James Thompson's blog on Freakshow fights... a good read I thought
Roll up, roll up, let your eyes feast greedily upon the wonders of man as warriors from around the globe in all manner of shapes and sizes are pitted upon each other using mind, body and soul in the ultimate form of combat, MMA. Where, from the ashes of battle only one true victor will emerge and be left standing. Roll up, roll up!
This is how I imagine the M.C. of a Carnival would sound selling the ‘freak show fights’ that we witness in MMA today. If you live in Japan then you get a lady from New Zealand with a crazy cool voice to do it. With Japanese Mma now struggling and the UFC not having adopted the kind of format that showcases the ‘freaks show fights’, it looks like the ‘freak show fight’ might be on it last (overly long) legs.
So this time on Colossal Concerns I want to give my views on whether this is a good or a bad thing. To answer this we have to delve into what a ‘freak show fight’ really is.
Now, this isn’t an easy question it’s like a freakily shaped onion, by that I mean it has many strange layers. So please join me while I take a closer look at what the ‘freak show fights’ are all about (clears throat) Roll up, roll up! Don’t be scared, pay your money at the door and prepare to enter the many faceted world of the ‘Freak Show’.
The ‘freak against freak’ fight
(Zulu vs. Butterbean)
This is what you call the ultimate in freak shows. Two freakishly strange shaped individuals facing each other in a Mma match. In most of the cases I can think of, you’re not going to see a whole lot of ‘technical Mma’ but what you will get is entertainment that makes the Mma purist weep. I like to watch a good freak vs. freak battle every now and again. No-one does these kinds of fights better than the Japanese.
The ‘out of your depth’ freak show fight
(Don Frye vs. Le Banner)
This is a freak show fight with a difference. It’s a rarity because there aren’t many stupidly toughly individuals around like Don Frye. This is where you’ll get a stupidly overmatched opponent and (like in this example) a stupidly tough guy and throw the tough guy to the wolves. I remember watching an interview with Don Frye before he fought Jerome Le Banner in K1 rules and Frye saying something like he’s younger than me, stronger than me and better at kick boxing than me
. I was watching the interview going ‘wow, he totally knows he’s going to get his ass kicked’. Frye suffered a hideous KO.
What stuck with me was how insanely tough Frye had to be to take that fight. I wouldn’t recommend this course of action though. These fights don’t happen often, which I think is a good thing, as it’s kind of the modern day equivalent of throwing the Christians to the lions. Another of these ‘out of your depth freak show fights that comes to mind is Cro cop against some poor, masked, pro wrestler Dos Santos.
The classic ‘David verses Goliath’ Freak Fight
(Sapp power bombing Minotauro)
The classic David vs. Goliath freak show I feel embodies the essence of the ‘freak show fight’. Size against skill, can skill overcome size? It’s a question that goes as far back as time and I feel will always be asked and will always be interesting to watch.
The Freak Show ‘format’
(Yamma cage with sloping edges)
I’m not too keen on these kinds of formats. It’s one of those that sounds good, but in practice fails to live up to expectations.
The first round is K1 Rules the next round its Mma.
One fight that springs to mind which used this format was Shinya Aoki vs ( kick boxer)Yuichiro Nagashima the first round was K1 rules and consisted of Aoki desperately doing outrageous flying kicks to wind the clock down so to make it into the Mma rounds. He succeeded somewhat and made it into the 2nd Mma rounds and ironically got ko’d from a sloppy take down.
There are other examples of these kinds of fights but they are all pretty forgettable. Also there a picture above of the short lived YAMMA fights. They decided it would be a great idea to mess about with the cage and have sloped sides put in. This added nothing to the fights and just made it easier for wrestlers to push their opponents to the edge and get the take down.
Whilst I’m a fan of the ‘Freak show fights’ most of the time, I think messing about with the format of Mma and the cage is a step too far. It adds nothing to Mma, quite the opposite in fact. I feel like it takes it away from the sport and the fights taking place.
So there we have the many facets of what makes up the ‘Freak Show fight’, shining through with all its odd like glory. So, what’s the conclusion, should the freak show be left to die a quiet undignified death or should we pucker up, take a deep breath and breathe life into this two-headed fiend? It seems, at this moment in time we don’t really have a choice in the matter as Japanese Mma itself is on life support and the UFC model of Mma has no place for the Freak Show. For now at least it looks like the ‘freak show’ might be taking its last breath.
Some will say that this is a good thing, that these types of fights make a mockery out of Mma and whilst sometimes I can see where they’re coming from with this point of view, I feel that the freak show fight represents more than just unskilled, strange shaped humans doing battle. Sure, this might sometimes be the case which infuriates the Mma purists that feel Mma is being ‘dragged to new lows’, but generally it poses the age old question… Size against skill? (See example above).
Now, I’m not arguing that the UFC should start putting on ‘freak show fights’ as somehow that wouldn’t seem right. When it comes to the ‘Freak show’ there is only one nation that we can turn to that handles the ‘freaks’ with the proper love and affection… That, of course, is the Japanese. I’m not exactly sure why it is that the Japanese manage to balance the ingredients of the ‘freak show’ and get them all just right. If I were to hazard a guess I’d say it was because the Japanese match makers themselves are genuinely interested to see what happens in these match ups. This is the very reason I wouldn’t like to see the UFC taking on the freak show format.
I feel that not only does the freak show offer the size against strength question but these fights are also fun. I want to see what happens when you put Butterbean against Zulu, I’m interested in the outcome. That being said, would I like to see a Mma organisation that only puts on freak show matches? No, I wouldn’t, but one here and there does no harm at all, in fact I think it lends a different element to Mma which I can only see as a good, positive thing.
As of writing this the ‘freak show fights’ have almost flat lined but don’t worry too much my oddity obsessed friends because when Japanese Mma finds a way, and I believe it will, it will rise up and will do so with the ‘freak show fight’ in tow. I picture Dr Frankenstein (Japanese Mma) after shocking his newly invigorated monster (freak show fights) into conciseness, screaming “it’s alive, it’s alive!”