The news that Cage Warriors have signed a new TV deal with Channel 4(!), made this seem like the right time to put into words what I’ve been thinking for the little while now.
A little bit of background first. Since my employers decided to upsticks from one side of London to the other, I now have to leave my humble little East End rathole at some ungodly hour to make the two hour commute to the office. I cut quite the forlorn figure, crammed in a hollow metal tube, my body in physical contact with at least half a dozen other people. Twisted and contorted, staring blankly at my smart phone screen, attempting to watch any crap I can find on BBC iPlayer to pass the time. At the start of my journey, it also gives me a chance to catch up on social media. A couple of posts by Your MMA (who also seem to be habitual early birds) also became a catalyst.
The first was along the lines of “Not much buzz about Brown vs Silva this weekend” and the other was something like “Are you excited for the Bellator PPV?”. The first point was simply down to frequency – with the relentless pace the UFC is setting at the moment, I find it difficult to keep up. With regards to the latter, I simply forgot that Bellator even existed.
A few years ago, I could quite comfortably consume every single piece of televised MMA that the various organisations could throw at me, even finding time to skulk along to the odd regional event to quench my bloodlust. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I can find time to catch most of the main bouts.
Who should I blame for this predicament I find myself in? The logical place is to start at the top. Zuffa’s aggressive brand expansion of the UFC has seen it go from an average of one event a month (two if you was lucky) to about four events a month, plus copious amounts of regionalised spin-offs. The UFC used to be a reliable choice, as the cards were of a consistently high calibre, from the main events to the curtain jerkers at the beginning. I’m lucky if a couple of fights on the card pique my interest of late.
Of course it has its haters, but I actually used to like The Ultimate Fighter. I’d find it fascinating to see the backgrounds and personalities of hungry young fighters. Now it appears the well has run dry, and the barrel is being well and truly scraped. Gone are the days where someone could come from practically nowhere and win the whole thing. On the main show, the cast is normally made up of training partners and camp mates from established UFC stars. How can an 0-0 fighter be worthy of a chance to jump straight to the big leagues? Because they’ve got the rub of a good gym/reference behind them.
The fact that most cards now are awash with former TUF contenders isn’t the badge of honour it used to be either. “The runner up of season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs Australia” – I could care less. It’s also diluted the main show horribly, to the point where this current season by rights should be the most important season for Euro MMA fans since Team UK vs Team USA. One of our own is making big waves in the shape of Cathal Pendred, but as-of-yet I’ve managed to watch about half an hour of it.
The regionalisation of content doesn’t stop there. Many moons ago, I’d have loved a UK MMA magazine format show. After a long day slaving over a hot computer, I’m content watching Danny Dyer call someone a “slag” on Eastenders, or dispassionately watching a lisping homosexual tell me the best ways to prepare a razor clam. I don’t have the time nor the patience to watch GAD comprehensively insult my intelligence on Beyond The Octagon.
The fact that Gareth A Davies is the UK’s most prominent MMA ‘journalist’ is a constant source of bemusement. With the increasing churn factor of events and news, most publications want a piece of the MMA pie, and don’t care where they get it from. As my mate Becky discussed on this piece for DWGG, MMA media is groaning under the weight of copy & paste merchants and yes men. What makes my heart sink even further, these people are barely literate when they attempt to write creatively. Come on guys, you’re only lazily trying to articulate what the MMA PR has carefully spoonfed you. Until the overriding power of the PR is broken, you’re unlikely to read a dissenting opinion or anything genuinely critical, as these ‘journalists’ are too scared of being blackballed, and having to be creative off their own back, rather than be told what to write by an outsider.
Meritocracy simply does not exist in MMA in 2014. Whether it’s below-par fighters plucked from obscurity to pad out cards, to below-par writers plucked from obscurity to pad out websites. We’ve reached saturation point, and there’s gonna be a bust soon I think.
Hopefully when natural selection does its job, we won’t be besieged by watered down content. If Cage Warriors don’t try to push too hard to keep pace and hold steady organising consistently coherent events, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for them to be regularly televised live on one of Channel 4’s other stations. Selfishly that would mean I could finally bin off Premier Sports, and put three pints in my belly again, rather than in their pockets. If that did happen, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Dana White hears the news, coughing and spluttering on his protein shake, knowing that quality rather than quantity is the key to mainstream acceptance. BAMMA is currently in its death throes, which will mean above anything else, we can enjoy the final days of Paul Daley in a competitive organisation. I don’t even know if I can watch Bellator any more, is it still on Vibe or whatever it was? Unfortunately, things have to get worse before they can get better.
Mr Ives has been a freelance writer for 13 years, not that you’d know it on the strength of this piece.