Opinion: Mainstream Media Pundits Don’t Write Fighting History


Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.* * * We’re a week removed from Ronda Rousey getting demolished by Amanda Nunes in 48 seconds and people are still talking about it. Lots and lots of people, including a lot of people that should be asking questions instead of offering statements. It’s understandable that anyone who saw Nunes punch Rousey silly in barely three quarters of a minute would feel some type of way, nevermind that we’re firmly in the era of hyperbolic hot taking across all walks of life, not just sports media or media on the whole. However, owing to Ronda Rousey’s mainstream, crossover celebrity status and how truly one-sided and humiliating her knockout at the hands of Nunes was, it was inevitable that some folks who aren’t exactly “MMA people” to put it mildly, would overplay their hand and say some abjectly stupid things. But, lovers of cagefighting, contemplation and sanity, it’s no reason to get upset, because I come bearing good news: their opinions don’t matter on any level. These past few days, I’ve had questions in my inbox and on social media about what Rousey’s MMA legacy will be; all of these concerns seem entirely predicated on a debate between America’s favorite willful contrarian Skip Bayless, former all-time great NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe and character-actor-turned-hip-hop-dad Michael Rapaport on Fox Sports 1’s “Undisputed” program. Admittedly, sports talking heads and random celebrities have weighed in on Rousey’s plight, but we’ll focus this critique on what seems to be the real flashpoint for most of the offended MMA populace. Bayless, a man who previously entertained the notion of Rousey beating Floyd Mayweather Jr. under MMA rules, said she not great and only “first.” Sharpe said she was overrated. Rapaport somehow viewed Rousey as proof of white privilege and said she was never any good at all. “Three famous men say things out loud around a table” would be a generous appraisal of this conversation, which again, was televised content. Anyone can identify that these three opinions, and in general, those of mainstream sports talking heads or variable other famous people, are not going to be well-informed. However, that’s not what’s at stake: there seem to be some people in the MMA world — fighters, media, fans alike — who think these opinions are worthy of legitimate critique, as though they have a real capacity to form public opinion and crystallize legacy. They don’t. See, combat sports are a funny beast. It’s not the 1920’s any more, and prizefighting, in all of its forms, has taken on a niche nature. To passionately and knowledgeably follow MMA, boxing or kickboxing is a unique investment of time and resources. More than that, the interpretation of those sports is up to that close reading and contemplation. Sure, fighters have wins and losses on their records, but it’s not the same as a stick-and-ball sport; the historical greatness of prizefighters is based on the questions “Who have you beaten and how did you do it?” And, to ask the question “Who have you beaten?” is in turn to ask who all those fighters had beaten, and how did they do it; it’s like a fractal sort of regression. I don’t want to overstep and say that the historiography of prizefighting requires more nuance than other sports, but I do think it’s easier to hold the most basic, bar room-style conversations about football or basketball for instance — who will or would win, who is or was better — than about MMA. Even if your conversational partner isn’t that well-schooled or sophisticated, they may know some key, relevant stats, have a general grasp on a league or team or player’s championship history; for instance, a guy who just plays fantasy sports annually with his friends and maybe watches a game or two a week may be able to craft an intelligible argument as to why, say, Tom Brady is the best quarterback ever, why Eric Lindros belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame, or something similar. The way people are exposed to and consume prizefighting, especially in 2017, is simply so vastly different from other sports. Sure, hardcore fans may bemoan the sacrifices they make …

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