The New Yorker Is Clueless About MMA, and That's Okay

Ari LeVauxContributor IDecember 20, 2011

The December 19th issue of The New Yorker—that supposed bastion of journalistic meticulousness—managed to squeeze three errors about MMA, plus a few half-truths, into a single sentence.

The offending sentence, quoted below, calls the sport “ultimate-fighting,” claims it has “no rules” and spells Fedor’s name in a way that even Google can’t recognize as it describes a recent event that is already old news to hardcore followers of the sport.

It reads:

On the night of November 20th, two weeks before elections for the State Duma, Vladimir Putin set aside the cares of the Kremlin and went to the Olympic SportComplex for an ultimate-fighting match—a “no rules” heavyweight bout between a Cyclopean Russian named Feodor (the Last Emperor) Yemelianenko and a self-described anarchist from Olympia, Washington, named Jeff (the Snowman) Monson.

In addition to the errors I've already mentioned, the writer calls Fedor “Cyclopean,” which means either he has one eye in the middle of his forehead or he is a giant monster. In fact, he has two eyes and is a small enough heavyweight that he could probably make light-heavyweight if he could lay off the ice cream for a few weeks.

Readers might also object to the writer’s placing of fighter nicknames in parentheses, instead of quotation marks, as an annoying, if not grammatically incorrect, practice. And finally, the placing of “no rules” in quotation marks suggests that it is a quote—otherwise known as something that somebody actually said. We can only wonder who the source was.

Of course, the real story here is that an MMA bout served as the context for the first visible crack in Putin’s armor, and MMA fans have every right to think that’s cool.

But we also have every right to wince at the fact that The New Yorker appears to be in lockstep with the New York State legislature, which has refused to sanction MMA in the Empire State, in its shocking ignorance of the sport of MMA.

The magazine’s squad of fact checkers dropped the ball on basic stuff that could have easily been corrected with just a few minutes of effort. But somehow, the horrified public response to the early, no-holds-barred days of MMA has been frozen in time, and remains resistant to reality.

And believe it or not, this ignorance is good for the growth of the sport.

It’s good because all this ignorance about MMA represents a huge market that can be tapped into. If the whole world was already on board, MMA’s growth would be in danger of hitting a plateau. But as it is, there are many unconverted souls to fuel for future growth.

With the UFC and other MMA advocates determined to mine new fans from this negative sentiment—like the vein of gold it is—a slowdown in the sport’s growth isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

So, for the time being, ignorance of the sport of MMA represents potential bliss for the business side of it.