For the past decade, the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) has fought tooth-and-nail to gain legitimacy and mainstream acceptance in the sportsworld alongside heavy hitters such as the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association NBA), among others.
Thanks in large part to the world's pre-eminent MMA promotion, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which is spearheaded by the blood, sweat and tears of company president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, MMA has broken barriers that once were thought to be impenetrable.
Major cable television deals and blue chip sponsors stepping up to the plate to have their product sponsored all over UFC events are just a few of the monumental victories the UFC and MMA have enjoyed over the last couple of years that have given MMA valid credentials in the sports world.
However, one man -- who at one time was considered a legit athlete -- is making a mockery of the sport that has fought endlessly to gain the respect it had so long desired and deserved. That man is none other than former K-1 kickboxer and PRIDE FC veteran, Bob Sapp.
At one time, Sapp was considered a legit fighter, with his Adonis-like body and uncanny strength, the 6' 5," 300-pound muscle-bound Sapp, I'm sure, caused his opponent to tremble at least a little bit at the anticipation of stepping into the ring with him.
Those days, however, are long gone.
Lately, Sapp has served more of a stepping stone, if you can call him that, or a real life punching bag for up-and-coming fighters who are looking to make a name for themselves in the sport. With his only offensive attack being a weak take down attempt that quickly leads to the turtle-up position followed by an instant tap or a referee stoppage, Sapp, is now but a mere one-man circus.
Appearing on the most recent episode of "The MMA Hour," "The Beast" attempted to dispel any rumors or claims that he is making a mockery of the sport of MMA by "throwing" fights. However, he didn't really do himself any favors with his
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"I will receive no damage to my body that will be long lasting for a small insignificant amount of cash. I think we've seen that now with examples with the NFL and the fact that some of these guys are coming back and saying, "Hey we want some money, we have brain damage." I'm getting paid well underneath what a professional boxer would, or Manny Pacquiao. So I will, in no means ever, will I sustain long-lasting damage for a small paycheck. Never will that happen, never will "The Beast" ever have that happen."
So how much does Sapp get paid for his fights, or appearance fee, if you will?
"On average, it's roughly around that $30,000 to $40,000 a fight range. And that can be a bit misleading because in between time, I am doing the television shows and commercials and things of this nature and so when you say on average, that's what it is. Obviously it calculates to be significant more between three to five times that, yes that is correct. However, when you talk about just the fights, with me, you have to worry about the schedule commercials and stuff like that, but just the fights right now, you are looking at basically $30,000 to $40,000."
Losing 10 of 11 fights, how does Sapp respond to criticism that he is simply taking fights to collect a paycheck?
"One thing that I say, is let's take a look and rewind back. You saw some historical and difficult fights that I fought with Ernesto Hoost and with Antonio Noguiera, this is correct. If you were to take a look at what recently has happened with K-1 and the fact that you had wonderful, great, strong fighters such as Ray Sefo fight for K-1 and then K-1 leaves and they were left without collecting a paycheck. So, when "The Beast" enters the ring, is he in there to collect a paycheck? The answer is hell yes! You're asking, "Bob you are receiving less damage, there is no amount of damage that you are receiving and sometimes these fights are being lost." Well, if you would want to put numbers on my record, whether they be a zero or number one, you will be doing so on my paycheck. That is what it is, plain and simple. The Beast is number one in the media for every 12 fights, that is correct. We see this and we know this. I'm number one in every media category. Number one in the entertainment, number one for the views, I am number one and I have a losing record. So, if I was to come in on a winning record, these small organizations, the last thing they would be able to do is afford my services and on top of it, what am I going to do? Be number one and number one? If I am, they are no longer going to be able to afford me. So I just won myself out of a job."
When asked to answer the gold question if he is simply throwing the fights:
"Am I throwing these fights? No. Will I go into that ring and receive large amounts of damage for small paychecks? No. When it came to K-1, at the time, when everyone at K-1 was doing well they get paid significantly enough to have you go into that ring, and hey, any kind of injury you get, they are going to pay. Let me give you an example: Mirko Crocop, he cracked my eye socket. Mirko Crocop, he received his paycheck, I received my paycheck and they also paid for my entire hospital bill. These small organizations that you see that look so wonderful, they pay none of your bills if you get hurt, period. If you want to get hurt for a small amount of money in a fight, we call that the military. If you would like to get hurt in an arena where it is supposed to be sanctioned and it is supposed to be safe and their supposed to pay for at least your medical bills if you get hurt, then we call that entertainment. If you want to see two strangers fight for free, you can do that. We will give you seven dollars and go in a night club and you can see two drunks getting it on in the corner, fighting. You have no idea who they are and you can do that for free. My fans and my family they will stand by me and behind me, win or lose. So, Bob Sapp, I guess it is easy to love a winner."
Sapp, who has stepped into the K-1 ring with such legends as Ernesto Hoost, Mirko Filipovic and Remy Bonjasky and shared the PRIDE ring with MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at the record-breaking PRIDE Shockwave event on Aug. 28, 2012 which saw over 90,000 spectators fill Tokyo national Stadium, has had a monumental fall from (dis)grace.
Though Sapp says he does not throw fights, he basically he goes in there, dances around for a few seconds and as soon as the action gets real and senses any danger to his body, he checks out...immediately. Bob didn't seem to take any offense to being accused of throwing fights and being a disgrace to MMA.
However, not all the blame should be put squarely on the massive shoulders of Sapp. The promoters of the promotions who insist on booking "The Beast" for mere name value, should receive some of the blame and should themselves be embarrassed. Furthermore, the opponents who are agreeing to face Sapp, aren't exactly doing themselves any favors, either.
For the record, Sapp has lost seven straight fights, all in the first round with a combined total time of eight minutes and 31 seconds. Also, in case you're wondering, "The Beast" currently has two more fights lined up that are only eight days apart scheduled for June 8 and June 16 of this year which will bring his total to seven bouts since Dec. 2011.
Making $30,000 to $40,000 fights for a few seconds of work is too good for anyone to pass up, let's just hope many more fighters past their prime don't follow suit.
Bottom line, for Sapp, it's all about the Benjamins and is not afraid to admit it.