The cult of contact sports

Illustration by Cara Seccafien
Illustration by Cara Seccafien

Boxing versus MMA and why it confuses me

By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer


With the so-called “fight of the century” now over and the winner determined, both athletes and enthusiasts alike are left to reflect. Was the event satisfying, or did it disappoint? For those of us entirely removed from the fighting community, on the other hand, it is a time to reflect on the situation as a whole.

How did one fighter’s debut boxing match become the most important fight of this century? How is it that heading to work on August 25 took me twice as long, and, having finally arrived, I was forced to listen to theories and strategies on what could or should have happened? Why were men especially so deeply affected?

Swarms of people crowded into sports bars small and large, with customers spilling into sidewalks and bumping into each other, while those lucky enough to get a clear view of a big screen went wild. They were screaming and calling out instructions or insults, each exclamation becoming more and more like a ritualistic chant.

Watching this, from that removed position from the community of “the fighting arts,” I couldn’t help but notice how these men were seemingly collectively entranced by the glisten of sweat beading down their champion of choice. There’s something deeply homoerotic about thousands of men watching other men beat each other up, as if watching a fellow man grapple with and ultimately overcome another were some sort of testament of their own masculine virility.

The end satisfaction of this particular event troubles me: Was Mayweather’s win over McGregor satisfying for boxing fans as a testament to his skill, or as an example of his dominance? And what does it say about the mentality of fighting fans either way?