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SI writer Chris Mannix says there are “far too many of the grappling moments” in UFC

By Zach Arnold | September 1, 2010

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Josh Gross had SI writer Chris Mannix on his radio show this week. Chris is SI’s boxing and NBA top writer. UFC 118 was his first live MMA event, and as you will read after these quotes from his interview, probably his last MMA event.

How would you compare the overall feel of UFC 118 to boxing events you’ve been to?

“You know, one thing I will give the UFC is that they do a terrific job of presentation. I mean, you get to a card and it’s not just, you know, waiting for a fight and whatnot. They have great, um, you know, a montage, homages to the fighters beforehand. They give you a nice, big preview on the many flat screens they put up at the TD Garden and I’m sure they do it elsewhere as well but you get a real sort of like entertainment atmosphere at these fights and I think that’s key because, you know, these crowds aren’t just there to see the fights, I don’t think. They’re there to be entertained and I think the UFC does a great job of that.”

Wait until you read his answer about watching the Gray Maynard/Kenny Florian fight. Hint: He channels the same spirit as Bob Ryan & Mike Felger along with Gary Shaw’s mentality.

What lessons are boxing promoters learning from the UFC, if there are any to learn?

“Oh, yeah, no question. I mean, the pace especially. I mean, boxing… breaks in boxing can be interminable, I mean they really are brutal at times and in MMA they move relatively quickly, you know, granted there are requisite breaks needed for PPVs and for different broadcasts and there is some sort of lull in between some fights but overall you get from one fight to the next and it’s pretty, it’s pretty effective. I really did enjoy being a part of that.”

This was your first MMA card you watched live. What did you think of the action? Did it interest you at all?

“I enjoyed it when there was action but I think my problem with the UFC and a lot of people, other people’s problem with the UFC is when they get on the ground and I know there’s skill to it, I know it’s a talent, I’m not taking anything away from that, I mean these guys are phenomenal athletes, I mean they’re as good as athletes as any boxers out there and you really can’t dispute that in any stretch of the imagination… but when they get on the ground it’s just, far too many lulls for me and one thing I wish they would do more of is I wish there was more breaks, I wish the referee would step in there and break some of that action up or break some of those dead spots up. There’s definitely a rhyme and a reason to it obviously, these guys are trying to get different holds on and they’re trying to do different things on the mat but sometimes and I think the crowd backed me up with this, I didn’t feel like I was alone in this, but when there were you know 1 minute, 1 1/2 minutes, 2 minutes lulls in the action which really happened and I’ll point out one great example, I thought the Kenny Florian fight was the perfect example of that. It was just… so much on the mat action that it seemed like for 14 out of the 15 minutes, we were just watching two guys kind of hug it out on the ground there. I mean, when there was action in the fight and I think that kid (Nate) Diaz, I’m forgetting his first name, but I thought he had some great moments there where he busted up his opponent’s face, I thought that was really compelling and I did get sucked into it in that way but you know those moments are great but I just there were far too many of the grappling moments where, you know, you’re kind of waiting for these guys to get up or do something that really starts to peak your interest.”

A fair amount of people who normally wouldn’t watch UFC watched UFC 118 because of James Toney. Was it a good or bad night for MMA with the new viewers or did it drive away people who were already MMA skeptics?

“You know, I think that Mixed Martial Arts probably could have hoped for better because you’re right about one thing is that you did get some kind of boxing fan draw to this. I mean, I would not have gone if James Toney was not involved and there were a couple of other boxing writers that I saw in attendance that probably would not have been there had James Toney not been involved with this and I’m also equally sure that there are thousands of people that ordinarily would not buy a UFC PPV that did buy it just to see James Toney. Now, you kind of wish that James Toney did more than fall on his ass and roll around for about three minutes. You kind of wish it was more competitive and he came into the ring with much better condition. I mean, he was in horrible shape, I mean he looked fatter than I’ve seen him in any of his fights and I’ll tell you this, in any of his other fights James Toney is not a draw, that’s the reason he can’t get big fights in boxing because nobody wants to go see him fight. He’s a defensive-minded fighter with no knockout power who is good at promoting because he’s a loudmouth but, you know, doesn’t really back it up in the ring and in his days as a Middleweight and a Super Middleweight and a Light Heavyweight, he was backing that up. He was a guy with tremendous skills but as he got into his late 30s and early 40s, he’s become a non-factor in the sport. So, there were definitely people that were there for the novelty and you kind of wish that the UFC could capitalize on that with a better overall card. I think I’m in agreement and you and I are in agreement and a lot of people that talked to me on Twitter are in agreement that this was not UFC’s finest showing. I heard several people say that this was probably the worst fight of the year, the worst card of the year for the UFC. So, you’re kind of disappointed on their end because if they had put forth a better card and when I say that if the fights were more competitive or more entertaining, I think it probably could have drawn a few more contact sports fans into the mix.”

You wrote an article on the state of James Toney’s career after his fight with Randy Couture. What’s left for him?

“I mean, he can always get some kind of menial fight, you know, in an obscure location. I mean, we see boxers all the time that are well-past their prime fighting in, you know, places like Florida or Texas or out of the ways like Oklahoma City hosts some cards sometimes. I mean, he’ll be able to get a fight, what he’s looking for is a fight with one of the Klitschkos or he’s looking for another pay day similar to what he got for this fight. I mean, I’m sure he’d be thrilled with a $750,000 pay day in sort of boxing match but he’s not going to get that because nobody’s interested in fighting him and the only guys he’s going to get are guys that he can easily beat, I mean he’s just not a factor in the sport any more. I mean if I’m James Toney, I mean you have to seriously consider retiring. I mean, if you listen to this guy before the fight, I mean whether you’re a UFC fan or a boxing fan, you understand that this guy’s you know got some things going wrong in his brain, a few wires are started to get crossed up there where his speech is starting to get slurred and he’s, you know, starting to just sound like a guy who’s been involved in some 70-plus professional boxing fights. So, you really wish this guy would just take it for what it is as a sign that maybe, you know, he should walk away. Take the money he made in this fight and put it towards something good and walk away while most of your faculties are still in tact because if he keeps this up, we both know there’s going to be a UFC guy that really rocks him. I mean, I was kind of cringing a couple of times when Couture had him on the mat and he was getting whacked across the skull with some of those left and right hands, I mean those things hurt, I mean those gloves aren’t very thick and he’s getting whacked pretty good down there so he gets involved in whether it’s Strikeforce or another MMA circuit, he could wind up getting seriously, seriously hurt and you don’t want to see it happen to this guy. He’s had too good or a career, you know early on. People tend to forget, this guy was a very decorated fighter in his late 20s and 30s when he was fighting Roy Jones and some of the great Middleweights and Super Middleweights of his time. He was electrifying at times at that weight classes so I really would like to see James Toney walk away from all of this while he still can.”

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “SI writer Chris Mannix says there are “far too many of the grappling moments” in UFC”

  1. James says:

    Did he not see Joe Lauzon’s beautiful “grappling moment”? That was anything, but the definition of boring.

    • Steve4192 says:

      Lauzon’s fight was an oasis of awesome in a card that otherwise a desert of boredom.

      I can’t blame Mannix for coming away from this event unimpressed. It was not one of the UFC’s best efforts. Shit happens. I’m sure his opinion would have been different if he was at a more entertaining show.

  2. Fluyid says:

    The guy just gave his opinion. So what? Everybody has to like the same things in the same way?

  3. Mark says:

    Also, he’s looking at this in a completely different way than the fans would. He’s looking at it like “How can the UFC become even more mainstream?“ kind of way. And like it or not, America is never going to accept grappling. It will always get the tag of “It’s boring“ or “It looks really gay“. So why people get shocked when a mainstream person like a Sports Illustrated writer says people aren’t going to like grappling is stupid. Get out of your MMA fan bubble.

    • trevor says:

      I think “never” is a little strong. I mean the crowds in the venues react to guard passes, triangle attempts, kimura attempts, armbar attempts, taking the back, scrambles, shit, things that this guy definitely wouldn’t even notice and would say were boring

      I agree most people probably enjoy striking more, but the crowd is as quick to boo a nothing-doing striking match as they are a lay n pray or wall n stall type of performance. The crowd was NUTS for Macdonald/Maia and that was all grappling.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    The UFC is popular enough for my tastes. Enough to pay the stars decent money, but not too big that it gets the problems that come along with mainstream sports.

    I coul care less if Johnny Sportswriter at SI likes the sport. As long as the UFC has a loyal strong fanbase, I can enjoy my MMA without worrying about it going out of business…..

  5. dola says:

    “but when they get on the ground it’s just, far too many lulls for me and one thing I wish they would do more of is I wish there was more breaks, I wish the referee would step in there and break some of that action up or break some of those dead spots up.”

    Ugh, these guys are going to [expletive] everything up. This has to be nipped in the bud. There are plenty of great, knowledgeable fans out there who are happy with things the way they are but the problem is that this is capitalism which has to expand and accumulate which means taking on lots of retards and dumbing things down. I don’t want to see mma become glorified kickboxing.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      If it was up to guys like Gary Shaw, there would be a 30 second clock for grappling. Heck, he suggested it when he first got into MMA, and then was bashed into giving up that thought.

      We are lucky in that the Fertitta’s, who really control the sport, have a real appreciation for grappling. So there will be no changes for years to come, no matter what dumb sports writers say.

      I’m perfectly fine with how it is now…. Which with good refs… allows grapplers to stay on the ground as long as they are passing or staying active. And I’m okay with the ocassional stand-up if a top guy is really stalling. 95% of that time its when a fighter is on top in his opponents guard. In a rare instance, it’s when a fighter is in side mount and is really really really doing nothing. But that is the rare exception.

    • Mark says:

      “Those guys“ are going to do anything.

      Dana isn’t reading that, doing a spittake of Xyience Energy Drink onto his laptop screen, reaching for his phone to call Joe Silva to inform him all grapplers are barred from fighting.

      It’s one guy giving the opinion of the majority of the public: lots of grapplers (and he specifically said Maynard & Florian) are not going to appeal to a huge amount of people.

      It’s not like the President held a press conference to announce this, it’s just some sportswriter nobody knows.

      • Fluyid says:

        I’ve heard talk that President Obama is considering a press conference to discuss his official position on the rubber guard. I think it’s election suicide to come out definitively on the issue, but that’s what I’m hearing.

  6. David M says:

    Maynard is boring, most hardcore mma fans think that too.

  7. Smithers says:

    For years and years, the hardcores wanted MMA covered by the big boys in the sports media. Now you’re getting it. The media in Boston treated UFC 118 like the major event in the city that it was. But they’re not required to look at the event the same way hardcores do, any more than someone covering baseball for the first time is required to follow what the sabrmetrics crowd wants. They’re covering it, and they’re paying attention. Isn’t that what you wanted all along?

  8. Zack says:

    “If it was up to guys like Gary Shaw, there would be a 30 second clock for grappling. Heck, he suggested it when he first got into MMA, and then was bashed into giving up that thought.”

    This wasn’t the idea. The idea was the refs giving them a countdown if he determined them to be inactive. Sucks to say, but that’s a better idea than lame standups out of nowhere like we see on every event.

  9. Actually after watching UFC 118 I thought exactly the same way. This was arguably the worst UFC show this year and probably the worst one could have chosen for the Couture vs. Toney fight.

    And, yes, the reason for that is too much grappling and much too less action. Toney’s participation definitely attracted a lot of boxing fans and probably fans from other fightsports as well because of the boxing vs. MMA theme.

    And if UFC 118 is your first MMA experience or the first evening you decide to watch MMA for a few hours it was probably boring as hell.

    The main card was horrible from a non-MMA-fan point of view:
    Diaz vs. Davis: a bloodied up boxer gets beaten.
    Florian vs. Maynard: even boring for an MMA fan.
    Maia vs. Miranda: when was the last time Maia was not able to submit a guy when he had him on the ground like he had Miranda 😉
    Couture vs. Toney: as expected and therefore pretty boring
    Edgar vs. Penn: better than anyone could have hoped for.

    So all he says is that strategically the fight should have been on another card with less grapplers and more stand-up-fighters. So why is everybody defending the card like it was the best MMA event ever?

  10. Al says:

    UFC and great presentation in the same sentence? The UFC hasn’t changed their presentation formula in years, it’s practically the same setup with every event.

    Someone please send Chris a Pride DVD.

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