Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kimbo Slice Is Not The Face Of MMA

The sport of mixed martial arts makes its network debut tonight on CBS. The two hour fight card is headlined by the infamous Kimbo Slice. Touted as the face of MMA, rival (and I use rival very loosely) to the far superior UFC, Elite XC has gone the route of many other fledgling MMA leagues by pumping up one individual superstar to carry the entire league. In this case, they have found pay dirt in Kimbo, the former backyard brawler. He carries just enough general popularity and curious intrigue to make MMA and non-MMA fans alike tune it to see what many neophytes in the country think will be a wild swinging/punching brawl that ends in a brutal knockout. That, however, is not what MMA is as a sport, nor what it should be marketed as. The complexities of mixed martial arts is far better understood through what each fighter brings to the octagon/cage/ring as opposed to what is perceived on the surface level.

To Kimbo's credit, he has ridden the wave of MMA popularity to bring himself money and notoriety. He certainly has the strength and punching power to put on a good show, but he lacks the overall polish elite fighters in the sport possess. After knocking out two cupcake fights in the form of Ray Mercer and Tank Abbott [with Abbott's only shot at winning was being powered by his immense hatred for minorities (no, I'm not joking)] Kimbo is hyped up enough to bring in some pretty decent numbers for tonight's TV event. While I'm sure he has been training hard to improve his MMA pedigree there is only so much ground he can make up.

Take for example, UFC Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. "Minotauro" is a 6'3 241 lb. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master from Brazil. Along with a background in Judo and boxing, Big Nog has also ran through some of the top talent in MMA. Beating the likes of Mirko Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, and Mark Coleman. Far from the Mercer and Abbott victories Kimbo has. Now, no one has attempted or even considered putting Kimbo in the same league as Big Nog or any of the previously mentioned heavy weight fighters. The point remains that for Kimbo to be considered by popular culture as an "icon" in the utmost superficial meaning of the word would be misappropriated and borderline enraging to true MMA fans.

There are two types of opinions people have about MMA in general. Either it is brutal and barbaric, a poor man's version of boxing or true MMA fighters are some of the most talented and well-versed athletes in the world today. The product being pumped through the waves of CBS tonight is MMA in some form. There are respected fighters on the card, but as far as Kimbo being the fighter to represent the whole spectrum of he certainly is not. So when he does fight, or when you read about it in the paper or online, keep in mind that at this point he is more circus sideshow than world class MMA fighter.

No comments: