“Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck.”
Those fateful words, spat with some venom by the titan of trash talking Chael Sonnen after his impressive victory over Brian Stann, remain seared in my memory. I was at once intrigued, entertained, and tantalized. Most importantly, it made me want to watch the rematch more than ever before.
While many purists will decry the descent into murky WWE-esque depths, there’s no denying the draw that such antics have on a wider audience. Human beings are hardwired to respond to stimuli, and conflict ranks pretty high on the intensity scale. Sonnen’s constant barrage of antagonism, for example, eventually led to a record breaking $7 million gate at UFC 148.
Fighters plying their trade in Asia are fast latching on to this universal truth. Although few of them are purveyors of poetic prose ala Mr. Sonnen, one notes a more deliberate effort to sell — or make fights.
The most creative attempt so far has been Andrew Leone’s call-out of Team Lakay’s Roy Docyogen which Phuket Top Team’s head honcho Boyd Clarke shrewdly disguised as part of a corporate video at ONE FC’s inaugural summit.
Perhaps it was the utter unexpectedness of the challenge, the flouting of decorum in an intellectual setting, or the merciful reprieve from powerpoint slides (I jest!), but there was an instant surge of excitement among the audience. A number of fleet-fingered journalists in attendance immediately fired off tweets to broadcast what had just transpired to the rest of the MMA world.
The example from Phuket Top Team also proved that making or selling a fight doesn’t always require the brash, overblown vilification of one’s opponent. A masterful manipulation of timing, context and delivery can be just as impactful.
The years ahead should see the Asian MMA ecosystem gradually embracing their respective roles in upping the entertainment quotient of the sport. We may even witness the emergence of Asia’s very own Josh Koscheck to rile the MMA masses. Whatever happens, Asian MMA will be better for it.