The line separating professional wrestling and mixed martial arts continues to blur. While one is a fictitious, drama filled form of entertainment that has been coined as “sports entertainment” and the latter is a legitimate fight, the similarities between both forms of entertainment are impossible to ignore.
Professional wrestling might be more spectacle than sport in today’s day and age but dating back to the latter periods of the 1800’s wrestling was as real as it got.
Wrestling was a global sport with Kings, battlefield generals and even American presidents becoming mat artists. In time with the influence of the sports greats like William Muldoon, Evan “Strangler” Lewis, Martin “Farmer” Burns, Frank Gotch and Tom Jenkins it gradually shifted into a worked sport.
In the hundreds of years that followed a lot changed, but the basic premise of a good guy, often referred to by industry insiders as a babyface overcoming the menacing evil bad guy, known as a heel, stayed the same.
While most fans that follow this sport turn up their nose at professional wrestling in the eyes of many, including myself, the only thing different between the two is one is real and the other is fake.
Heels and babyfaces, good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, whatever you want to call them; they live in mixed martial arts too.
George St-Pierre is the ultimate babyface – He’s a young, athletic, man that will smile to your audience, kiss the babies and make several women weak at the knees. While this works for the welterweight kingpin, not everyone can be beloved.
Others prefer to wear the black hat. In almost every money-making rivalry in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship there has been the villain that uses his mouth to talk the fans into the building as they scream for his blood while raising their torches and pitchforks.
Promotional mainstays like Josh Koscheck, Michael Bisping and Chael Sonnen know how to get your blood pumping. Spectators don’t sit on the fence when they enter the Octagon, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
This past week was supposed to be an easy week for us that cover this sport, a weekend without a UFC event often means that we can visit our loved ones or convey that we have some form of a social life, but that was not the case.
Dan Henderson wanted a UFC championship to hoist on his mantle. He has held championships everywhere he has gone, except the UFC. This weekend he was supposed to get his opportunity to fight for UFC light-heavyweight gold for the first time.
Unfortunately, as has been the case with a lot of the most anticipated fights on the UFC’s calendar, the injury bug struck again. The 41-year-old officially had to pull the plug on his championship aspirations merely eight days before he was supposed to enter the Octagon.
Chael Sonnen, former two-time UFC middleweight title-challenger was quick to raise his hand to step up to the plate to meet the 205-pound kingpin on short notice but Jones declined.
With his decision to decline fighting on September 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, UFC 151 was cancelled, leaving almost a dozen cage-fighters without a place to apply their craft, pay their bills and feed their families.
In a matter of 24 hours the UFC did what the WWE has struggled to pull off in their fictional cannon – The elusive double turn.
In the blink of an eye Jon Jones went from Nike poster-boy and beloved UFC champion to receiving the brunt of a livid UFC President and the legions of fans that felt betrayed by his actions. Meanwhile, Chael Sonnen, one of the most hated men in the industry due to his butchering of Anderson Silva and the Brazilian people was the ultimate hero.
A segment of the audience were already sceptical of the Albuquerque, New Mexico resident though. Jones’ former friend and training partner Rashad Evans told fans that Jones’ persona was all a facade and that he was being “fake”.
Many were quick to jump on that bandwagon, feeling that Jones was just doing his best to play a part, to be what the UFC wants him to be and not being his true self when speaking with the media or taking questions at a press conference.
My colleague Shawn W. Smith wrote an article that can be found here regarding whether or not Jones should embrace the hate but there is a real question of whether he has it in him to be the ultimate bad-boy of the sport.
Jones is a once-in-a-generation style athlete, many have been dominate in this sport but few can rival the degree of violence that he dishes out in the cage. Jones thrashes his adversaries without breaking a sweat, remaining cool, calm and collected the entire time.
When Jones puts away his opponents he has been known to sit down in the middle of the Octagon with a blank stare fixed on his opponent that remains unconscious or downed from the punishment that he unleashed, surveying the carnage. He doesn’t say a word, he doesn’t do a thing. He just looks.
It feels like a movie, an unstoppable force that is a champion, and probably will be for some time to come. While it’s almost breathtaking to witness, the sort of thing you envision telling your grandchildren about some day. But there is also something very arrogant about it.
And that carries over when he speaks to the public too, the young athlete with every God-given advantage you could dream of is supremely confident in his abilities, but there is a thin line between confidence and arrogance.
Deep down I imagine Jones cannot understand why there are several thousand fans that pack each 16,000 seat venue that vociferously boo when he enters an arena. He can use that. Whether Jones is trying to play a character or just being himself, there is a large slice of the fight public that that simply do not like him, just imagine if he turned up the volume used their negativity to his advantage?
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