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UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating?

UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating? (photo)

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Ultimate fighting, it seems, has finally come of age. UFC’s recently announced seven year, one hundred million dollar deal with Fox TV imparts a legitimacy to the bloodsport. And now we as a culture are going to have to have an adult conversation about whether or not ultimate fighting should or should not be a “mainstream” sport. Then again, the people may have already spoken on that, as the television deal and the hardcore following the sport has suggests.

UFC is not the anarchic gladiatorial fundament depicted in the movie “Fight Club.” I am somewhat of a divided mind about ultimate fighting. On the one hand, there is quite a bit of “art” that goes into these mixed martial arts — but a manly, very physical kind of art, to be sure. On the other hand, a strong though somewhat prudish argument could be made that it is indeed human cockfighting, as former prisoner of war and U.S. Senator John McCain has described the mixed martial arts. UFC’s earliest incarnation was indeed pretty gory. As David Plotz wrote in Slate in 1999:

UFC began in 1993 as a locker-room fantasy. What would happen if a kickboxer fought a wrestler? A karate champion fought a sumo champion? Promoters built an octagonal chain-link cage, invited eight top martial artists, and set them loose in no-holds-barred, bare-knuckles fights. “There are no rules!” bragged an early press release. Contestants would fight till “knockout, submission, doctor’s intervention, or death.” UFC allowed, even promoted, all notions of bad sportsmanship: kicking a man when he’s down, hitting him in the groin, choking. Four-hundred-pound men were sent into the Octagon to maul guys half their size. Only biting and eye-gouging were forbidden.

But that was then and this is now. The UFC, which has been grappling for a greater legitimacy — and a greater profitability — for several years now, is getting even more aggressive. Aggression is, quite frankly, hard-wired into this sport. But for the past few months their PR push has been on steriods. On November 12th, for example, UFC is going directly up against the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez PPV fight. In other words, mixed martial arts is being offered on basic cable directly against a major pay-per-view boxing event. The results should be quite interesting.

Further, on August 27th the UFC will air live undercard mixed martial arts matches in Times Square above the Doubletree Hotel. That’s a pretty ballsy move, on the real. It should again be interesting to see how tourist-heavy Midtown Manhattan reacts on a Saturday to the spectacle of two beefy dudes trying, essentially, to choke each into unconsciousness with ancient and modern fighting techniques. These super-aggro pushes could definitely backfire, highlighting the “human cockfighting” charge attached to the sport by its critics. Or these bold moves could have the effect of proving just how undeniably popular the sport has become. And by Christmas we could have a new mainstream sport in our midst.

In the past the organization and its champions have stressed the “art” of the fight. In 2006, Scott Pelley of the venerable 60 minutes spoke to Renzo Gracie of the famous Brazillian Gracie family about the “art” of mixed martial arts. Gracie, whose family utilizes a jiu jitsu heavy form of fighting that has won them titles and acclaim as the first family of the mixed martial arts, defended the sport:

“It goes far beyond that. The first impression is, hit him, knock him out, hurt him, but believe it, it goes far beyond that,” Gracie explains. “There’s so much technique involved, that I, to be honest, I think when I see a good fight, I think it makes a Russian ballet look like a uncoordinated body movements.” He admits that it can sometimes be a bloody ballet. “But the blood is the source of the whole thing. Believe – it’s not blood that’s coming out, it’s a little bit of pride that you’re putting out.”

A very masculine aesthetic; a very “bloody ballet.” Is this an idea whose time has come?

Let us know your own thoughts on UFC in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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