As an avid fan of mixed martial arts it’s always interesting to discover just how people outside of the sport view it.
With the UFC making it’s first visit to Boston this week for UFC 118 a number of the city’s most established media outlets have been turning the spotlight onto the sport which is bringing a much needed cash injection to their economy.
Enter the Boston Globe’s ‘Globe 10.0’ video segment in which two of their sports writers Dan Shaughnessy and Chris Gasper dip their toes into the MMA Vs Boxing argument.
“You go back 80 years, the only sports that mattered in America were baseball, Horse racing and boxing, and two of them are gone,” Shaugnessy says. “They have faded from…you know, the only people who still attend those things or pay attention are old people. It’s kind of like Daily Mass with the Catholics. It’s old people going and nobody else. And they’re dying and not being replaced by new people going into it.”
He then goes on to apologize to boxing fans but says that, “It really feels like boxing is dead.”
It’s at this stage that the 57 year-old Shaugnessy confesses that he has no knowledge of MMA, the fastest growing sport in the world, perhaps proving his point that old people are still following old sports.
His counter-part Gasper is much younger, and though he also is not a fan of the sport, he is at least aware of it’s existence.
“I have friends who are very in to this,” Gasper says. “I have watched it a few times and I have to admit, it is quite entertaining.”
“Human cock-fighting I think it’s known as,” the rosy-cheeked Shaugnessy interjects needlessly, perhaps confirming the suspicion that the older generation, who are often unaware of the sport, have a stereo-typed perception of what it’s like.
By contrast Gasper’s first-hand knowledge of the sport has afforded him a more even-handed take on it.
“It is very entertaining. These guys, you have to give them credit. They are well trained and conditioned athletes. It’s not really quite as brutal as I expected it to be.”
So, with the two men seeming to agree that MMA has surpassed boxing, the conversation moved on to how it fits in with the so-called, ‘big-four’ sports.
“I just have a hard time seeing it breaking into the big-four in American sports,” Gasper admits. “I think it’s always kind of going to be a little on the fringes.”
“Well Nascar had it’s day,” Shaugnessy replies. “Nascar’s gone away now, but certainly there was a time it was a big, big thing in this country as a sport, and it still is in a lot of places, but it’s not quite as big.
This thing, if it’s not peaking and it’s only going to get bigger, then I guess we are going to have to be more attentive,” he concludes.
It would be easy to say that neither man is qualified to give an opinion on the subject given there apparent lack of knowledge of the sport, but the truth is that it’s journalists like these who are now being forced into debates like this as MMA continues it’s rise to prominence.
As it stands much of the mainstream media is still wary of giving the sport much, if any, attention. However, with even old-school journalists like Shaugnessy not completely shutting down the idea of covering the sport in the future, there’s no doubt that MMA is continuing to break down barriers on it’s way to being viewed in the same way as Baseball, Basketball, or any other traditional sport in the States.
Incidentally, as a footnote, it seems that UFC president Dana White is thrilled with the coverage that the UFC 118 event has been getting from the Boston press.
“Thank you to the boston globe and herald for the incredible UFC coverage this week! F*CKING AMAZING!” he posted on twitter earlier today.
Watch the full video segment below.