A good gimmick can do a lot for an MMA fighter. Whether it’s a silly haircut or a crafted persona, anything that elevates them into the public’s consciousness is a win. Some fans may not appreciate the approach, but they might find themselves suckered into watching just to see what happens next. The more people a fighter can pull into watching and discussing a fight, the more exposure for MMA, which leads to further revenue for the sport to grow.

Mixed Martial Arts can be viewed in many different ways, as a business, a sport, entertainment, and physical expression as an art form being the most pertinent illustrations. It is better to think of MMA as an assortment of all these elements produced into a consumable product. A fighter’s personal expression in MMA can be just as varied as the idea of MMA itself, naturally leading to differing ideals of how one should conduct their self and what bearing their actions have on MMA as a whole.

"Mayhem" Miller's (top) antics and on-camera personality brought him stardom (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

Fighters such as Jason “Mayhem” Miller and Tom Lawlor take pride in artistic and promotional expression leading up to a fight. Lawlor has created a buzz for himself through playing dress-up during weigh-ins and walkouts, comically referencing past UFC fighters such as Dan Severn and Harold Howard, professional wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan and even fictional characters such as Apollo Creed from the Rocky films. Jason Miller is probably the most well-known MMA fighter to make a household name for himself from the popularity of hosting the Bully Beatdown program on the MTV family of cable channels. His socially extroverted nature and charisma serves MMA with further publicity regardless of whether or not this kind of promotion is deemed necessary by MMA fans.

Fans normally take a decisive “love it or leave it” stance on the antics of fighters such as these two. They either find the humor and thought put into the display as pleasing, or the typical purist finds such actions more befitting a clown and feels it demeans the sportsmanship and seriousness of MMA.

Could more or less of this behavior be better for MMA, and is it even necessary? The answer to that question is one of personal taste and is affected by the lens one chooses to view MMA through.

I believe gaining attention through publicity stunts or comedic displays does not hurt the sport of MMA if it leads to gains in other areas. The multifaceted form of MMA leaves a broad audience for an organization and its fighters to appeal to, and different methods of reaching an audience cannot be ruled out from a business perspective. The worst affect that a silly walkout or weigh-in can have on a fan is in their own reaction of groaning and the rolling of eyes in annoyance. The best-case scenario is that the benefit of attention received through flamboyant behavior leads to a larger audience. More often than not, such behavior draws further attention to a fight, whether positive or negative, and a little annoyance is an insignificant price to pay if credible gains are to be made.

Miller and Lawlor are great examples of how fighters can gain stardom by distinguishing themselves to further their personal career in MMA from the inside out. But what about fighters such as Brock Lesnar?

Lawlor's tribute to the "Just Bleed" guy (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)

Another side of this question is an MMA organization’s own promotional manufacturing and marketing of fighters for entertainment purposes. The UFC gave Lesnar first-class treatment and a fast track in the heavyweight division due to his already bankable name. Reputation alone and a big push from the UFC marketing machine made this relative newcomer to MMA the talk of the entire sport. Arguments of Lawlor or Miller hurting the image of MMA become more of a complaint when someone like Lesnar walks straight to the top while others have desperately tried their entire careers for only a taste of what he receives. Why blame a fighter for trying to gain attention for themselves in order to supplement their livelihood, especially if their name doesn’t carry as much weight as the Lesnar’s of the world.

Personally, I prefer a fighter that entertains an audience with their own unique flair compared to a company selling me on who I should like. Consumers can express their opinion by buying the product or simply not.

So, does MMA need more colorful personas and entertaining gimmicks? My answer is, why not? At the end of the day, all the jokes in the world could not save “Mayhem” Miller from being defeated in his last UFC performance. That is the purity of MMA competition: only the skills of a fighter matter in an actual cage fight. These fighters give fans an entertaining story to follow before the fight, and if you don’t like their particular brand of antics, watching them get beat-up is just as satisfying.

Photo: Tom Lawlor impersonates Steven Seagal at the weigh-ins for UFC 139 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

This piece was authored by David Massey. You can find David on Twitter: @GeminiTiger86

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.