Gallows Humor: UFC Opinion Piece
The disparity that exists in experience between fighter and fan can be pretty significant when it comes to MMA.
This writer has commented on being hopeful that bridges can be built between the two to avoid hostility i.e. that fans can avoid speaking ignorantly and fighters can avoid disregarding a genuine fan's involvement in the sport simply on the grounds they haven't fought. It is not necessary for someone to experience something to have an opinion of and love for it. All that said, there is something nuanced to consider that exists not only between fighter and fan, but even those two groups in themselves.
An easy way to get on the intended thinking track is to bring up something that brings this thing right to the surface: Post-fight celebrations. Like the ones that draw the ire of sportsmanship advocates everywhere. How is it alright for Israel Adesanya to pummel a man (Paulo Costa) to the point of needing intervention and then it not be alright to do some not-so-safe-for-work celebrating immediately after? It is in good taste to cause bodily injury, but not dignity injury? Many questions swirl around here like the place of gamesmanship, trash talk, fight promotion, story lines, but it is pretty clear not every agrees with what is acceptable in terms of all being fair in love and war and exercises in 'humor'.
There has long been a tradition of fighters using warrior/life and death language. In a recent interview with ESPN's Ariel Helwani, Dominick Cruz channeling as it were Kipling's Recessional, chided the other DC for his levity in the broadcast booth. Nothing too scathing, but thought-provoking to be sure. Most vocations involving trauma and crisis have their internal coping methods – whether official or circumstantial. If you have anyone close in these fields i.e. military, medicine, law enforcement, first response, etc. – and you are brave and non-judgmental – ask them ever-so-carefully to give you an example of their gallows humor: the things they say when no one (civilian) is looking. If you have not heard that phrase, it is exactly what it sounds like viz. the humor that was used by public executioners in bygone eras. Cruz takes the tact that the solemnity of fighting and its actual life and death elements demand a proportionate level of solemnity in its coverage. It is hard to argue against that. Spend some time watching the moments and arcs of a fighter's life and there is little to find levity in.
All said though, there is something strange when someone like Cormier has been embedded in that world for decades. It is not overt disrespect from the champ – it simply could not be after all he has been through in and out of the cage. His respect for fighting and fighters is no doubt of a different caliber than possibly the best fan. What gives then? Cruz was accurate in his assessment that DC is much more 'light' in his style and commentary. It's probably true that someone in either of those champions' shoes has a right to speak at whatever level of gravity they want. We could not find two better examples of earned right to comment.
Most fans will never have walked the miles in those shoes and that in itself might serve to arrest our quick jumps to social media with comments, memes, etc. Without question, there are times when humor can soften the blow (pun intended) of the impact observed in the trauma inflicted before our eyes. There probably is a place both for Cruz's honor and Cormier's glee. We would be wise to at least take a little time for reflection if we have not had to pull that arm on the gallows platform. We may have the freedom to speak lightly like DC, but it might in fact super necessary in some cases that what happens at the gallows should stay at the gallows.