April 17, 2008

Ultimate Fighting Displacing Boxing

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A friend sent me this article on NPR today. It's an interesting take on the Ultimate Fighting phenomenon. Frank Deford, the author of the article, describes boxing as a barbaric sport, and he says that the decline of boxing is taking place because the UFC is more violent. According to Deford, violence is something that is highly desired in our video game culture, and so we naturally gravitate towards Mixed Martial Arts rather than the more controlled and non-violent sport of boxing.

Deford is slightly wrong on one count--the top stars do make millions but only through endorsements rather than from the fight league itself--but the overall thesis is correct. We do like seeing violence, and we do like the fact that the UFC matches are quick. I think it has something to do with the fact that we live in the Youtube generation. I used to love boxing, and I think boxers are phenomenal athletes, but gosh, these days I can't sit through six rounds, let alone ten. But this situation has always been the case; people are always going for bigger, badder, faster, more violent, and now we have a new sport that fulfills this need. Why did people love Tyson? It was because he finished his work really quickly. Why do people love Sumo? Because it starts and ends quickly. In the Youtube generation where quickness is even more valued than before, we now have the UFC.

I think Deford is overreacting. Sure, a new sport which values the fast and efficient is now in vogue. But basketball, baseball, football, and all the other sports with longer durations will always be around. We just now have different sports that cater to different moods.

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