Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” UFC Fighters Must Embrace the Hate, Or Else Dana White Will Do It For Them
By Joshua Molina
It’s time for UFC fighters to embrace the hate. It’s good for business.
ESPN published a story on Halloween essentially saying that Chael Sonnen’s style of trash talk is the future of MMA.
The UFC and MMA, the article states, is moving more toward a pro-wrestling style of promoting fights. It’s more important to talk about what you are going to do, rather than what you did.
And you can thank Sonnen for that.
Sonnen has emerged as the sport’s most popular fighter, even though he’s far from the best, has never held gold (except for the fake championship belt he carried around for a year) and was submitted and knocked out in both of his title fights.
The hardcore fans hate Sonnen, but guess what? The UFC’s popularity and existence doesn’t ride on the hardcore fans. It lives or dies based on how many casual, mainstream fans watch the sport.
There aren’t enough hardcore fans to support big television ratings, high pay per view buys, and sold-out arenas. The UFC is not the NFL or MLB, where people will watch just to watch.
In the UFC, the mainstream watches when they feel like they know the fighter.
And when ESPN calls Sonnen and his style the future of the sport, other fighters should take notice.
A lot of the resistance to Sonnen’s style among the fighters stems from an attitude of, “how could he say that? That’s disrespectful. He needs to show more respect.”
Going forward the fighters need to come to an understanding that trash talk is not personal. It’s simply to promote fights. These are professional athletes who make good money. They should not only welcome Sonnen and other trash talkers, but embrace them.
More drama around a fight leads to more interest, which ultimately leads to more money for everybody.
What if, for example, Rich Franklin said Cung Le is an overrated, one dimensional fighter, who can’t take a punch and who has questionable stamina. That the only threat Le poses is his kicks, but if you can take him to the ground, the fight is essentially over. What if Le described himself as the best kickboxer in the business and that Franklin was a past-his-prime fighter, who was never great and who has lost way more big fights than he has won?
These are fair criticisms that both fighters are well aware of. Why hide them? They should come out swinging. More people would want to watch that fight than the one that is currently being promoted, which is essentially, “we both are dangerous and we have a lot of respect for each other so this is going to be a good fight.”
Fight fans love Franklin because he has endured and been around a long time. Outside of the hardcores, no one knows who Le is, and his first two UFC fights didn’t do him any favors.
In a year hurt by injuries and drug suspensions, what have been the UFC’s bright spots in 2012? The Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen buildup and Pay Per View buy rate (thanks to Sonnen), and trash-talking Ronda Rousey’s fantastical rise in the UFC-owned Strikeforce.
Love it or hate it, that’s no coincidence.
There’s another reason fighters should learn to talk for themselves. If they don’t UFC boss Dana White will do it for them.
Are the fighters happy that the company’s biggest star is White, a non-fighter, who probably made more money in 2012 than any of the fighters on his roster?
Wake up, UFC fighters. The biggest star in the business shouldn’t be the promoter. He can’t fight.
Embrace the hate. It’s good for business. It’s good for you.