Saturday Night T.K.O.

If you were expecting a good fight on Saturday night, then you’re probably an idiot.  The outcome of the fight was exactly what everyone expected it to be: the undefeated boxer fought on his own turf against a somewhat fresh MMA fighter.  This hasn’t anything to do with sports and everything to do with swindling gullible audiences who simply don’t know any better into taking silly bets.  Mayweather’s known for biding his time, while McGregor was expecting a quick knockout before the fourth round, but that wasn’t likely to happen.  The audience ended up with a somewhat pitiful match of waiting for McGregor to throw in the towel once he stopped being able to keep his hands up.

Now, this is boxing.  It could have been rigged.  That’s known to happen.  But let’s assume that it wasn’t.  Why would anyone, outside of blind fandom, believe that an MMA fighter would beat a boxer in a boxing match?  If I had to guess, it’s probably because someone doesn’t understand how sports work.

There is a fine line to ride.  Sports have to be two things: their rules must be free enough for the players to enjoy the game, but structured enough for the game to remain entertaining.  Different games implement this principle in different ways; golf has a bazillion rules that most of us plebs have no real understanding of, while rugby, all things considered, has comparatively few.  The important part of all of this is that the game remains exciting to both watch and participate in.

Full contact sports such as boxing, Sanda, and MMA can be especially tricky to pin down.  Unless someone has trained for these various sports, most audiences are willing to believe that the sports are essentially the same.  After all, in each one, you’re at least throwing punches.  In Sanda and MMA, you’re not only throwing punches, but kicks as well, and even fast throws.  But looks are deceiving; MMA fighters aren’t boxers, although most of them draw techniques from boxing.  The same can easily be said for many Sanda fighters.  They are different sports.  One might as well believe that rugby, football, and soccer are the same sports because they involve getting a ball from one side of the field to another.

MMA plays very loose with its rules.  It certainly has some—the use of certain protective gear (gloves, groin protection, mouth guard), illegality of biting, absence of specific joint locks, etcetera—but when it comes to what the sport is mimicking, MMA includes a huge sphere of techniques that boxing ignores.  MMA, despite what some of its enthusiasts might believe, is not real fighting, nor should it be.  It’s a sport: there is a winner and loser to each match, there are things you aren’t allowed to do in the ring, and there are things you can use in the ring that you wouldn’t want to rely on for self-defense.  But that’s fine.  Anyone who would criticize a sport like MMA for impracticality as a form of self-defense is confusing the issue.  MMA doesn’t train you to defend yourself except as a secondary benefit.  It teaches you how to do the exact opposite: how to defeat someone else.

So even though MMA is a more brutal and destructive sport than boxing is, it’s still fundamentally a sport.  Arguments over whether Mayweather or McGregor is a better fighter are irrelevant; they were both boxing.  Mayweather’s trained his boxing for decades, and he’s excelled in doing only that.  McGregor’s trained in hand technique, but also grappling and kicking.  The whole paradigm is different.

What is, I think, more mind-blowing than any of this is the fact that Pay-Per-View still exists in an era of easy internet streaming.  I’m impressed that enough people still pay for their cable to make a $90 event seem like a good investment.  That’s even more idiotic than betting on McGregor.

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