Walk with me, fighters and fight fans, let’s see if we can do the impossible; be honest about this game we all love so much. This past weekend brought a familiar topic to the forefront once again. So I, Nino (@NinoBeige), am here to talk about “boos”. Yes, boos. Not the people we text “good morning” or let be the back spoon. No, no, no. The honest, unrehearsed cry of desperation and disappointment from the choir of unsatisfied fans at any sports event. Those “boos”.
Without further gilding the lily, let’s get into it.
John Dodson has inspired me. He’s a fighter, whose fights I appreciate, that has once again danced the war dance in the cage and left the fans wanting more. We all remember watching the “what the hell is he doing?” contest between Anderson “The Spider Goat” Silva and Demian “Ima Choke You Buddy” Maia. I have nothing but respect for both warriors, but due to that fight, I realized that my favorite fighters couldn’t always entertain me. Sometimes they would act cautiously. If their opponent was content to do the same, the chances of a boring fight were extremely high.
There are a number of reasons why the UFC would match two exciting strikers like Dodson and Wineland with each other, numerous, but for them to go the full 15 minutes and land a combined 69 strikes is not one of them. Dodson stated after the fight, “They need to stop booing and look at the art that we have put out there for them. We showed beautiful talent, technique, movement – and a lot of people hate movement. Oh my God, they’re all sitting there saying footwork is like the devil. It’s not the devil, people.” With all due respect to “The Magician”, ain’t nobody come to see you dance, bro. Fighters often like to label fans as uneducated when they feel their performances are unfairly showered with boos. What if I told you that it was the fighter who complains about booing fans who is uneducated?
Let’s open our history books, class. Great, decadent, indulgent societies have long taken their warriors and pitted them against one another for the enjoyment of the masses. We aren’t so civilized in 2017 that we haven’t figured out a way to enjoy hand to hand violence. We just took out the killing. Today’s MMA is the direct descendant of the fighting pits and grand arenas of the Roman Empire. The UFC is its grand stage; the Coliseum. The mob does not converge upon the Coliseum to see its combatants excel at footwork unless it’s part of the spectacle that leads to the finish. They do not grant mercy for the weak. They want the weak to be put on display via stoppage.
(SPARTACUS GOT BOO’D. He had to learn to bring the rain.)
This is the game. This is the life you’ve chosen, John Dodson. You’ve decided to become a gladiator. While you may not have been in “The Primus”, you and Ed were a major part of this card. The educated fans know that a fight between two of the divisions best strikers should be guaranteed fireworks, right? What do they do when they don’t get what they hoped for? What recourse do they have? Does the UFC issue refunds when their fighters reinvent themselves and become Floyd Mayweather stunt doubles? Nope. We also can’t ignore the POTN bonuses and what they are designed to do. They only exist to encourage fighters to “put on a show”. Fighters campaign for these bonuses with no shame (as they should) when they get the stoppage, do they not?
Many things contribute to an impatient crowd. Lengthy cards tend to lead to a well-hydrated audience, which leads to a more vocal audience, good or bad. It would also seem that the outcomes of fights early on in the night have an impact on how fans receive the remainder of the card.
Let’s look at FN108.
FN108 was the best of cards, it was the worst of fights. (I took some literary liberties there) UFC Fight Night 108 had everything and nothing all at the same time. Hector Sandoval seized the day and set the tone for the 12-fight card with his blitzing of Matt Schnell. Joe Proctor dropped his hands, then got sat down by Bryan Barberena. And these are just the first two fights. Alexa Davis and Cindy Dandois didn’t have the prettiest fight, but they combined for 98 sig strikes, 5 takedowns, and 2 sub attempts. Jessica Penne and Danielle Taylor was not a great fight, but it had more action than … look, I can keep going down this card and there isn’t one fight with less action than the Wineland/Dodson fight. NOT A ONE. Considering who these two guys are, that’s not what an educated fan is expecting to see.
You might be wondering, “did Nino boo this fight?” My fellow fight fans, I did not. But, I would have if were in the arena with a brew in hand. Oh, I would have booed Wineland with much gusto. I wouldn’t have booed John, but Wineland would have got the super hate from me like a mother who left her kid in the house alone to go to NBA All-Star Weekend. Booooooooooooooooooooo.
I said all of that to say this: fighters (ultimately) fight for money, the fans provide that money, and the fan interest in a fighter is directly related to the payout they receive for fighting. Unless your name is Diaz. I don’t feel fans are wrong for booing fights or fighters that they have deemed to have not entertained them. I also think fans boo for the wrong reasons sometimes. There are two sides to every coin, and the bottom line is this: most fans don’t go to UFC events to be educated in the nuance of a superior “top control” game or to be mesmerized by footwork that leads to more footwork. They go to see the spectacle. They go to see the carnage. Any fighter who believes that fans will appreciate them for performing as safely as possible is mistaken. They won’t. But if this hasn’t convinced you that some fights deserved to be booed, just ask yourself, “WWRLD?”
What would Robbie Lawler do?