Girls Fight Out
December 9, 2014 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Back at the gym that first day, they were filled with the wholesome optimism with which we like to imbue athletes. This was before things fell to shit. This was before you could see how a group of women, put together in a house to be pioneers of a thing, examples, were capable of systematically destroying one another, of bringing one another to their knees, which, as it turns out, takes only six weeks. (Warning: Pictures of bloody women). Girls Fight Out.
posted by Ghostride The Whip (11 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Um, you've come a long way, baby?
posted by ocschwar at 7:44 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]




There was Xyience, which at the time was the official energy drink of the UFC. It touts “sustained energy with no crash!” and zero calories.

wat

She’s in a bikini and is muscular, so muscular that Ronda said she could never fight Cris because Cris isn’t even a woman; Cris is an “it.” But Ronda doesn’t want to fight Cris because she knows she’ll lose. “Does she not look like she’s on steroids?” Dana asked me. “Tell me the truth.”

“You all look like you’re on steroids to me,” I told him. He laughed hard and thanked me for the compliment.


There's so much fail in the UFC. One of the main reasons I quit my job in LA and moved back to Canada (I wasn't allowed to work for anyone else) is that UFC was one of our clients, and the constant exposure (via my bosses) to Dana White and his infectious, amoral idiocy made me hate myself.

UFC always reminds me of the Battle Royale scene in Invisible Man.
posted by klanawa at 10:19 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's some vicious and despicable bodyshaming, klanawa. Ronda's been really disappointing. But Cris Cyborg was indeed on steroids.

I don't like the half-and-half images in this article. They're reductive, and the cheapest possible take: "Hey! Women are usually really beautiful and made-up, right? Well THESE women are bloody! What a contrast!" It makes me want to see a few articles about gender-non-specific MMA that feature the same kind of contrasting images between a tubby male office-worker, first in a tie and then in fight shorts and a bloody lip.

The haphazard spray of disdain in this article is a bit...telling. Let's be disdainful of the reality-TV BS, sure, and of the transphobia, and certainly of the idea of ring girls. And let's of course be honest about the very real problems in the sport. But Brodesser-Akner's disdain is applied to everything that MMA touches: being fit, dieting, supplements, the fighters being girly, the tattoos, the clothing fans wear, the fighters not being maximally eloquent, the fact that full-time fighters actually need to be on-point with their water intake. There's a lot to be disdainful about in the fake-blood-splattered-tee-shirt culture of MMA, but I do not welcome an outsider pointing that disdain indiscriminately at the entire enterprise.

She's also flat-out, indisputably wrong: "Ronda’s never been a great striker, but she’s evolved to the point where she can take a great striker down..." Ronda had Alexis Davis unconscious, or at least rocked and defenseless, before she took her down, using a textbook cross counter followed by a brilliant knee strike. You might remember Ronda and knee strikes from her liver-strike knockdown of Sara McMann. Ronda started as an awful striker but is now using her striking (not her judo) to win fights.

This is the kind of obvious misunderstanding that should make you suspect of everything this writer says about MMA. She makes a lot of these blundering errors. Ronda's scared of Cyborg because she knows she'll lose? No...Ronda wants to fight Cyborg at 135, because fighting up a weight class against an opponent whose greatest strength is her strength is usually not a great idea. (This is why I was so happy with Cyborg's plan to gradually cut to 135 for a limited number of fights.) Men's MMA rivalries don't match the ridiculousness of women's? No...the author is obviously unaware of Chael P. Sonnen, or the current stupidity over in Bellator with Tito and Bonnar.

This total wrongness, combined with an undirected disdain for the entire subject, feeds into the author's feeble attempt to establish a crescendo of horror:
this isn’t just a sport like any, this is a place for fucked-up people to play out their fucked-up anguish. Yes, poor Alexis learned what all the beautiful, strong women of TUF 20 know now, which is that the entire show is a false construct...
Yup, every MMA fighter comes from a broken home, just like strippers and sex workers. They know not what they do. It's so sad. Christ, what a sack of bullshit.

TUF (and by association, all of MMA) is apparently a false construct because "when you get into that cage you are on your own". That's exactly right. That's the point. Fighting is about pure knowledge of the self, the distillation of competition. You can't rely on your teammates or your coach or excuses. It's just you. Some people like that kind of struggle. I do. The author plainly finds it squicky. Well, nobody said you had to play. But if you're not going to get involved, at least don't pretend like you know what's going on.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:57 AM on December 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


After watching a full card of bouts during International Fight Week, I went back to my hotel and stood in an elevator on an endless ride with a woman who was applying her lipstick, readying herself for her night to begin, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what it might be like to punch her in her fucking face.

My brother is an MMA fighter (not athlete; definitely a fighter) and I've watched him and his clubmates repeatedly punch people in the heads, choke them, tilt them upside-down and press them into the mat, and come away grinning madly with the adrenaline rush it gives them, faces swollen and bloody and almost unrecognisable. I don't think it's ever led to me fantasizing about assaulting a random person in a lift -- which makes me worry for the writer of this article.

Maybe the MMA culture in the US (or at least surrounding this TV show) is different to what I know, but the men and women I know who cage fight are pretty normal. No prostituting mothers or being woken in an armbar hold. My brother is a carpenter and joiner who just really enjoyed freestyle wrestling as a kid and then outgrew it and switched to MMA, and his friends are all very similar. I feel like this article is critiquing the entire MMA scene, not just UFC -- but that's probably lack of exposure, I guess?

I don't like the half-and-half images in this article. They're reductive, and the cheapest possible take: "Hey! Women are usually really beautiful and made-up, right? Well THESE women are bloody! What a contrast!"

I've never watched UFC, but indications in the article are that the show does this quite deliberately, picking the pretty ones and presenting them fully made-up and dressed in sequins. Presumably that's what the photos in the article are highlighting. It's UFC who are reducing these women to a contrast between beautiful and bloodied.
posted by tracicle at 5:47 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


This, like the recent article about kids bull riding, seemed to distill an awful lot of nuance to "these people sure are different from you and me, the civilized folks reading Medium and the New Yorker. Let me now was poetic about this thing which both entrances and disgusts me."

Personally, I really enjoy watching the UFC (though TUF doesn't do much for me) and I really appreciate having fucking badass ladies getting knockout of the night and scrapping it out. It is an excellent antidote to The Beautiful Brittany. If I was not so depressingly out of shape, I'd love to start Brazilian jiu jitsu and start working my way towards at least a little bit of badass.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:51 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


This, like the recent article about kids bull riding, seemed to distill an awful lot of nuance to "these people sure are different from you and me, the civilized folks reading Medium and the New Yorker. Let me now was poetic about this thing which both entrances and disgusts me."

Very well put, and I think it's something of a perpetual hazard for any writer who parachutes into a particular scene to write it up for a magazine piece. There have been quite a few Medium articles that have been the subject of an FPP recently, and I think they're mostly deserving of it, but that doesn't mean that all the bad writers went away. Here's something that popped out at me:
It tastes like purple drank that has been heated by the sun in its plastic container, then refrigerated to almost freezing, then left out on the counter of your mobile meth lab triplewide. I hope I’m not giving away trade patent secrets when I say that.
Dig that crazy class signifier, followed by the coda that lets you know that the writer is sorta proud of producing this. Also, whatever problems Ronda Rousey has with transphobia--and it does seem problematic--casting the first American woman to medal in judo at the Olympics as "the Billy Zabka character" is just fucking ridiculous.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:03 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't like the half-and-half images in this article. They're reductive, and the cheapest possible take: "Hey! Women are usually really beautiful and made-up, right? Well THESE women are bloody! What a contrast!"

I've never watched UFC, but indications in the article are that the show does this quite deliberately, picking the pretty ones and presenting them fully made-up and dressed in sequins. Presumably that's what the photos in the article are highlighting. It's UFC who are reducing these women to a contrast between beautiful and bloodied.
I guess what I'm expecting from this article in order to support those images is some sort of critique of that behavior by the UFC. But that's completely absent. These pictures use the same trope that TUF's marketing team does, without doing the requisite work of delving into that makeup/bloody-lip dichotomy.

And that's a shame, because there's a lot of good material that she just glosses over. Worse, she takes potshots at the fighters whenever they display femininity: Tate's nickname and pink jeans, the fact that the fighters wear makeup for a photo shoot, the fact that these fighters cry when in this pressure-cooker of concentrated training. All this is couched not in empathy or analysis, but in sneering derision.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


If I was not so depressingly out of shape, I'd love to start Brazilian jiu jitsu and start working my way towards at least a little bit of badass.

I'm depressingly out of shape, although less so than I used to be because I have been doing jiu jitsu about twice a week since last March and it is great! This is partially because the place I go is super supportive and there are a lot of women and people in a variety of shapes and sizes (I am WAY out of shape but I am not the largest person there and no one has made me feel badly about it which is a huge deal for me). I started doing it because I know I should exercise but I get bored REALLY EASILY and this is something that occupies my mind as well as my body. I can also tell that I've gotten much better which is really satisfying; it's been a long time since my body acted the way I want it to and even though I am far from GOOD I am definitely BETTER and it feels AMAZING. Sometimes I'll roll with people who are obviously better than I am and have been doing it for years and although they always beat me sometimes I can surprise them. I think a lot of this is down to going to the right gym but seriously, it might be worth a try! I have lost weight and gotten in better shape and found a new hobby and learned that I have really flexible elbows, a fact of which I am absurdly proud. Now my problem is that my husband won't wear a gi around the house to aid in my random attacks.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:30 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Also ... I would really disagree that the UFC presents women fighters as some beautiful/bloody dichotomy. I think individual fighters are to a pretty impressive degree in control of their image. For every cheesecake photo of Ronda Rousey (which there aren't honestly that many of - she's incredibly intense and intimidating, and while she's a very attractive and feminine lady, she really doesn't rely on her looks to win fans or fights or attention from promoters), you've got a staredown from Liz Carmouche who is an ex-Marine, an out lesbian, and came incredibly close to submitting Rousey in their first fight. Women fight in sports bras and board shorts, no more or less revealing than what the men are fighting in. Commentary on the fights is pretty much the same for men and women. They don't really exploit the sexuality or attractiveness of their women fighters, and I respect the way the UFC presents and promotes them. Compare it to beach volleyball in the Olympics, for example.

Where the weird dichotomy shows up is the way the UFC treats the women fighters and the ring girls. With the ring girls, I think you see pandering to the blockhead guys who watch MMA to see people punch each other a lot - the ones who boo when you've got grappling against the cage or subtle stuff going on with submission attempts and not a whole lot of flashy action, and enjoy seeing hot chicks with big boobs and short shorts. That is annoying, yes. But not reflective of the way the UFC fighters work.

Also, weird that it's an entire article about women MMA fighters, and I don't think she mentions Invicta at all?
posted by ChuraChura at 9:24 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this article really didn't ring true for me as a female fighter and a former fight sports journalist. Sure there are some fighters who come from difficult backgrounds -- probably more than say, table tennis -- but it's hardly a prerequisite. Even on this season of TUF, which obviously preferences casting people with meaty backstories, there are plenty of competitors with unremarkable narratives that have done just fine (though yes, they got less screen-time than those involved in the house squabbles and bullying). I know very few fighters (in MMA or any other combat sport where doing damage to your opponent is part of the scoring -- pro boxing, Muay Thai, Kyokushin, etc) who fight angry or who specifically enjoy other hurting people (even many of those who play up that kind of persona for the press).

Then there's stuff like this:

Yes, poor Alexis learned what all the beautiful, strong women of TUF 20 know now, which is that the entire show is a false construct. Despite your team and your flag and your coaches and your boyfriend and your contract and your body-fat percentage and your Squor followers, despite all that, when you get into that cage you are on your own. In the UFC, no matter how much you want it, you are totally and utterly alone.

I mean, a) of course Alexis Davis and all the TUF competitors knew this already because they are professional fighters who have been competing long before they came to the UFC, and b) isn't this just true of any solo sport?

I think there are valid discussions to be had about fight sports' relationship with violence in society, the sexist pressures on women in sport (combat or otherwise) to present themselves in certain ways, ring girls, and the general douchebaggery of Dana White, but I don't think much in this article adds to the conversation.
posted by retrograde at 11:38 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


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