away from it? Do you think that it actually offers anything greater or is that simply the hook that had to be used this time around because it is a sort of conspicuous difference the fact that we do have two prominent Black fighters in a main event which is very a-typical for MMA at this point in time?”

TOMAS RIOS: “Race-baiting never adds anything because most professional athletes don’t even know what race-baiting really is. I mean, you have Rashad Evans one day calls Rampage an ‘Uncle Tom’ and then the next day calls him a ‘Sambo’ which pretty much shows you how much he knows what he’s talking about. It’s just a really unfortunate thing. Any time race-baiting comes up in sports or in any context, it’s unfortunate. It takes away from it. Barring that, though, the hype for this show has been very well executed.”

Has the racially-tinged trash talking made the fighter bigger than it would have been without it?

JORDAN BREEN: “So isn’t that then the time for the Mike Tyson question? Mike Tyson famously after the Lennox Lewis debacle at the weigh-in where he completely melted down and started that scuffle after he was talking to his lawyer who was admonishing him and wrapping his knuckles for it and he just quietly and very sort of childishly asked, ‘well, it’s going to make the fight bigger, isn’t it?’ ”

TOMAS RIOS: “Look, is it going to make the fight bigger? I don’t think so. You’re talking about Mike Tyson against Rashad Evans’ ability to hype up a fight. I mean, two completely different things and on top of that, for the most part, the whole racial dynamic going on in this fight as well as some of the unfortunate homosexual comments that have been made are really just coming off [disingenuous] because there’s no legitimate basis for this ongoing beef between them. I mean, guys like you know more recently Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas. When they got into it with each other, there was legitimate basis for Fernando Vargas going in there and talking smack on De La Hoya about the legitimacy of his Mexican heritage and things like that. In this particular fight, there’s really nothing there. There’s nothing there. It’s all hype.”

Time to play “predict the PPV buy rate for UFC 114”

JORDAN BREEN: “You’re really the first person to bring up the fact that whenever it seems that Rashad Evans attempts to insult another fighter it does always end up being some borderline real homo-erotic kind of dissing, which is extremely awkward. That notwithstanding, I think with the Primetime treatment, with a lot of ESPN crossover, this time around really Zuffa doing the hard sell, we can anticipate a bigger buy rate. Luke, what do you forecast for what we’re looking at in terms of a buy rate? I mean we thought we were going to get a relatively big one with UFC 113 with Kimbo and you know ESPN picking up some of the Lyoto Machida ‘look how interesting he is’ kind of stuff. It just did over a half million, comparable to the first Machida-Shogun fight. What are were looking at here, we looking at kind of the same, three-quarters of a million, what do you think?”

LUKE THOMAS: “To what extent [Dana White’s] lying or being disingenuous, your guess is probably as good as mine. But what he said was 800-850k based on current trends, that was yesterday about 4 PM. You know it’s incredibly picking up steam and as folks know, the closer a lot of decisions about ‘do I buy or do I not buy this PPV’ are made very close to the actual broadcast of the PPV itself, so I don’t want to go crazy but I think 800-850,000 is a very fair estimate. I wouldn’t go as high as a million. Now if Forrest Griffin were on the card that would change the dynamic but I guess for me, historically ESPN appearances and coverage haven’t really translated in meaningful ways to PPV buys but this coverage is so, there’s breadth and depth. I mean there’s online coverage, there’s television coverage, there’s radio coverage, and in every sort of nook and cranny of the ESPN product which this fight sort of evidences is a very vascular creature… I think they could easily surpass 900,000 if this video game momentum, this fight momentum, there’s folks been waiting. What’s carrying this is also folks just want a really big Summer fight to kick things off. I think there’s that, too, so I would not sell this one short at all.”

JORDAN BREEN: “I don’t know if I can go as high as 800k but I sort of think three-quarters of a million, 750,000, is kind of what I’m expecting. Certainly, very very quality stuff especially for a fight that you know not that long ago it seemed like, who knows, maybe we wouldn’t get it after Quinton Jackson decided to play B.A. Baracus.”

Is there a bigger racial statement being made here with the trash talk between Evans and Rampage?

JORDAN BREEN: “Obviously, the biggest thing going in has been the racial wildness heading into it. Lotfi Sariahmed, you’re the only African here today, how do you feel about it?”

LOTFI SARIAHMED: “I think it’s a big farce, that’s what I think. Are we really allowing Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to dictate anything with regard to race relations as it pertains to the UFC? I mean this is… This is quite possibly one of those things you can step back from and you kind of tilt your head sideways and you look at it and say, ‘really’? Really? Is this what’s going on here? I mean, Rashad… Rashad I don’t know what’s Rashad’s doing. We talked about this before. The fact that Rashad is playing this up any more than he is, you really do wonder whether or not it’s legitimate. If they hate each other, that’s fine, but this to have devolved into some discussion about what this means for race relations in the United States and the world is quite possibly one of the most mind-boggling things that I’ve ever been witness to in my life. It just makes really no sense at all.”

JORDAN BREEN: “I think the thing that gets me is… …like people seem to think that this is an Ali/Frazier I type of situation that makes a larger statement about Black America. And it doesn’t. There’s no like big picture but what I do think is important, Tomas, is that we now have a UFC main event with two bonafied, well-known, high-quality athletes who both happen to be Black which is still a huge rarity in Mixed Martial Arts. I mean, what do you think is the value of that? Is there something particularly different, interesting, impactful, or game-changing about the fact that we now have a high-profile Black vs. Black fight in a sport that’s traditionally have been dominated by Middle class White people?”

TOMAS RIOS: “I think it’s important in so far as having people out there in a big role within the sport who happen to be Black, are having success within the sport, and are putting that example out there. I mean, you can look at the history of any sport — baseball, basketball, anything… once people of any race started really gaining high-level success within the sport, that’s when you started seeing more people of that race enter the sport. I do think that there are certain limitations involved with MMA, especially if you happen to be of a lower class and any race at all because of the fact that MMA is very expensive to get into. You’re talking about training multiple disciplines, especially if you have a major metropolitan area. One of the unfortunate truths about the expansion of MMA is that you’re seeing gyms basically cashing in on the popularity of the sport in a way that’s essentially tantamount to price gauging. I mean, I can’t even begin to tell you how absurdly expensive it would be to even attempt to begin training Mixed Martial Arts in New York City, for example. I mean, Renzo Gracie’s gym charges exorbitant prices. Granted, it’s high-quality instruction, but it’s not like Renzo Gracie’s going to be you know teaching you guard-passing every single day. So, is it important for there to be you know a certain level of racial diversity within the sport? Should that sport foster it along? Sure, absolutely. I do think it’s unfortunate that the first major main event fight between two Black fighters has turned into a really childish, petty, and absolutely nonsensical game of race-baiting with no understanding of the history of race relations, no understanding of the internal racial dynamics of African-American people in this country. It’s just a really profound disappointment.

And let me say, King Mo Lawal has gone on record joining in on Rashad Evans’ side and saying things like you know Rampage perpetuates all these negative stereotypes. Muhammad Lawal is in no position to talk. I’ve been lucky enough to interview the guy. He’s an incredibly smart part who’s very aware about different subjects, not the least of which being race. He has made no qualms about the fact that he’s created a personality that is designed to generate money for himself. Perceptions of race and stereotypes be damned. He’s made the same excuse for Floyd Mayweather, who’s been accused of perpetuating African-American stereotypes and yet he has the gall to go after Rampage for doing the exact same thing, which is trying to make money.”

LUKE THOMAS: “In fact, now that you bring up Floyd Mayweather, who remembers when he called Emmanuel Steward an ‘Uncle Tom’? I mean, when was that, 2009? It’s not like this is some you know breathtaking threshold we’ve crossed into race-baiting. I agree, it’s bad. But I think what the point about why it’s bad, you know why is this like why is Rashad doing this and there’s a lot of questions about what it means and what it doesn’t mean. I thought the comparisons to Frazier were more apt than the ones to Patterson, which is where there was even if that was a bit phony and manufactured, at least it was grounded in some sort of larger social rift. Namely, Floyd Patterson even wrote a letter to Sports Illustrated saying he was going to take the title from Cassius Clay, refused to call him Muhammad Ali just like Joe Frazier which is why he got called an ‘Uncle Tom.’ In Floyd Patterson’s letter he basically said I’m going to strip the title from this guy because he is involved with a racist organization like the Black Muslims, that what’s he called them and this is you know the time when Ali had been reinstated after being stripped of his ability to compete in boxing, after the whole draft issue. There was really something socially relevant to that conversations they were having that was meaningful. This one just seems rather petty. This one just seems like an excuse to bring it in because there’s a personal dispute. The only thing I would say is, lastly, you know it will come as a surprise to nobody, I’m not African-American. Part of me also feels like we don’t have any African-American panelists here and there’s not really in Mixed Martial Arts, either, and so I really hesitate to go much further into the conversation than we already have. I think this is also partly an internal debate to the Africa-American community which, you know, I don’t really have a frame of reference in. I just feel like there isn’t much else going on besides a petty dispute.”

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

3 Responses to “Talk Radio (UFC 114): How much has the unnecessary racial remarks damaged the impact of UFC’s first main event with two Black fighters?”

  1. Fluyid says:

    “I just feel like there isn’t much else going on besides a petty dispute.”

    That’s pretty much it, imo.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    I just watched Evans & Rampage’s interviews with Ariel…. And you can tell Evan’s got into Rampage’s head. He is just off during the interview.

    I don’t see anything wrong with what Evans said. Quinton is an idiot. His interviews never make sense. He is constantly blaming others for his problems. And to make it worse, he absolutely plays up the black stereotype.

  3. Steve says:

    One thing they did get backwards is that King Mo did not just hop on the Rashad race baiting bandwagon. He has been calling out Rampage as a minstrel show for a long time.

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