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5 Oz. of Pain on CBS Sports: ‘Television fighters’ become more vital to MMA

In his latest submission for, publisher Sam Caplan analyzes the growing importance of television-friendly fighters in MMA. With television’s role in relation to the sport only increasing, Caplan believes that a fighter’s ability to entertain an audience could become just as important as to whether he wins or loses.

“The won/loss record of a television fighter is often secondary because of the growing role of TV in MMA,” Caplan writes. “With the UFC set to promote more shows than ever in 2009, a premium is placed on fighters such as Lytle and Davis who can headline a UFC Fight Night special on Spike TV or augment headlining fights on a pay-per-view.”

During the course of the article, Caplan also presents his list of who he considers to be some of the sport’s best made for television fighters.

“Despite being 7-3 in the UFC, [Spencer] Fisher isn’t expected to headline a pay-per-view against lightweight champion B.J. Penn anytime soon,” he writes. “But Fisher has plenty of job security. He has earned the reputation for being one of the most exciting lightweights in the sport. While training under Pat Miletich has allowed Fisher to become a well-rounded fighter, he often prefers to use his professional boxing skills in engaging in wildly entertaining standup exchanges. The mentality has earned him several fight night bonuses and has allowed him to become a cult favorite among hardcore fans.”

To see Caplan’s complete list of top television fighters as well as his entire article, just click here.

  • Grappo says:

    McLovin and The Carpenter are heroes.

  • mu_shin says:

    Sam, excellent piece on the TV fighter and the development of MMA on television.

    Of course, if you really analyze it, TV invented what we now know as MMA. When Rorion Gracie and Art Davies brought the idea for the Ultimate Fighting Challenge to the US, it was inspired by the Vale Tudo fights popular in Brazil, where two men enter the ring, and one man walks out. No weight classes, no time limit, virtually no rules, with a live audience that was bloodthirsty enough to appreciate the primal combat.

    That concept gave rise to Royce Gracie, and led to the first MMA superfight, Royce Gracie against Frank Shamrock, which went thirty six minutes on the ground to a draw. As an experienced martial artist, it was really exciting for me and for my training partners who watched it, but for the uninitiated TV audience, all they saw was two guys wrestling around on the ground for half an hour. That, coupled with exhibitions like Pat Smith putting 80 stitches into a downed opponent’s face, or one striker whose name I can’t recall breaking both of his hands on the head of a 600 pound Sumo wrestler (and knocking the Sumo monster out) led to a perception among American audiences that this spectacle was either a bloody freak show or boring.

    When we saw fights like Marco Ruas against Paul Varelans, I think we started to see the potential that has developed into MMA, where a smaller fighter overcame a giant opponent with technique, strategy, and poise. Lots of growth took place in the ensuinbg years, with exposure to BJJ, the advent of strong wrestlers developing ground and pound variations, and the study of takedown defense. Cross-pollination with Western boxing brought a lot to MMA as well, as traditional karate/kung fu striking could not fully address the myriad possibilities presented in these anything goes matches.

    The concept of the “exciting” TV fighter brings into focus one of the splits among MMA fans as I perceive it today. For myself, I spent several years getting choked and arm barred and leg locked, to try and figure this ground game out, and that was after ten years getting beaten up in TaeKwon Do gyms. Nothing is more exciting to me than a great grappling match, and I’m constantly annoyed at the unprovoked stand-ups that are happening more and more often in modern MMA fights, just because the TV audience and many of the fans at live shows have attention deficit disorder and can’t appreciate the intensity of the ground game.

    What I think you’re really describing is the journey to maturity in the sport of MMA, and the rise of the journeyman fighter, who has always existed in boxing. Not every fighter is going to be cut from championship cloth, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put on an exciting match for the fans. Even as much of a grappling fan as I am, and one of the few who posted often of favoring Frank Mir over Nogueira, I dig a strong knockout as much as the next fan, as long as it’s not an obvious mismatch. MMA is made up of all these disciplines, and hopefully real fans will appreciate all aspects of the game, and not just demand 30 second knockouts. There’s a good chance Emelianenko will submit Arlovski tonight, and I would hope that any real MMA fan would applaud that win just as strongly as they would a standup knockout, or an MMA kickboxing match.

    My ultimate point being that TV friendly fighters are great for the sport as it develops. but let’s not forget where this sport comes from. The ground game, while not as exciting to some, it an integral part of MMA, and I hope in the future this is not forgotten. As time goes on, the journeyman MMA fighter will become an integral part of the process, as up and coming fighters test themselves against stronger and more adept competition. The more exciting fighters should be rewarded, but they should still have to get by the Matt Hamills and the Jake O’briens of the sport to prove they are worthy, on their way to becoming the next Tito Ortiz or Uriah Faber.

  • Scott Whitt says:

    If TV Fighters are used to enhance a show, so be it. When they are called on to headline a FNL or a TUF Finale then there is a problem. I had a problem withe naming Lytle-Davis a fight of the night. Just because they said they were going to have it is no reason to give it to them. Maybe all fighters should get together and start saying that they are going to have FotN. Maybe they can get an extra $30k.
    I think Houston Alexander’s days are numbered, you could add James Irvin to your list. Possibly Leben as well.


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