Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quest for Legitimacy, Part I

Above is Jose Canseco.

Former Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco.

Former Surreal Life house member Jose Canseco.

One-time celebrity boxer who couldn't knock out Partridge Family member Danny Bonaduce Jose Canseco.

Does it say anything about Mixed Martial Arts anywhere in the previous sentences?

Of course it doesn't, because Jose Canseco has never trained for MMA and should never be allowed anywhere close to an MMA fight, which makes DREAM's decision to have the former Bash Brother take on 7-foot-2 Korean kickboxer Hong Man Choi in the opening round of their eight-man tournament at DREAM 9 a step backwards for Mixed Martial Arts.

The card itself is actually quite impressive, headlined by the Featherweight Grand Prix featuring well-respected talents like Gesias " JZ Calvan" Calvalcante, Jason "Mayhem" Miller, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Kid Yamamoto. Even the eight-man tournament Canseco is scheduled to fight in possess some quality fighters, including my 2008 Fighter of the Year Gegard Mousasi taking on Mark Hunt.

But none of that will receive coverage outside of hardcore MMA circles on this continent. The main story will be the debut of a former baseball player who brought the steroid scandal that still lingers in that sport today to the forefront and that is certainly not a good thing.

As a passionate follower of Mixed Martial Arts since the first UFC, seeing the sport grow and gain the cultural and mainstream acceptance it has over the past few years has been outstanding, but I'm not naive enough to believe the fight is over.

Just yesterday on Pardon the Interruption, Michael Wilbon commented on how happy he was to see Manny Pacquiao's second round knockout of Ricky Hatton instead of "that cage fighting" stuff. While I too loved seeing Pacquaio light-up Hatton over the weekend, his knockout was nowhere near as impressive as Toby Imada's triangle submission of Jorge Masvidal in the Bellator semifinals.

And Wilbon is a guy who has had the opportunity to see Mixed Martial Arts and form an opinion, yet he still has little regard for the sport. What are people who have been opposed to Mixed Martial Arts from the outset going to think when all they hear about DREAM 9 is that Jose Canseco was fighting? This sport that we love and defend at every chance we get takes a serious kick in the credibility.

Mixed Martial Arts has had a hard enough time getting to where it is right now and the battle is far from over. Many states and provinces still refuse to sanction the sport and there are as many detractors as there are advocates both in the media and the general population.

Regardless of the fact that the fight is taking place in Japan, promoting a fight with a D-List celebrity who is willing to do almost anything for a little extra pocket money only hampers MMA's quest for legitimacy here in North America.

In Part II, we'll look at how MMA publications can impact the sport.

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