Chael Sonnen and his antics in the lead up to his UFC 117 fight against Anderson Silva has started a storm of blogging about the similarities between MMA and pro wrestling. Some people, such as Luke Thomas, absolutely hate the idea that MMA would be lumped in with pro wrestling. Luke's take on this via Bloody Elbow:
"The other issue that folks need to consider is the longer you pretend there is a cozy relationship btw MMA & pro wrestling, the longer you put off integration into the larger sporting audience. They will not accept it on those terms. And who can blame them?"
Why are we worried about the larger sporting audience for one? You can always win people over if you have a great product. It doesn't matter what you are selling, it just matters that people like what you have. The NFL, NBA, MLB and Hockey; these are all team sports that have been established forever. Is Luke worried that those fans won't want to watch MMA because it's too much like pro wrestling? If that's the case then all they need to do is sample the product and decide for themselves. And at that point, if they choose not to watch, it has nothing to do with people making a comparison between the two.
The other issue is that people understand the differences between pro wrestling and MMA. Or at least they understand the major difference. That pro wrestling is scripted and MMA is not. So are the people who are against the comparison worried that the larger sporting audience will start to believe that MMA is also scripted and that fight outcomes are not legitimate? I doubt it. There has always been a crossover of stars from the sports world into pro wrestling and vice versa. Before Bill Goldberg was a huge star for WCW he played defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons. Kevin Greene played linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers and he was also a pro wrestler. Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone were involved in some WCW storylines. The WWE has long been big on bringing in celebrities to participate. Lawrence Taylor was even the main event of a WrestleMania.
The sister of MMA, Boxing, has also gotten involved in the wrestling world. In fact, the biggest cash cow that Boxing has right now, Floyd Mayweather, had a match with the Big Show at WreslteMania 24. Has anyone wondered about the legitimacy of his fights due to his affiliation with pro wrestling? I don't think so. In fact, it's highly likely that he got quite a rub from the pro wrestling world. I just don't understand the hate for it. Pro wrestling is an artform. As long as you know what you are seeing and you take it for what it is then there is no question that it can be highly entertaining. Are there times when it is not? Sure. Just as there are times when MMA fans would rather not have to watch some of the fights that the major promotions put on.
The fact of the matter here is that both wrestling and MMA are selling a match between two men or women. One is a work and one is a shoot. Meaning one is fake and one is real. We all know the difference. Chael Sonnen was compared to pro wrestling because of the over the top nature of his selling of his fight with Silva. You know what must really bother those that hate the similarities? The event likely did close to 1 million buys. Almost all of them can be attributed to Sonnen. I guess the pro wrestling stuff works to some extent. People like drama and conflict and they really like to watch that conflict be settled. The biggest selling fights in the history of MMA were not the biggest selling fights just because they were supposed to be great fights. They sold the best because of the immense conflict between the two individuals engaging in said fight. Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir 2. Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock. Rampage Jackson vs Rashad Evans. Don't hate the fact that they are so closely related. Embrace it. It's a good thing.