Planet Tapout 8.14.07: MMA v. Boxing…Sort of…
Welcome one and all once again to Finland’s favorite column on MMA, unofficially. It’s Planet Tapout and they call me Lotfi Sariahmed. Food will be served after the presentation and we could be giving out autographs. So stick around for that. No mailbag this week as the IFL talk didn’t tickle anyone’s fancy. That’s ok though. As always you can send your thoughts, musings, love, hate, recipe ideas or otherwise to [email protected] . Now lets get started shall we?
MMA is a sport that has skyrocketed in popularity in just the last couple of years. You haven’t been paying attention if you didn’t know that already. With the rise in popularity the sport is often compared to the other combat sport here in America in boxing. If you’re an MMA supporter then boxing has had too many deaths and sometimes it’s too boring. It has too many belts and it’s hard to keep up with all the boxers. If you’re a boxing guy then MMA is too violent and there’s no beauty to it like there is in boxing. It has no history and it’s just a fad that will fade out soon enough. Of course you have those people that are fans of both boxing and MMA, myself included. But rare is the occasion where everything and everyone could just get along or elude comparisons. You have Floyd Mayweather Jr. running his mouth saying the UFC is just a fad and he could whip a MMA fighter. Of course you also have Dana White who says boxing sucks compared to the UFC and it’s just a boring sport.
Since Planet Tapout is a MMA column lets focus on that part of the discussion shall we? Because this is another one of those cases of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” One of the reasons MMA is so big is thanks to the sport itself. There’s a higher propensity for the quick end to the fight and there are more ways to end the fight. A KO or submission can satiate the fans desire for action and send them on to the next bout. Boxing is a sport that, while it might have more knockouts in number, suffers from having too many fighters to keep track of. With 17 weight classes and four titleholders in each weight class the casual fan can only keep track of the bigger name guys. The knockouts in the bigger name fights are fewer and far between. So when you do get a casual fan watching that big boxing bout, you’re treated to a 12-round decision. So the action in the sport has turned boxing defectors to MMA.
Despite a difference that has clearly helped MMA, there’s been talk of lengthening non-title bouts from three to five rounds and title bouts from five to seven. I know the talk thus far has been nothing more than talk. But why make the change at all? I understand the desire to make those big name non-title bouts five rounds. A Shogun v. Ortiz fight right now should be five rounds. Or if you want a more immediate example, Ortiz v. Evans would not have ended in a draw had it been a five-round fight. But I wouldn’t make a wide reaching change across the board just for the sake of a few fights. Show me the five-round title fight that really NEEDED to go five rounds. And you want to make a title fight seven rounds? Part of the allure of MMA is the way a fight could end at any second. We’re a world of right now and “I want this done yesterday.” A seven-round title fight takes away from what’s helped MMA reach the heights it has.
But the length of bouts isn’t the only way MMA might be turning to their combat sport counterparts. When discussing other ways to improve the sport, there’s been a lot of talk about making new weight classes for those ‘tweeners in the fight game. This is tough because you absolutely have to look out for the fighters’ safety. But how many weight classes are too many? While you want to protect the fighters, you also don’t want to baby them either. At the ShoXC teleconference prior to the Berto v. Noons card, here’s what Gary Shaw had to say about weight cutting and putting in more classes:
I am very concerned in the MMA world about this weight cutting and the dehydration and not getting rehydrated fast enough. The head injuries come basically when the fighter is not rehydrated and there is not enough water in the head and the brain area. So, the weight cutting is a big concern of mine. If we have to fit weight classes between 155 to 185 pounds, and that means we have to add two or three weight classes, we will do that. The only single thing that is important to me in my legacy is the health safety and welfare of fighter.
I heard that answer then toward the end of the conference I asked him about possibly putting in too many weight classes. Here’s what he had to say about that:
I agree with you. I did not mean to say that every five pounds will be a weight class. I know this from boxing. I know that when you go from 154 to 160, it is major. There are guys that are at 160 that can get down to 154. They can’t break the 157. I want to take into consideration the different weight classes and close the gap between like 155 and 185, and maybe we need a 160, 170 and a 185. I want to speak to Jeremy, the other people that are around me, the experts, and then do what is right for the fighter. Sometimes, you need to save the fighter from himself. I would rather be criticized for having one weight class too many than have someone in the hospital. I will not do anything that will make a farce out of MMA or something.
So where do you strike a balance? I honestly don’t know. I lean more toward the business side of things and that’s also an issue we haven’t addressed yet. If you do create another weight class, in any promotion, there are so many questions that follow. Do you have enough good fighters? Will it be competitive? Will you put out a title for the weight class? Right now I don’t know where you put in a class that has enough talent to be successful. You also have to be wary of putting in too many classes because then you’re just diluting the sport.
That leads me into my final point regarding MMA mimicking boxing. While corruption and Mike Tyson have knocked boxing down from “The Sweet Science” pedestal upon it once stood there are also too many champs. If you could name all four champs in any one weight division without looking it up then you are a finer person than I.
MMA also has its fair share of alphabet soup organizations but right now there are only about five big organizations. The UFC, IFL, BodogFIGHT, EliteXC and STRIKEFORCE are some of the biggest promotions that have held shows here in America. Even of those five promotions, only the UFC’s belts have a substantial backing behind them. But these promotions are eventually going to have to get along. I’ll leave the IFL out of this because they put on a different product all together. But the UFC can’t just buy the next PRIDE out to prevent from having to work with it. Now I know EliteXC has done well working with other organizations thus far. But when you’re a fledgling organization just starting out, it’s much easier to work with other promotions. I certainly hope EliteXC would continue to work with promotions to put on the best fights once it becomes really big. The same goes for the UFC. It will be much harder trying to buy out EliteXC given its affiliation with Showtime. The sport can grow ten-fold if these organizations can work together and put on the best fights. But it could also go the way of boxing where the belts don’t mean much of anything and even the unification bouts will go unnoticed.
One final thing I’d like to address before we head out on a quasi-related note. Everyone knows or at least should know about what happened at the August 6th appeals hearing with the California State Athletic Commission. Sean Sherk’s fate will be determined toward the end of October, along with Phil Baroni. Hermes Franca threw himself upon the mercy of the Commission and had his suspension upheld. He’s suspended for the year, retroactive to the July 7th, but he will be able to corner fighters during that period. There were other fighters at the appeals hearing as well including boxer James Toney. He was also looking to have his suspension reduced after being caught taking steroids. As opposed to admitting what he did and asking for leniency like Franca, Toney basically stopped short of playing the race card saying he couldn’t have possibly taken steroids. He didn’t really have anything in the way of proof…just his word. Of course the CSAC decided to cut his suspension basically in half to 180 days with all that proof. To say what happened here is disgusting really doesn’t encompass all my feelings about this situation. This move just shows that boxing is still a more revered and respected sport compared to MMA. It’s also a move that takes a lot of credibility away from the Commission.
We really should do this more often. So that does it for another week of Planet Tapout! Send me love, hate, musings, recipes and otherwise to [email protected] .
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Make sure you come back next Tuesday for another edition of Planet Tapout! This week in MMA gives us the Global Fighting Championships in Connecticut. Featured on the card will be Jeff Monson, Mark Kerr and Edwin Dewees among others. We’ll have live coverage of the event on Friday so make sure you come back and check it out. Enjoy the fights everybody.
Credit Sherdog.com for Gary Shaw’s quotes