Words Are Cheap, Shut Up And Dance

I’ve made my opinion clear, regarding the differences between WWE/Pro-Wrestling and MMA and where each one should live. We talked a lot about the role of trash-talk in the hyping up of fights, and PPV sales generation. But we didn’t look hard enough at, how effective trash talk was through the years, and more importantly in the present. So, I decided to see what is the correlation between: The volume of trash talk a fighter puts out, the quality of said trash talk (There are levels to this game), their general level as a fighter and popularity. Before we dive in, here are some comments about this experiment:
Volume: How often a fighter trash-talks or does self-promo work.
Quality: How much sense the things a fighter says make, wit, bite, validity.
Overall quality: How good is the fighter, based on his record, performances and achievements.
Popularity: How much is the person celebrated, how much s/he contributes to sales and popularity of the sport.
General comments: This is not a scientific work, and what statistics and information I got is largely available to all of you. This is a pretty subjective exercise, but I tried to stay as unbiased as possible. Still, if you suspect I have a strong opinion on the matter, you are correct. Also, I will only consider legit top 10 fighters in their respective weight.

(Thank you Yaron, Ofir and Atsmon for reminiscing with me, bringing up some legendary trash talk, in preparation for this post!)

 

Tale Of The Tape:

Conor is, in my humble opinion, the most talented and successful trash talker – slash – persona in MMA history. Not a very bold statement, which in itself is the proof in the pudding. Conor spoke often, spoke well, for the most part kept it classy (within the realm of insults) and backed up his bragging very convincingly, until he didn’t. When Conor lost to Nate, and to Khabib, he wasn’t “exposed” as a “bad fighter”, we only saw that there are holes to his game, and that perhaps his heart was not in it enough at times. Conor is also the best seller in UFC/MMA history, with no real threat on the horizon.

Tale Of The Tape:

Lesnar didn’t speak very often, but spoke loudly, and did not suck at this. His experience as a pro-wrestler came in handy, in the way he handled the mic, and himself in the cage. Especially following his wins. Lesnar is likely the number 2 best seller, and we can definitely attribute this to his crossover fanbase. Brock brought many viewers to the sport, and if anything, he deserves the respect for that. As a fighter he was seriously compromised by Cain, and did not really get back from that.

Tale Of The Tape:

Georges did most of his talk in the cage. He spoke very little in terms of hype, and when he did try his hand at it, came off a bit goofy. The famous “I’m not impressed with your performance” was so Canadian of him, and he even apologized for that. It’s not his game. On the other hand, GSP was an actual draw – mostly, but not only in Canada – and for his time, was considered a sort of a golden eggs laying goose. You either watched him, hoping to see him lose, or watched to see him destroy another hyped-up opponent. But you watched. Georges is one of the GOATs.

Tale Of The Tape:

Ronda was not a very slick trash talker, and most of what she threw at the mic were Diaz level brags. However, Ronda provided the goods, with a very impressive run, and had the luxury of having the full support of UFC marketing machine. Her achievements in the cage, and constant exposure brought her mainstream attention, and drew people to the sport. It’s hard to quantify, and I don’t think she was as big of a draw as Conor or Brock (The other 2 who can lay claim to drawing people in), but she made an impact.

 

Tale Of The Tape:

Jones’ trash talk was almost exclusively saved for Daniel Cormier. It was sharp, it was aimed for the jugular, and – even a big DC fan as myself must admit – for the most part, was backed by facts, as irritating as that was at times. Jon is one of the best fighters ever, and it’s very likely that his life choices had hurt his popularity and drawing power. His PPVs are still some of the most anticipated ones, but I don’t recall numbers quite as high as some of the above (please correct me if I’m wrong).

 

Tale Of The Tape:

While DC is a smooth talker, with a quick reply at the ready, he did lose the trash talk battle with Jones, simply on the basis of losing the respective fights. He can hold the moral grounds, but Jones – for inexplicable reasons – remains the fan favorite in this battle. DC is very popular, but could be so much more (as is the case in general) without losses to Jones.

Tale Of The Tape:

The count is not smooth. He is witty, quick, creative and in your face. Bisping won, way more often than he lost, never looked terrible (expect that one time…) and has never succumbed to any verbal assault. He’ll always have the last word in an argument, even if it’s two words. You know. FU. Michael sold out events in England, and even if you don’t want to admit it, when the stakes were high – trash talk wise – you showed up just to see him eat crow (Where were you when Hendo landed that bomb?) There is no denying his skills, his heart and his endurance. Mike is legend.

Tale Of The Tape:

The diazes (Nick mostly) were always bitter. They have their style, they never apologized for it – quite the contrary – and in many cases also said things with some validity. Their command of the English language made them appealing for a far smaller crowd than they might’ve been able to engage otherwise, and the negative, whiny tone of said talk did not serve them well. Constantly criticizing the system, the organization, their opponents, and never owning their mistakes. Someone took them down? it wasn’t because they couldn’t defend it, it’s because of the pro wrestling rules. A fight didn’t go their way? The opponent didn’t fight to their advantage, everybody’s on steroids. It doesn’t sell much. Both brothers are very skilled, but seem to have gotten stuck in their comfort zone, which I believe, prevented them from achieving real greatness.

Tale Of The Tape:

Colby Covington is actually not a bad guy… I just saw a video that puts a stamp on what was suspected – it’s all an act. Colby decided to adopt the role of the heel, and takes it to the absolute limit, and then a couple of steps further. A very impressive run, culminating in a win over Robbie Lawler, in such a fashion that makes a title shot pretty much a done deal. Colby talks a lot. Colby talks a lot of nonsense, maintain a really trashy image, and treats fighters with very little respect. Can anyone tell me that this made him a huge seller? I do not see any supporting data. Yes, MMA fans and Trump family members talk about him, but beyond that…

Tale Of The Tape:

Perhaps the one guy in the list who made the most out of pure imagery. Kudos to Chael for talking his way into some big fights. He has a way with words, though sometimes there’s no real sense in what he says. He is loud and confident, knows how to play to his strengths, and j-u-s-t good enough to be taken seriously sometimes, or at least semi-legit in others. The thing with Chael is that he didn’t really back his talk up. There is just a gap between what he claims to be able to do, and what he actually did.

Conclusions:

As I mentioned, this is not a scientific experiment. But I think my thesis holds water. Trash talk does not sell. Especially, if it is not strongly linked to performance in the cage. We can see a guy like GSP selling out arenas with close to no talk, Rousey bringing eyeballs to the screen with little talk. We can see big trash talkers achieving less than stellar popularity, and at the very top, we have a person who came with a built-in following on the one hand, and group of people who wanted to see him fall on the other, as well as the one person who did it just-right.
My recommendation remains – as writers say “Show, don’t tell”. If you are not Conor McGregor (hint: you are not) just show up, fight, give us the performance that will make us care, and we will come. We will pay money to see good fights.
Or as Aerosmith, so eloquently put it – Shut up and dance!


Bellator 180 – AfterMMAth (Gone in 60 seconds or so)

So… Bellator MMA had their big NYC card last night, and since it was kind of big deal, I decided to do an AfterMMAth post for this historic event.  This, for the first time, will also feature in CombatDocket. Thank you guys for having me.

Continue reading

Fixing MMA – Part Five

In order to get the full context of this post, I recommend going through Parts 1 through 4 (Links at the end of this one), though it isn’t mandatory. In any case, I’d appreciate the read, and who knows? Perhaps the discussion to follow…
So far, when we spoke about “Fixing MMA” we focused on UFC, being the biggest promotion and all that. Today, I’d like to dedicate a post to the second best… Bellator.
In the past week, leading up to UFC208, there was an article written about how fans begin to compare UFC cards to a Bellator one (see bottom of the post). How amusing… Yes, a single Bellator event MAY be considered a better offering than a single UFC card. But come on folks… consistently speaking, you have got to be kidding me.
Bellator MMA earned this title (second best) by being generally sub-par in every aspect, especially in roster.
I know there’s no room for comparison between the two organizations with regards to financial strength, and that this is a big factor in UFC’s relative success. That is why I will stay away from the roster issue.

I will focus instead, on three things:

Production values:
Hey, Bellator! Eric Bischoff’s called. He wants “Monday Nitro” back.
The pro-werstling promotion WCW had a strong financial backing and was able to seduce BIG stars away from the – then – WWF. They ripped off the original product, interfered with its rating and experienced great success, to the extent of beating the dinosaur and eventually forcing it to just buy them out.

wcw_nitro_logo_live

That won’t happen for Bellator. They are not even close. They don’t have Uncle Ted paying for their shows, and they don’t live in the 90s. All these ridiculous walk in videos, circa 1999 WWF are really weak. The atmosphere is amateurish at best. The broadcast looks cheap and it radiates. It creates the cheap feel…
My recommendation, therefore, and considering that money is an issue – keep it simpler. Tone down the fireworks and present a sports-like event. What can this be driving? We will discuss in item #2 on our to-do list.
Marketing:
UFC is bigger, stronger, more recognized. But UFC also makes mistakes and does things in certain ways. What could contribute to Bellator’s marketing and branding more than taking the very things UFC struggles with, and doing them right with what they have?
Example.
UFC cater (at least recently) mostly to “fan fantasy”? Let Bellator instill a ranking system and schedule fights in a real competition based booking. Separate yourself from the competitor and you can – at the very least – say “We do things right”. We are promoting a sport.
But this is more than a sport.
True that. So let’s say good-bye to fighters that should really retire, and give more airtime to the up and comers. The fighters who have something to prove. That money we saved on fireworks? Let’s use it to build these guys up. Perhaps hand out some bonuses…
I’m certain that there are fighters on the UFC roster, who may feel they have a better shot at making a name for themselves in a place that doesn’t constantly book “money fights”. An organization that recognizes their skill and hard work, even if their tongues aren’t as slick as others’.
The people in front of the camera and behind the microphone:
And finally, for the love of GSP… let’s replace pretty much everybody on-screen and behind the microphone. Really… it’s simply embarrassing at times to watch and listen to Bellator’s events.
From the ring announcing (Hey, It’s 2017, not 1937) through the play-by-play (Sorry, I thought there actually was one…) and all the way to the color commentating (Jerry Lawler is more tolerable).
Watching a Bellator fight starts with the old-fashioned introductions, with as much enthusiasm as the secretary at the dentist calling the next patient. It continues with the person who’s supposed to call the fight, talking about Bellator, the next event and anything else really, instead of focusing on the action taking place in the cage right now. And instead of the professional next to him giving us fans some real insights into what the fighters are doing (or supposed to be doing), we hear mostly drivel and hype… And I thought Joe Rogan is bad…
This is the face of your organization. Make it pretty, make it smart, and make it professional. If you’re looking for a real play-by-play guy, I know a guy. His name rhymes with Spike foldberg. You just signed a really smart MMA fighter called Rory, you signed Chael Sonnen, and Benson Henderson knows a thing or two about MMA. Let them step in and provide commentary. Or just hire a retired fighter who still feels the fire. Sticking with the motley crew you currently have will never raise the bar.
Will all of the above provide an equalizer? Absolutely not.
What can it do to help? It can raise the promotion’s value in the eyes of both fans, as well as – wait for it….. – Potential investors. Go find your uncle Ted. Then, with Uncle Ted’s money you can start planning the storming of the castle.
What do you think?
What is Bellator doing well?
Where can they improve?

Here are the links to:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
MMAFighting about UFC and Bellator cards


Duck,Duck, Goose

Welcome back one and all to an up and running blog thing. I had some domain issues but these were resolved and we’re back in full swing (no pun intended).

I was (and still am) very busy at work, so I did not make it for a UFC174 prediction post. Had I posted it, I would’ve been 4 out of 5 (with Jimmo losing being the missed 1). You’re just going to have to trust me on that one 😉 Continue reading

Along Came “The Spider”

Happy 4th of July to all Americans and welcome back everyone (including myself…). Man, work is hectic, which shouldn’t be a complaint these days. So, being grateful for my employment, I finally got to sit down and write this post. With no further ado, I’d like to talk a little about a man called Anderson Silva. Continue reading