By: Albert Cameron – With Rizin Fighting Federation making a big impact at the beginning of the year, a lot of MMA fans have been clamoring for the days of “freakshow” fights; meaning, fights that are large spectacles being contested for the pure ambition of entertainment value. While a lot of those fights were entertaining to watch, were certainly out of the ordinary, there is always the potential for those fights to be complete cluster failures (I did intend for another “F” word, but this is a respectable opinion source). This week’s Friday Five is counting down five of the worst spectacles in modern Mixed Martial Arts that haven’t done much for the reputation of the sport.
Note: this is not a definitive list, just five that come to mind.
No 5: Extreme Fighting Forced out of New York at Gunpoint – In the early to mid 1990’s, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was king of the combat sports. With Mike Tyson’s legal troubles and corrupt boxing promoters, boxing was left vulnerable to be over-sensationalized by the “human cockfighting” that was on Pay Per View. Like anything grand or exciting, there will be others who are attempting to get a piece of the action. Enter: John Piretti and Extreme Fighting. Extreme Fighting was trying to break away from the coined term of “Ultimate Fighting,” and bring their own brand of full contact fighting; they even had their own Gracie in Ralph Gracie, that was being positioned as their champ. The unintended consequence of the Extreme Fighting competition was a Russian soldier who was a Sambo expert in Igor Zinoviev. Zinoviev was the middleweight (more akin to Light Heavyweight champion by today’s weight class standards) champion and Extreme Fighting 1 tournament champion.
Extreme Fighting’s second outing was set to be held and promoted in the Empire State, New York. Local law enforcement and legislators had no qualms about trying to keep No Holds Barred fighting out and as the cage was being delivered, the law was ready to escort them out, at gun point. Armed lawmen, weapons drawn, willing to stop the show by force. Now before King of the Cage (KOTC) had thought of promoting on First Nation reservations, Extreme Fighting was able to move the event to a reservation casino and the card was saved. The reason they are included on this week’s list is because of the media black-eye that was suffered. News outlets all over the state, and Eastern seaboard, got a hold of the story and ran with it. It was the fuel that Senator John McCain needed to seek out and try to eliminate MMA competition in its infancy.
No 4: Jose Conseco vs. Hong Man Choi – Jose Conseco, baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, hasn’t had a great post-baseball career. Most of his exposure has come by way of reality show appearances and stints on celebrity boxing. The inherent problem of transitioning to Celebrity Boxing to MMA is that the two are hardly related and do not translate well. Conseco made claims of being a black belt in a few traditional martial arts styles, but when he stepped into the DREAM ring with Hong Man Choi, he must have forgotten everything he’d learned. Conseco’s striking was extremely suspect, borderline awkward. I’m talking “first time trying to get to third base in the back seat of a car” awkward. It didn’t take long for Choi to get Conseco to the ground and submit him; to date, I don’t believe that Conseco has fought again.
What landed Jose Conseco on this list is that there was a real danger of other punch-drunk celebrities thinking that they could step into an MMA ring or cage for a quick pay day. Sure, there have been other sports transplants: Michael Jordan going from basketball to baseball, Bo Jackson’s career, even Michael Westbrook and Bob Sapp going from football to MMA. The difference between all of those examples and Jose Conseco is that those other athletes took the time to respect their new sports, to learn the nuance, and take it seriously. Luckily, things didn’t go the way of TMZ coverage, but it could have been really bad.
No 3: Tag Team MMA (ZST & Gladiator Challenge) – How many times haven’t we heard “MMA isn’t a team sport”? Sure, there are training teams and camps, but when it comes time to fight, its mano y mano. With the impending approach of Phil “CM Punk” Brooks’ UFC debut, we’re even more defensive than ever to separate ourselves from “pro wrasslin’.” I have a question for anyone who has ever been in a fight: have you ever been backed into a corner and tagged in a partner so that you could catch a breather? Even by street fight standards, that kind of makes you look like a sissy. ZST (Japan) and Gladiator Challenge disagree with me. Gladiator Challenge’s tag team fight actually didn’t happen as planned, it turned out to be more of a marketing ploy at best.
The mechanics behind “tagging in” a partner are also mind boggling. When the question is posed “do you prefer a cage or a ring?” we often get the answer “cage.” The chief reason being that stalls are kept to a minimum and action is kept on course. I can get behind that, stalls are frustrating and restarts completely kill momentum. With that being said, wouldn’t you think that a fight would have to stop in order for a tag team partner to come in safely? Safety is a big concern with sanctioning bodies; for a fighter to get tagged in without the fight stopping, it would have to be stalled and ultimately boring to watch. I wouldn’t expect tag team MMA to come to the Keystone State any time soon.
No 2: Yamma Pit Fighting – If you heard a loud groaning noise in the middle of the state in the last few hours, it was probably me trying to exorcise the memory of Yamma Pit Fighting (YPF) out of my memory. Long story short: a former Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG; Former Owners of the UFC), decides he’s going to bring one night tournaments back to pay per view and brands it with a foreign word that is almost as uncomfortable as the word “moist.”
The spectacle: the most glaring problem is the cage. Wait, not the cage, the “Yamma Pit.” It was a cage with a bowl shape to prevent stalls that ultimately created stalls. The only way New Jersey would sanction the single night tournament was to have the fights limited to one round. Have you done the math? Single round fights in the middle of a stall magnet. With the goofy name, the piss poor action, and the fighters that were on the card, the event was extremely laughable. The promotion only lasted one fight and I’m still kicking myself for not getting a Yamma Pit Fighting hat.
No 1: 5 on 5 MMA (Poland) – When I first saw the video of the Team Fighting League out of Poland, I thought it was a joke …but it wasn’t. It’s a fun novelty, I’ll give it that, but then you just end up scratching your head. The mat is that play foam stuff that you can find inside any day care worth their weight in salt; the ring posts were cocooned by tires …even Dada5000’s street fight promotion had a more professional appearance than that. Then we get to the fun stuff: five guys vs five guys; it’s like the Polish version of West Side Story.
So you’ve got the Jets and the Sharks, the whistle blows and the team fight mayhem begins. Once a fighter is knocked or submitted , then the opposition is free to double team another opponent and repeat. The end of the fight ends up looking like one of those click bait videos that says “A five on five fight starts and then you’ll never believe what happens next!” One guy gets a blanket party from five other guys. I never thought I’d see a day when a fight promotion was started with inspiration from the SE Hinton novel “The Outsiders.”
That does it for this week’s Friday Five. Next week may have more of the worst spectacles, it may have something different, you won’t know until next Friday. In honor of the number one spot, instead of my normal sign off, I’ll leave you with this:
Stay Gold, Ponyboy.