If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it still make a sound? It’s a riddle that has caused a few head scratches, much like a similar MMA version of the riddle: if a fight happens and nobody sees it, did it really happen?

Although fighting in the cage or ring is still the finished product and without a doubt the most important part of fighting, the ability to promote and sell tickets is quickly becoming a top priority. Promotions have a job to sell fans on their fighters, but they can only do so much. Colorful characters like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Chael Sonnen and Roy Nelson make it so much easier for promotions to sell a product. With an increasing need for fighters to become self-promoters, is MMA becoming too much talk and not enough show?

Even though many old-school fight fans don’t want to hear it, fighters promoting themselves is a necessity. Promoters aren’t going to want to put guys (or gals) on their shows if they can’t excite a crowd. There have been many great fighters who fail to even put together a structured sentence in front of a microphone, and there have been but a few fighters who can entertain without ever putting a pair of gloves. How else do you explain the continued success of guys like Rampage, Sonnen, and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, even though their careers have sputtered recently?

But what happens when the self-promotion reaches a point where it’s no longer valued by fans? It used to be when a fighter called out another fighter, you knew the two guys didn’t like each other. Now, fighters are calling out one another with total disregard for what it truly means to call someone out. Take, for example, Rampage recently saying he’d like to fight Nelson and fuck him up. There’s been little animosity between the two fighters through the media, which left fans perplexed as to why Rampage would suddenly call out Nelson.

It’s these type of call-outs that seem more like a desperate attempt for attention. Fans have grown sour on Sonnen’s shtick recently, but those who still sip the Sonnen kool-aid know it’s all part of the act (or at least, we hope they do). Ever since Sonnen began his WWE-style rant prior to UFC 117, it seems to be the in thing to attempt to make fights personal. Instead of fans getting amped up for a fight because the two fighters have been trash-talking, it seems to have become just another part of the pre-fight build-up.

That’s a shame, given how useful trash-talking and bad blood can be as a promotional tool. Remember when Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz engaged in some serious back-and-forth banter prior to their contests? If that occurred in the UFC of 2013, it would be just “meh.” Recently, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Thiago Silva brought back the old-school trash talk by making it extremely personal. This is how fighters can use the media as a promotional tool without sacrificing their integrity. Of course, there’s a limit to how much personal information needs to be shared, but I’m all for guys going at one another through the media…as long as it makes sense, of course.

Bigfoot and Thiago, former teammates, obviously have some bad blood left over from their training days at American Top Team. The Rashad Evans-Jon Jones trash talk was real due to their prior history. However, the recent stretch of guys trashing Michael Bisping—he seems to be atop everyone’s shit list—and Jackson saying he wants to fight Nelson make little sense.

Just as in wrestling, a storyline intensifies when the wrestlers can blend real-life items with their scripted story. MMA doesn’t need a script for guys to stretch the Twitter-bashing to a personal level, but it would help if it all made sense and actually had some truth to it.

Photo: “Rampage” (Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.