Here at Cageside Seats we've often noted the similarities between Dana White and a saner, more youthful Vince McMahon. The latest textbook example is UFC filing a lawsuit earlier today against the state of New York for their ban on live mixed martial arts events, which they claim is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment.
Sound familiar? Well, it should! This is a tactic straight out of the McMahon family playbook. Just over a year ago, Vince McMahon sued Democrat Susan Bysiewicz, the Connecticut Secretary of the State, for censorship and discrimination after her office declared that poll workers for Linda McMahon's election day would have the discretion to tell voters wearing WWE merchandise to cover it up or change their clothes before being allowed to vote. In Vince's case, the tactic worked brilliantly, as Bysiewicz quickly changed her tune and made it clear that no-one would be banned from entering a polling place with WWE regalia on. Of course, Vince managed to turn an easy victory into a legal score draw when his subsequent plan to rub it in by giving away free WWE T-shirts to the Connecticut electorate was deemed illegal by the Department of Justice.
The similarities don't end there. Zuffa's lawsuit is also highly reminiscent of the WWF's kayfabe-breaking admission to the New Jersey Senate in 1989 that professional wrestling was just scripted entertainment and harmless fun. Consequently the pseudo sport was deregulated in the state, saving the company from paying a hefty 3-percent tax on live event revenue. How so? Well, in their legal bid to get MMA sanctioned in New York, UFC has admitted in rather painstaking detail that they're in the wholesome sports entertainment business, far from the blood sport for savages their opponents make them out to be:
124. Live professional MMA is not just a sporting event; it is also entertainment and theater. The fighters are athletes and performers both. Live professional MMA matches provide fighters with myriad expressive outlets, allowing fighters to build relationships with their fans and tell the world their story. The expression in these live events begins far outside the cage, is carried into it, and continues when the fighters exit. Professional MMA has, over the years, developed its own unique pageantry and tradition. Many fans come for this complete story.
That sounds like total
pro wrestling sports entertainment to me!
The lawsuit also goes into mind-numbing detail about all the promotional ideas they took from the art form of professional wrestling. It's all discussed openly: the exaggerated personas, the slickly produced video packages, the use of social media to build intrigue, the booking of matches between rivals or with a compelling backstory, the phoney staredowns at weigh-ins, the UFC approved entrance music, the ethnic stereotypes, the elaborate and gimmicky ring entrances, the colorful costuming and merchandising, the carefully thought out fight plans, the babyface camaraderie, the post match promos, etc. Reading points 123 - 141 of the complaint, the spectacle of live professional MMA that UFC tout certainly shares a lot more in common with Vince McMahon's concept of sports entertainment than they would ever want their fan base to think consciously about.
So will Dana have the same success with this strategy that his old pal Vince has had in the past? Probably not, as my gut feelings regarding the UFC lawsuit is that it's ballsy to the point of recklessness. Clearly, it's not a serious legal challenge and is more a propaganda tool and publicity stunt, carefully designed to rally the public to their cause and embarrass their powerful opponents into submission. However, in my opinion, it's more likely to blow up in their face, as such a frivolous lawsuit will only serve to harden resistance against legalizing MMA from the very politicians whose negative perceptions about the sport have kept it banned for so long.