Coming off the back of the recent Al Iaquinta Vs Donald Cerrone fight in the UFC, one of the things I’ve noticed about the fight culture now is the explicit focus on money. I understand that money is important to entertainers who showcase a craft, and MMA fighters have to make a living, however the constant calling out of Connor McGregor in the UFC is verging on sickening. Connor McGregor hasn’t fought since October 2018 when he lost to unbeaten grappling monster Khabib. McGregor has hinted at coming back time and time again, toying with the emotions of fighters and fans, but never committing to a fight amidst the rumours flying around online. Many of the UFC’s roster has seen the ridiculous amount of money he made from the Floyd Mayweather fight and now they all want a piece. They see McGregor’s rise to super wealth and they see it as a blue print instead of a one off situation. We have Tony Ferguson who’s called out McGregor, just recently Cerrone, Kevin Lee, Tyron Woodley etc. The list goes on, and I think it tarnishes the combat culture when fighters are looking for a big pay day with so blatant disregard for those watching. The true ethos of fighting lies in working your way up to beat the best, and then calling out the champion when you’re ready should be the only move to make.
Honour, strength, skill, heart and intelligence are attributes required for a fighter. It’s good to see that fighters are getting paid, and getting paid well, but I think that Connor McGregor’s £100million fight purse he received after the Floyd Mayweather fight has enticed all the other fighters around and given them hope to also get rich. This will only happen once because the people will never be duped like this again, no matter if Khabib wants to fight Mayweather or Jon Jones asks to fight Anthony Joshua, I think the public have had a taste of what the mixing of two martial arts is like and won’t want to pay fifty pound for a shit fight any time soon. Instead of the community of combat building up to a series of high profile fights across various martial arts, with lesser known skilled fighters, they went straight in for the kill with the biggest fight possible to milk money from a situation from which a few made millions. I bought the fight though and was interested to see how it turns out. I’m a dumb fuck just like everybody else.
Money has poisoned a lot of things in the entertainment world and one of the real battles that creative’s have is sustaining integrity in work when experiencing an increase in popularity and wealth. I think this is the same thing with fighters, but that desire to get paid becomes an absolute necessity when you close that cage door and tear up the town. Some fights seem to take the soul out of fighters and it’s not a sport that can be done for long term, for most people. There are the odd anomalies like Jon Jones, Julio Chavez, Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko. Men who win and men who have lost but men who have maintained character throughout representing the sport with vicious intent. Now, however, the cash pipelines have opened and the instagram showcasing entices the lacklustre brains of the general population to stay in this perpetual state of empty entertainment. There’s going to be good fights, exciting fights, and fights for the ages, but that warrior mentality is what we need to see to help the sport grow.
We saw it recently when Dustin Poirier fought Max Holloway & when Stylebender fought Kelvin Gastelum. No excuses, superior heart and sharp skills, it gave me hope that people were watching and seeing what it takes to win. There’ no glitz no glamour. No £100million cheques, no hype just beasts. Warriors dancing to a tribal beat for just pure glory. I’m sure they got compensated for their sacrifice but there was no talk of it during the process. Everyone knows they can’t do this forever so the chasing of the paydays is to ensure they have a sustainable future, but it was nice the highest level of competition focussing on, competition. Everyone’s got family, kids, bills and expenses so I do understand the drive behind the paper chase and it’s positivity. Money has allowed the once brutal world of man to man combat to become entertainment & commercially acceptable. People can watch it in their homes, there’s sponsors, memorabilia…girls. I think that’s the whole point of the ring girls. It’s to curb the violent edge to these sports like boxing and mma. Having the girls there diverts the focus in the most blatant way from blood to boobies.
There is definitely nuance to this, as there is to everything. Fighters should make money, and in a free market as long as people pay fighters and promoters can make as much money as they want. However, to grow a sport takes time, and strategy, and if you have big money men players looking to buy yachts and Lamborghinis, this thirst for the luxury toys will surely trump the need for slow and steady growth and eventually stunt the growth of the sport. We’ve come from such violent times as humans. Enslaving nations and conquering countries was the culture just a few hundred years ago. We fight secret wars now and fought barefaced wars just a few decades ago and it seems like there has been something to learn from it. That fire however, will always burn because it’s the nature of wood. Of men. Of people. Of mankind. Challenge is what makes people great and adversity is what carves out legends, and fighting is one of the most instantaneous places to relish in glory and risk defeat.
Dealing with defeat is probably a reason as to why people are in search of big pay days. Once you taste victory, from your friends, family, piers and even strangers you reach a high point in terms of self esteem. The polar opposite happens when you lose, and because we are so closely connected to the superstars of our day we can pour shit on the stove when someone loses. Tweets, facebook, instagram, youtube, social media has now made the personal, global, and I don’t think our brains are able to deal with public shame on such a large scale. So getting big pay days, no longer fighting and being able to live comfortably for the rest of your life is significantly preferable to experiencing pain, sacrifice, hunger, injury and then violent public humiliation. At your most vulnerable people not only witness but have the audacity to comment, and laugh. I know they do this because it makes them feel good briefly but it’s still disgusting.
You get people who have never trained a day in their lives mocking professional and amateur fighters because they have access now. I’ve had one muay thai fight, trained for 2 years, and with the few people I spoke to the first thing that comes out of some of their mouths is, ‘did I win’. Society has an obsession with winners and losers which is verging on the unhealthy and the heavy focus on winning is egotistical and inhibits the seeking of a broader perspective. You go through so much struggle, physically and mentally when preparing for a fight that it seems ridiculous to narrow the success of that journey down to a few seconds in a fight. However you can’t monetise honour and you can’t quantify work ethic, so it seems like the business men of the fight world find the most lucrative traits in a violent sport, squeeze it out and highlight it. Pay per views, belts, bonuses and rankings they keep us all hooked and associate value to the fights, but we don’t have to feed it. I think we need to choose our future stars wisely, based on honour and skill as opposed to antic and popularity. Not to say any of the people I’ve mentioned aren’t worthy because they are. Ferguson, Cerrone and Iaquinta have all showcased true warrior spirit in may of their fights. I just hope that the calling out for big money pay days subsides and we can get back to the fighters wanting to be the best. That’s what fighting is all about.