Sports are a metaphor. There is conflict between two sides and obstacles must be overcome in order to reach a goal. People cheat, people play to the rules, and people take advantage of an unfair situation. It’s something that exists in all sport, whether it is team or individual, but nowhere is it more evident than in combat sports, where the conflict is very literal. It’s a one-on-one situation where the control and dominance over another is the goal to reach. And when I speak of combat sports, don’t limit yourselves to concluding that I solely mean striking based affairs such as the latest Floyd Mayweather spectacle or a K-1 Grand Prix. The act of taking another down, pinning them, and causing them to submit is a very real aspect of fighting.
It’s a display of skill, an example of physical prowess, or just simple violence. Whatever peoples’ fascination is with fighting, it’s a universal thing, found in every country on the globe, in some form or another, throughout human history. There’s power in the metaphor of fighting.
Whatever the reason for a person’s initial and continued interest, it’s hard to ignore the narratives that rear their heads too – those personal stories of the underdog, the champion, the braggart, and what happens when all of them meet. These dramas unfold before us and further develop the metaphor of sport. Perhaps we even become more invested in the battle because of it; we might see ourselves in one of the competitors, or, more often than not, things we do not like in the other.
Over time, the marketing divisions of the professional leagues have realised that there is a way to best present these narratives, so that the average person might understand them, as well as to continue the interest in those who are already fanatics. They try to tell us who these people are, why they are fighting, and why we should be interested – three basic principles.
These are also the basic tenants of professional wrestling promotion. The main difference is, of course, that in that particular environment, everything can be manipulated to try and produce the most interesting stories. The other thing worthy of note is that many of the tactics employed in promoting a Wrestlemania, for example, have been adopted and incorporated into actual sporting events. Yes, a fighter’s story and character can naturally occur to an audience, but wrestling has helped to expose the best way to frame these things. Let’s use him as a reference point again: Floyd Mayweather. More specifically, let’s talk about Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
That’s an important distinction to make. “Money” Mayweather is a persona, framed and produced for audience consumption. Yes, he really does make a lot of money. Yes, he does live the life of luxury. But in the build up to a fight, you never see the countless hours he has obviously put into becoming who he is, and continues to put in. What we are shown is a lifestyle that we could not hope to achieve, and Floyd is there to remind us of this. Ted Dibiase would be proud.
That’s what I want to discuss with you, dear reader: that grey area in which sports and entertainment both exist and find ways of using what the other discovers to their own advantage, because the intellectual theft certainly goes both ways.
My name is Jack Gallagher. Professional Wrestler by trade, martial artist by hobby (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Boxing, Catch Wrestling). I’ve a genuine obsession with both, and have now been granted a platform to discuss their relationship at length. I promise I’ll do my best not to bore you, and the next article will have a bit more meat to it. We’re just beginning though, and diving in at the deep end tends to drown beginners.