Tonight, my friends, marks the premiere of BET’s foray into the world of mixed martial arts with their new show “Iron Ring”. I could not be more excited. Why? Just take a look at this description of the show from BET’s official website:
An all-star line-up of celebrities, including Ludacris, Juelz Santana, Lil Jon, Nelly and Floyd Mayweather, will manage teams of fighters in the best mixed martial arts match-ups on television.
From a steel ring above the arena, the celebrity “owners” will interact with their gladiators between rounds – and sometimes right in the middle of them. Each week, as top competitors enter the battle zone to face off, using the combined techniques of jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kickboxing and wrestling, viewers will witness true-to-life, bone-crushing, face-smashing sports entertainment unlike anything ever seen before. Only the strong will survive!
I don’t know about you, but all I caught there was “gladiators”, “steel ring above the arena”, and “Ludacris”. That’s all I needed to know. Count me in, BET.
Now, I realize I’m not a member of BET’s target demographic. I’m what sociologists refer to as “a white dude”. I only own one pair of sneakers and zero sets of spinners. I only get about half the jokes on “Comic View”, and though I’ve heard of “106 & Park” through rap songs, I’ve never seen a full episode.
That being said, I am making it a point to watch “Iron Ring” tonight. I know some MMA fans are already against it, the same way they were against “Never Back Down”, based solely on the previews, but not me. It’s not that I’m necessarily expecting “Iron Ring” to be any good. I’m not. But the mere fact that it’s happening is important and, dare I say, encouraging.
For one, it introduces a whole new demographic to our sport. That’s not to say that black Americans don’t know or care about MMA right now, but I think it’s fair to say that they haven’t embraced it the way nerdy white dudes on the internet have. That’s somewhat of an unfair comparison, I realize, because if there’s one thing nerdy white dudes are good at it’s embracing things on the internet. But bringing MMA to BET means exposure before a different audience, maybe an audience that hasn’t been properly courted in the past. Maybe you come for Ludacris and you stay for the fights. Stranger things have happened.
Aside from that, though, we have to remember that TV is a business built on imitation. A new MMA show means that TV producers are beginning to recognize the potential of the sport. “Iron Ring” may not change the face of MMA forever, but if it gets fresh blood involved that means things are headed in the right direction.
On another level, I can’t wait to see what Ludacris and Lil Jon are like as “owners” of MMA teams. I’m guessing that their technical advice between rounds might be something along the lines of “hit him in the face”, which is always helpful. But I’m also guessing that they’ll have some hilarious commentary mixed in there somewhere. Personalities like that have never hurt the fight game.
Of course, I could be wrong. “Iron Ring” could be an abomination with only a vague resemblance to MMA. Or it could be the greatest thing ever to come on basic cable. My feeling is that it will be somewhere between those two extremes, but at the same time it might alert a few new people to this thing called MMA, wherein men punch and kick and slam and choke one another, and those people will wonder why they weren’t informed of this earlier as they rush off to investigate it more fully and discover a beautiful world they never knew existed.
Even if that only happens for one person who tunes in hoping to catch the last hour of “Soul Plane”, it will be worth it. It’s like Ludacris once said: “Ho tell everybody, even the mayor. Reach up in the sky for the ho-zone layer.”
No, wait. I guess it’s not like that at all. Still cool, though.