April, 2019
Archive

By In Mixed Martial Arts

It Is What It Is, and It Is Beautiful

Before the epic interim title fights at UFC 236 began, former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titlist Rich Franklin was announced as the promotion’s next hall of fame inductee. Franklin’s work in the cage merits the honor by itself, but one of the reasons he stands apart from other former champions is that he was one of the UFC’s finest ambassadors. At a time when most people only saw the sport as brutish barroom brawling, the educated and erudite Franklin — a former teacher with a master’s degree — was a congenial face and articulate voice behind the violence.

This was a fitting prelude to the fights at the top of the card. At a time when ugly feuds and domestic abuse allegations have overshadowed the sport, the fights at UFC 236 on Saturday in Atlanta and the individual combatants in them were ideal ambassadors of what mixed martial arts is at its best. They showcased the thrill of competitive violence but also transcended their immediate entertainment value to demonstrate different contours of what makes fighting beautiful…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Words of War

Suspended Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov and a certain interim Twitter champion did their best last week to fill the void of the first mixed martial artless weekend since January. Not much of a surprise with Artem Lobov making headlines at the Bareknuckle thing. “The Russian Hammer” is our sport’s Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand fists … and the occasional dolly.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware of the timeline: Conor McGregor called Nurmagomedov’s wife a towel — not the first anti-Muslim insult to come out of his team — and “The Eagle” responded by calling McGregor a rapist. McGregor deleted the towel tweet and called for a rematch; Nurmagomedov kept the rape tweet up and warned McGregor that he isn’t safe.

As Sherdog columnist Jordan Breen pointed out, this is in many ways the fight game as usual. Prizefighters often have to take it upon themselves to get a chance to fight for the biggest prize, which has resulted in a long history of line-crossing done in the name of promotion. Yet this latest flareup between McGregor and Nurmagomedov has reached an ugliness that is incommensurate with regular rematch buildup: “Rapist vs. Terrorist for the lightweight championship” doesn’t seem like a promotional angle ESPN will want to throw its weight behind.

We’ve reached a point of liminal darkness, one that stretches beyond bad public relations. A lot of people have compared this to the escalation that led to the murders of Biggie and Tupac, and the comparison fits. There’s a similarly ominous air, a combination of authenticity-driven ego and publicity that prevents cooler heads from prevailing. Opponent’s family members have been weaponized, and the violence has already spilled out of the accepted arena of entertainment.

However, another analogy struck me, one that I haven’t been able to shake…

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