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Boxing Bends the knee to MMA

Over the past six weeks there has been an elevation of the cultural embrace of mixed martial arts. Without warning, this newfound appreciation began with a five second KO committed by an ‘urban’ latino fighting out of Miami, Florida. This momentum continued with Jorge Masvidal’s celebratory demonstrations and orations of ruthlessness not seen for quite some time. 

Miami has found its new @UFC fighter! Jorge Masvidal (@GamebredFighter) made quick work of his opponent at #UFC239 with the fastest KO ever recorded. What resonated louder were his words after his match against Ben Askren. -Lorenzo — Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) July 8, 2019

As the B side of the BMF main event, Masvidal needed to make more press appearances than Diaz to build his brand. Jorge’s hardcore, sophisticated-psycho personality perfectly compensated for Diaz’s taciturn disposition to prefight promotion. When asked about Conor, Jorge held a strong frame and kept the focus on himself and his journey. He guided the media toward discussing his relationship with Kimbo Slice and popular Miami figures like The Rock. He charmed his way into Stugotz of ESPN walking him out during the ceremonial weigh in. He even got Jalen Rose to continue to mention his name and tell his viewers that they planned on celebrating at King of Diamonds after Masvidal’s inevitable victory (according to Rose). Jorge turned these interviews from interrogations into admissions by the media that they favored Masvidal as a talent and as a personality going into his bout.  

A post shared by Jorge Masvidal (@gamebredfighter) on Nov 12, 2019 at 6:59am PST

Masvidal’s KO of Ben Askren, post-fight celebration and press conference resonated with figures like Shannon Sharpe, Jalen Rose, and fans on twitter. Though Jorge had to do something immense to claim the spotlight, his potential to connect to the casual fans was always there. Askren is not a big star and Masvidal was relatively unknown, which makes his new startum as organic as a Rousey or a McGregor, but without the promotional backing. An organic grasp of fame off the defeats of other unknowns is proof of sustainable star power.

Every fighter does not become a star and remain a star just because they defeat one. Amanda Nunes and Holly Holm are a prime example that. Even fewer fighters gain adulation before the premiere bout even occurs. Going into the Askren fight, the UFC were not exactly pushing Masvidal to the public. The fact that a veteran can go from an afterthought to a budding star in less than five months without much promotional support is a cultural shift worth noting. This is especially impressive considering Jorge lacked a big-name win, was not a consistent trash talker and is more ‘urban’ than your typical MMA star. Even more singular than all of these factors was the fact that Jorge had never won a title in the UFC.  

Leading up to the bout, ESPN and other media barely mentioned Canelo or his bout scheduled for the same night that a rising star in Masvidal would headline his first pay per view event. Canelo is the biggest name in boxing, yet his promoters showed their live audience the BMF title fight while delaying their own championship headliner. All members of the boxing world should be insulted and feel undermined. Teddy Atlas and others are right to feel offended that boxing promoters yielded to a spectacle recently known as human cock fighting.

Bad decision by the brains at #DAZN to disrespect the fans, the fighters, and the sport by waiting until the #UFC fight was over before they let the fighters fight. #CaneloKovalev #UFC244 — Teddy Atlas (@TeddyAtlasReal) November 3, 2019

The DAZN athletes still took home purses multiple times the size of the BMF challengers, but all cultural revolutions take time. November 2nd was no different.

The last, and most subtle proof of this shift was the crowd awareness within Madison Square Garden. During McGregor undercards, you commonly hear boos at the mere attempt at grappling. In this BMF building people cheered for takedowns. They showed excitement for sweeps and reversals and even roared when Diaz began to go for a heel hook or leg lock. The gate was $6 million which was on par with a few of McGregor’s biggest bouts. Part of the reason Conor’s audiences boo grappling exchanges is because the average knowledgeable fan is priced out of the arena. Thus, instead of martial arts fanatics you have a crowd of casual viewers. They care so little about the sport itself that they do not show up until right before the co-main event. Cheers for leg locks and grappling exchanges are a clear sign that the crowd was invested into the event, but also the effort and discipline of the fighters entertaining them on the night. We have officially moved on from MMA casuals requiring brawls, grudge matches and showboating to become invested in the events. The investment is so much so that the promoters of the biggest star in boxing did not trust their product to compete with that of true martial arts. The boxing world has officially bent the knee to the sport of pankration.▪︎

A post shared by Jorge Masvidal (@gamebredfighter) on Oct 29, 2019 at 4:47pm PDT

Cover photos courtesy of Jorge Masvidal via IG and User on Twitter.

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