As real as it gets? A closer look at how 'wolf tickets' may have watered down the realism of MMA

Ethan Miller

When you internally debate whether or not to throw down $54.95 (plus $10 extra for high definition) for an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV), does it factor into your decision if the two combatants headlining the show legitimately hate each other?

Can you honestly even answer the question?

The answer is probably no, because the business model of "bad guy" versus "likeable guy" has become so fabricated, due to its overwhelming success, it seems that no fight has any real legitimate heat any more.

The recent buy rates of so-called "grudge matches," such as Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC 148, Nick Diaz vs. Georges St. Pierre at UFC 159, and even going far back as Rashad Evans vs. Quinton Jackson at UFC 114, are proof of the success that this style of booking achieves.

But are they truly worthy of this acclaim?

When the adversity is tangible, the result can be epic, but when the truth is tweaked and exaggerated for show, the results aren't always as redeeming.

Once you have pressed the "confirm to buy" button, your fate has been sealed. At this point, it's too late to turn back and the art of marketing has played you and the sport. Then you watch while the sham slowly unfolds before your eyes.

Gloves touch, one of the fighters underperforms (usually the loud one), hugs are exchanged, compliments are given, and then the posturing begins for a fluffy return to greatness. By return to greatness, I refer to being fed lesser foes to pad the victory column.

"They're selling you all wolf tickets people and you're eating them right up," Nick Diaz recently warned. "Georges here is selling wolf tickets. Dana here is selling wolf tickets. The UFC is selling wolf tickets. You guys are eating them right up."

But don't be fooled ladies and gentleman, Nick Diaz and all the other "heels" in mixed martial arts (MMA) are selling you a #wolfticket, too.

UFC and promotion president Dana White proudly describe themselves first and foremost as "fight promoters." While they deserve a great deal of the blame, the fighters are also at fault. It's the bad guys job to piss the buyers off. It's the good guys job to make we want to see him get his hands on the bad guy and shut him up.

It's a tried-and-true formula.

Boxing has long lived and died by this exact same style of fight promotion. It even spilled over into the actual fights. One of the more famous instances involved Muhammad Ali vs. Floyd Patterson. Ali, who was a master self promoting, famously told Patterson, "You want to make some money, Floyd? Play along."

Leading up to the fight, they hyped the fact that there was a sense of genuine disdain between the two. This played into Ali's Islamic beliefs, which led to a huge live gate and closed circuit viewing audience. The fight itself wasn't much to get excited about, as Ali won when the fight was stopped due to a cut.

Public staredowns, weigh-ins, conference calls, reality shows ... all create the perfect forum for the insults, shoves, and scowls to do their job -- sell the fight.

We the audience are clued in, as we can rationalize to ourselves WHY these two men are fighting.

Then why do the fights rarely live up to the hype? The correct answer to this is usually the antagonist isn't deserving of the spot they have been given. Why else do you think people are sighing at the prospect of five more Chael Sonnen fights?

Their mouths and savviness have gotten them to this point, but when it's time to put up or shut up, the hype can only take you so far.

While it may seem as if I'm knocking sportsmanship and not being appreciative of following a fight with paying respect to one's opponent, all I really am calling for is a return to realism with less showmanship. I can do without the sideshow that accompanies a big-time fight nowadays.

If I couldn't, I would watch something less real (which I already do, so yeah).

Stripping MMA down and examining it as it was initially intended, it's clearly sport in the rawest of forms.

Words mean nothing, posturing is irrelevant and all the bullshit ends. Crying wolf won't save you, nor will witty poems.

Your fists/chin will.


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