herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

You're right Ray, it's not rugby... but MMA isn't an OTT sport

When Ray D'Arcy introduced MMA fighter Cathal Pendred onto his show this week there was much to talk about.

Firstly, at the much-publicised UFC event in the O2 over the weekend, the four Irishmen on the same bill had all won. Secondly, 3e had achieved remarkable viewing figures for such an event, averaging over 250,000 viewers.

Most importantly, however, was Cathal's story, and the honest, humble way in which he told it.

Revealing how he had been working towards this event for five years, Cathal admitted that he was broke, that he had made no money of any sort from his chosen sport. This one fight was all or nothing for him.

Gambled

"I owed two months rent," he revealed. "My landlord was chasing me for that. I owed €2,000 to Airtricity, they kept calling me every day. I was wondering was I going to get home and be able to turn my lights on."

Yet rather than discuss the remarkable way in which Cathal gambled his whole life on one fight, Ray chose to veer off in a very predictable direction.

"I found it very violent and very disturbing," said Ray, choosing to focus on the intense nature of the physical combat involved in MMA.

And in the next few minutes, Ray displayed not only a naivety about the sport, but a suspiciously elitist attitude towards it.

Ray was horrified that Conor McGregor had claimed he was going to "rip his opponent's head off" during the weigh-in, and asked Cathal: "Was that just bravado?"

Again, if Ray had ever followed MMA, or indeed boxing, he would know that such pantomime exaggeration is commonplace.

irony

Despite being told by Cathal that in the 20-year history of the UFC, the most serious accident was a broken leg, Ray wasn't impressed. It is hard to know whether Ray's line of questioning was designed to reflect his listeners' views, or whether it actually revealed his own opinions, but the irony deficit was inescapable.

Rugby, with its regular dangerous tackling and eye-gouging is hardly a genteel sport. I also wonder if Ray saw the physical scenes at last Sunday's Leinster Football Final or the mass brawl at last month's Cavan-Armagh game?

The presenter seemed oblivious to the viciousness of these sports though, and confined his distaste to MMA.

Cathal made the point that these sports' middle class followings, their corporate hospitality and blue-chip advertisers, makes them respectable, while the relatively working class nature of the participants and followers of MMA somehow makes it barbaric.

When Cathal suggested this very point to Ray, the host replied: "I'll have to go home and think about the comparison to rugby.

"For me it is very different, but you say it isn't. I'll think about it."

You do that, Ray.

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