I love the sporting aspect of MMA and love seeing top fighters fight each other. But I have to admit, the potential of fights between Mariusz Pudzianowski and Kimbo Slice and Tim Sylvia and Hong-Man Choi at a Moosin event in October has me greatly intrigued.
It seems like freak shows fights, which were almost exclusive to Japan for a long time, are seeping into America as mixed martial arts becomes passé in Japan, a telling sign that MMA is still much more business than it is sport.
And there's not necessarily anything wrong with that, either.
As someone who followed both PRIDE and UFC back in the day, I accepted freak show fights in PRIDE because I understood why they were done: Business. It's tough to complain about a fight when it does such big business. It was a freak show fight, albeit in K-1, between Bob Sapp and Akebono that drew 54 million viewers. That's big business, as more people watched that one fight than have watched the five EliteXC/Strikeforce shows on CBS combined.
So Japan became known as the home of freak show and spectacle fights, as both K-1 and PRIDE presented many, especially each year on New Year's Eve, where the race for television ratings between K-1 parent company FEG and PRIDE parent company Dream Stage Entertainment was a heated one. This produced fights with the likes of Andy and Bobby Ologun, Kan Kaneko, Choi, Akebono and Giant Silva, to name a few. Not to mention one of the ultimate freak show fights between 400-pound Butterbean and 150-pound Genki Sudo at Dynamite!! 2003, a throwback to the 1998 fight at PRIDE 3 between the 170-pound Daiju Takase and the 600-plus-pound Emmanuel Yarborough.
Even the venerable Royce Gracie took part in one, beating Akebono at K-1 Dynamite!! 2004.
With better U.S. exposure, PRIDE became known for their freak show fights and lived by that mantra until its dying day, when it presented Zuluzinho against Butterbean on its final show.
The void wasn't left empty for long, however.
Last year, DREAM picked up right where PRIDE left off, offering the "Super Hulk Tournament" with competitors such as Sapp, Choi, Ikuhisa Minowa, Jan Nortje and former American League MVP Jose Canseco. Not to mention the fight at K-1 Dynamite!! 2008 between Bob Sapp and a fighter portraying the Japanese anime character Kinnikuman.
Now, it appears Moosin is giving this philosophy a try in the United States.
Quite frankly, it's obvious to see why they would pursue fights like this: They make money. I know I'll already be buying the pay-per-view, if not going to Chicago for the show if everything materializes, and I'm probably not the only one. It's just captivating to watch. Now, I'm not saying the UFC should be booking four or five freak show fights a year, but smaller promotions looking to make a name for themselves and potentially make some money should do everything within their power to do so. Obviously the pure sport does not sell in this country, so I commend Moosin for going outside the box and making the best use of what attractions they have signed.
It's why EliteXC valued Kimbo and Gina Carano so greatly. They made that company, otherwise essentially worthless, viable on American network television. And let's call a spade a spade: Carano wasn't a great ratings draw for EliteXC because she was a great fighter. It's because she's a beautiful woman. Same premise for Kimbo. It's why Herschel Walker and Dave Batista are such hot commodities now. A lack of attractions is why Strikeforce is in jeopardy of not getting another CBS show. They don't have the horses to draw on network television (and the brawl doesn't help matters, either). None of the company's current champions are currently worth a single dime on CBS (although that's not to say they can't be, because the potential is there), and the April 17 ratings prove that. Right now, the cupboard is bare. Walker is the only mainstream attraction they currently have, and at 47, he's not going to be around for long. Bobby Lashley is a draw to the wrestling community, but not the general public. The same probably can be said about Batista.
If the opportunity came for Strikeforce to book Kimbo against Batista or Walker and they did because that's what it took to get back on CBS, there's no way I could blame them for doing so.
Even UFC president Dana White, adamantly against freak show fights, is getting in on the act, signing a self-admitted freak show fight for UFC 118 where Randy Couture will fight former heavyweight boxing champion James Toney.
Even though we all want MMA to be run like a sport, the simple fact is today, mixed martial arts is 10 percent sport and 90 percent business. Like it or not, the UFC is more like the WWE than it is the NFL.
And as WWE Chairman Vince McMahon has said many times: "It's all about the money."