Mixed martial arts was unknown except to a select few as an actual sport even if they watched in the early days. For the longest time the only names casual fans could recall were Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock who were both from the beginnings of the UFC. Then, in one night, everyone you knew was now “training UFC” after watching Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, and Rich Franklin save the company in the first season of TUF’s finale. The two household names most mentioned after that were likely the opposing coaches – Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.
To the point of this article now…
Local events started popping up with no oversight from athletic commissions in some cases. The attire varied from actual shorts designed for the sport of MMA to the more common basketball shorts or lycra shorts. The skill levels varied vastly from gym to gym. Some were run by and had instructors who actually competed, or even specialized in one necessary discipline like jiu jitsu. Others, well let’s just say they were started by karate instructors looking to cash in, fighters who might have competed once in a local event, or people who simply watched the UFC. I was a ring announcer for over a decade and a half and saw it all.
And heard it all…
The records of some of these coaches were ridiculous, not Frank Dux stupid, but similar. One I always reference was a “50-0” bare knuckle boxer who fought in “underground tournaments” in parking lots surrounded by cars, racquetball courts, and every other place Van Damme fought in Lionheart. One of the worst offenders who snowed even me for quite some time was a guy from Louisville who out of respect will remain nameless – Bullshido forums finally discovered him and exposed him as did I. He would show up to events with five store bought belts and sit at a table taking pictures with unknowing attendees. The promoters went along with it because it put something else at their event that might add more credibility. The guy fought one real MMA fight and got absolutely destroyed in just over a minute. Karma is a beast. The point is that lying was so prominent that even new MMA schools were allowing the liars to teach absolute garbage. No one knew any better unless they were already involved in the sport or just smart enough to call BS.
Thank God for the internet.
When records started being kept the lies were harder to sell but since amateurs were the cheapest to book they didn’t matter. Just book an 0-0 against a 5-0 with no regard for anyone’s safety or bothering to check the background of the debuting amateur. Some fighters had 7-0 records the day they began being stored on sites who chose to do so. Coaches and fighters alike were scrambling to submit bogus records with wins in bogus events in the hopes of getting noticed by the UFC. Once events started submitting their records – suddenly the fighters who had those perfect ones now had losses appearing. Interesting. It was the wild west.
While the internet helped curb a lot of the lying and fact checking became a reality it also allowed fighters to speak with no filter. To this day guys like Conor McGregor and a multitude more are tweeting out things and deleting them immediately after realizing what they said was stupid. The internet dwellers instantly screen shot what they have said and the frenzy of media posts begin. Living in a culture where more people look for something to burn you down with than to praise you for is a nightmare for big mouths.
The internet saved promoters a lot of hassle and gave the commissions something to use to verify records but it also became a battlegrounds for fans and fighters alike. It truly was a blessing and a curse.