Ask Ant: The ‘You Should Have Seen the Other Guy’s Face’ Edition

By Anthony Walker Apr 12, 2019

Frank McEdgar asks: Did the damage caused to the faces of Artem Lobov and Jason Knight change your opinion on bare knuckle boxing? Do you guys think this sport even has a future?

My opinion of bare-knuckle boxing was completely unaffected by the damage that Lobov and Knight sustained last weekend. We enjoy fighting as a sport. Fighting by its very definition inflicts damage on the opponent and exposes the participants to great danger. The size of the gloves, the ruleset and the enclosure don’t change that basic fact.

What we saw at BKFC 5 was what happens when gloves aren’t protecting against superficial cuts and the hands being thrown. It was ugly, it was violent, and it’s very close to what we see on a regular basis in other combat sports minus the amount of visceral, superficial damage.

But let’s take a trip down memory lane and think back to some of the brutal wounds we’ve seen and celebrated in the sport of MMA. When Rory MacDonald’s nose was crushed by Robbie Lawler and the cage floor looked like a murder scene, we celebrated their UFC 189 bout as one of the best ever. Michael “Venom” Page literally crushed a man’s skull with a flying knee. You’d be hard pressed to scroll through your timeline and not see a video commemorating the moment.

Beyond the grotesque, we continually marvel at and crave those highlight reel finishes that leave someone’s brain function disrupted and their lifeless body slumped on the floor. Dislocated joints and torn knee ligaments find their way into every event as well.

It wasn’t that long ago that the boxing community was shocked and appalled by the “human cockfighting” spectacle known as mixed martial arts. Simultaneously, they were happily promoting and profiting Manny Pacquiao breaking orbitals and Roy Jones Jr. separating men from consciousness.

Outside of the fight world, traditional sports pundits would be looking down on us savages watching a cage fight. Then they would be in awe of the hard hits delivered by Ray Lewis on a football field every Sunday. Let’s just be honest with ourselves; we love violent entertainment. People will get hurt and we will cheer and gladly part with our money. It’s hard to justify one while vilifying another. It may not be for everybody, and that’s fine. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves, like the critics of our sport.

Glove asks: Do you see the UFC organization finally ridding themselves of the Reebok contract and allowing the fighters to market and profit off of their sponsors like they used to?

The Ultimate Fighting Championship may get rid of Reebok when the deal expires, but that doesn’t mean things will go back to the way they used to be. The days of Dynamic Fastener and Condom Depot padding the wallets of the UFC roster are over and aren’t coming back.

I think we can see Reebok get outbid in the future by Nike, Under Armour, or another competitor. However, the fighters won’t see the change. It will be another guaranteed revenue stream for the company that will result in ludicrously low sponsor payouts for the athletes.

The $4,000 sponsor check for Justin Gaethje in last weekend’s ESPN main event might not say Reebok, but I doubt the amount changes too much. That is, unless the fighters employ collective bargaining. But that’s an entirely different conversation.

Drbolony asks: Does the extended UFC/ESPN deal benefit ranked fighters who aren’t considered stars? Will overall fighter pay be raised (however slightly) as a consequence of the guaranteed 500k PPV payout from ESPN?

There could be a benefit to fighters who aren’t considered the top-tier stars. Since ESPN has a vested interests in promoting these fights, there could be an increased interest in showcasing some of the personalities and back stories of the roster. We saw this with the piece focusing on Michelle Waterson and Karolina Kowalkiewicz even though they weren’t main or co-main eventing the recent card in Philadelphia.

I seriously doubt it increases their pay from the UFC. The ESPN deal, as it has expanded, has cut out the bargaining power of every fighter. Guaranteed money means less emphasis on the sales being generated by any particular person. However, the opportunities outside of the cage might be there for some. Backed by two entertainment conglomerates like Endeavor and Disney means more mainstream exposure that could open doors that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Once again, only collective bargaining will result in more pay from the guaranteed money that’s flowing into the company. And no matter how much you guys keep trying, I’m not having that conversation today.

Marc A asks: Why are the top fighters filled with extreme ideas? Aliens, demons, women finish men only in the bedroom, etc?

The simple answer is that these are not normal people. How many of us sacrifice the common pleasures in life -- like junk food and not getting injured -- to train every day with the goal of stripping half naked to square off against another trained killer? I’m sure the average person reading this can relate to me sitting in front of computer and keyboard more than stepping into the Octagon.

I wouldn’t expect men and women who fight for a living to be anything but extreme in other aspects of life. It takes an extreme amount of discipline to succeed in this sport. It takes an extreme amount of self-belief to pursue MMA as a career. It takes an extreme amount of resilience to deal with the constant physical pain and high injuries involved in training.

It’s hard to imagine people that are built for this level of extremity suddenly taking measured approaches with anything else.

They may be people just like us as far having emotions, insecurities and so on. However, they tend to be more black and white than the average person and only feed into it by operating in an extreme environment. There should be no surprise when a fighter says or does something that seems far on one side of the spectrum.
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