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Last week I had a few laughs at the expense of mixed martial arts (MMA) debutant Dave Bautista, who wrestled for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) under the moniker "Batista," after he appeared on MMA Uncensored Live to discuss his upcoming heavyweight bout against Rashid Evans on Oct. 6 in Rhode Island.
I called him an Alistair Overeem "wannabe" because, well, he said he wants to be like Alistair Overeem. I also thought it was funny when he got dropped by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Stephan Bonnar while sparring.
Fans (and some fat guy who doesn't like me) weren't laughing.
What surprised me was how defensive readers got when I took shots at a 43-year-old man trying to prove something to himself inside the cage, but that's probably because I didn't fully explain what my issue is with Bautista -- and a lot of other "wannabes" -- when it comes to getting their fight on.
Here it is.
The wrestler known as "The Animal" is a gifted athlete with a history of MMA training. He could probably hurt his share of fools if given the chance and his appearance alone is enough to draw more than a few eyeballs when he makes his pro debut next month in "The Ocean State."
And there you have it.
Those are the qualifications you need to become a professional fighter. Have a certain look, train some ground and talk some shit on the Internet. I'm also a pretty big guy and I exercise daily. When I wear a fight tee to an event, it's not uncommon for someone to ask me, "Yo, are you a fighter?"
But it's preposterous.
I also wear a Giants jersey to the MetLife Stadium, but never once in the past 20 years has anyone ever asked me if I played professional football. Why? Because in order to make it to the NFL, you have to be fucking incredible. I'm not incredible at playing with my pigskin and as a fighter, I'd probably get lit up like the Times Square Christmas tree if I stepped inside the cage.
Which is why I won't.
When we quickly elevate able-bodied athletes to the pro level in MMA, in my opinion, it cheapens the sport. If anyone marketable enough can get inside the cage, then what does it say about the quality of competition? When was the last time you saw someone "try" boxing at the professional level?
Dave Bautista is not a fighter.
That's not because I find him inferior, it's because he's never had an MMA fight in his entire life. In fact, he doesn't even qualify as an amateur until he steps foot inside the cage on Oct. 6. He's no different than anyone else at your gym or health club who dreams of being a pro fighter.
And beating "Smash," who at least has a few amateur fights, doesn't mean he was right and his critics were wrong, because this isn't about wins and losses, it's about the integrity of MMA. If anyone at any time can be good at fighting, so long as they get their "shot," MMA ceases to be a sport.
I don't want a revolving door of marketable tough guys.
People were mad when I used a headline they felt capitalized on Bautista's name just to get hits. Instead, they should blame the promoter for capitalizing on Bautista's name just to sell tickets (They even have a "countdown" clock). If "Big Dave" proclaimed that at 43, he was ready to test himself as an amateur fighter and hoped to put together enough wins to earn a future pro fight, I'd be the first to champion his cause.
But walk out of the gym and into the cage?
There's a reason UFC 151 was canceled and that's because there aren't enough talented fighters to sell a pay-per-view card. And remember, UFC isn't the "pros," it's the promoter with the most money. I don't begrudge them for that, but let's face it, the marketing has clearly outpaced the muscle.
Bautista's addition to MMA, like so many other "wannabes" before him, only further dilutes the mix.