There is a growing trend among mixed martial arts fighters to talk shit in the weeks leading up to a fight. Viewers are led to believe that there is "bad blood" or that the fight is a "grudge match" or that it's a "rivalry years in the making" or whatever other dumb group of words they string together. In the same way that most pre-fight speeches are broken records that routinely reference "breaking the will of my opponent" and philosophically deep comments like "he better come to fight", this "personal" shit-talking is now so common place that fans essentially expect to see it before every fight. I'm not quite sure how everyone came to this conclusion that fans are more interested in fights in which the fighters hate each other, but it couldn't be further from the truth, at least for me. I would have bought last Saturday's pay-per-view event featuring GSP vs Koscheck regardless if there was "bad blood" or not. I'm drawn by the skill and talent of those two fighters - not their personal opinions of each other.
I will certainly grant that the presence of a genuine mutual dislike, or any emotional feelings that influence a fighter's psychology, can be interesting to the degree that it affects the fighter's motivation, performance, or training. But notice I said genuine. This is what is lacking in too many marketing campaigns for UFC - sincerity. Just look at every time two fighters that supposedly "hated" each other embrace in the ring afterwards and magically the "beef got squashed"….this happens repeatedly. Sure, sure, you're going to tell me that now having fought each other, they respect each other…..right, well the problem with this theory is that those same fighters often tell us that they were just trying to hype up the fight. Well that's nice, but here's the deal:
A) "Bad blood" is not what makes me watch a fight….if I was interested in the emotional dynamics between two individuals I would watch Dr. Phil.
B) If you're talking shit because you think it sells more tickets and pay-per-view buys, I'd like to see the research that supports such a theory - yes, people tend to be interested in any sort of conflict or argument, thus the unfortunate success of most "reality" television, but mixed martial arts contains actual physical violence - doesn't that render the "war of words" superfluous and irrelevant?
C) Even if there is a solid PR justification for concocting the appearance of "bad blood", how could it possibly be effective over a long period of time when the fighters that supposedly hated each other come right out and say they were just trying to hype the fight? Am I really the only fan irritated by this deception?
In point of fact, this trend does a major disservice to the UFC and MMA overall, whose entire appeal rests on the reality of the sport, but whose marketing is starting to come dangerously close to that of professional wrestling organizations like the WWE (or WWF when I was growing up). If I want to watch actors, I'm going to rent a movie. So to all the fighters in the world, this is coming from a genuine fan of the sport and someone that has the utmost respect for what you do and the endless dedication you devote to it - if you actually hate your opponent and wish to express that, by all means go right ahead, but if there truthfully isn't any "bad blood", please do not fabricate any….I assure you, I will be watching regardless.