There’s hardly a single thing about it that sounds like a good idea, beginning with the name – Gender Wars MMA.
Then you get to the meat and potatoes of the pitch: Tonight (early Saturday morning in Russia) in a venue that event promoters have described as “a warehouse outside of St. Petersburg,” a woman named Tess Barrall will fight a man identified only as “Trent,” in a bout where the winner will supposedly receive $1 million.
Take a minute and let that sink in.
Barrall isn’t a pro fighter. Aside from the occasional martial-arts class and some cardio kickboxing, she never did much serious training before a couple months ago.
As for “Trent,” whose identity the promoters say they are guarding out of concern for his safety, the whole idea is that he won’t train for the bout at all.
“He’s just some punk,” said Brad Kohler, a former fighter turned businessman who’s promoting the online pay-per-view event. “He’s an arrogant little prick. I couldn’t imagine finding someone actually like this.”
Kohler, who fought twice in the UFC in the late ’90s before spending much of the rest of his career in Japan, didn’t find him by accident. He went in search of someone like this, soliciting applications and short audition videos from both men and women for a mixed-gender bout with modified rules (both fighters may strike on the feet; only the woman can strike on the mat) that would anchor a curious three-fight PPV event.
The pairing Kohler got, it seems, is exactly what he wanted. In her video, the fit and upbeat Barrall films an enthusiastic pitch from the gym where she works as a trainer (via Facebook):
In his, the mysterious “Trent” appears in a hoodie and sunglasses, bragging in intensely unlikable fashion about his ability and willingness to beat up any woman put in front of him and “put them back on the stripper pole where they belong” (via Facebook):
Watching this feels as if an Internet comments section has sprung to life. Which, yeah, that’s pretty much the whole idea, and this event isn’t the only one to try to capitalize on the same exact mood.
Explaining why he chose to anchor this event – which also features MMA veterans Wes Sims and Travis Wiuff squaring off, as well as Shannon Ritch vs. “TBA” – Kohler explained that the investors bankrolling the show had initially suggested an MMA fighter against a boxer.
“But that’s been done,” Kohler said. “No one wants to see that anymore.”
A man against a woman, however, still felt novel enough to be interesting, even if it was already done by Rio Heroes back in 2007.
Turns out the idea was still so novel even in 2018 that it was turned down “by a couple different streaming partners,” according to Kohler, before they finally turned to InPlayer, which will host the $9.99 PPV online.
But as soon as you hear the details, some questions spring immediately to mind. Questions like, how could these people, who do not even seem to have their own website and are specifically advertising that there will be “no audience” to witness these “backyard rules” fights in a Russian warehouse, possibly have $1 million to pay out?
Also questions like, there’s no way this thing whole thing is legitimate and on the level, right?
And finally (perhaps even most importantly), what kind of person would want to watch something like this?
Kohler has answers to all these questions, in a way. The whole project, he said, is being funded by unnamed investors and TV networks abroad, but “it’s all confidential.” And whatever people may think of the way it sounds or the people involved, he swears it’s “totally legit.”
As for the question of the intended audience, Kohler doesn’t deny that pitting a man against a woman is a controversial choice.
“If the guy beats the crap out of the woman, my balls will probably be hung from the highest tree,” Kohler said. “I get it. But the guy vs. girl thing is not new. There’s a bunch of documented (fights). We won’t even be the first one of 2018.”
When Kohler said this in late December, it looked like he’d be correct. At the time, there was a similar bout scheduled at a gym in Florida. Billed as a sparring match between “Internet troll” Kristopher Zylinski and women’s MMA pioneer Tara LaRosa, the fight was shut down by the local athletic commission shortly before it was scheduled to begin.
The impetus for that bout was more organic than what Gender Wars MMA has planned, but both seem to play to a similar idea: A loudmouth man proudly declares that women are physically inferior to men, and even one trained in martial arts can’t overcome the simple facts of biology. Then you find a woman who, for money or honor (or both), is willing to try to prove him wrong, and you’re off and running.
That’s how it worked for Barrall, a 35-year-old mother of three who said she was motivated by Kohler’s promise of a $1 million payout (she insists she has a contract for the bout and believes she will actually receive the money if she wins), but also by the implication that maleness alone would be enough to beat her in a fight.
“This is all about training a woman and seeing what she can do against a man who thinks that he can beat up a woman,” Barrall said. “That right there gets your blood pumping as a woman.”
It’s a different story for LaRosa, who said she was roped into fighting a man after commenting on what a bad idea the whole thing was when she saw it being discussed on Facebook. Then, when the scheduled female fighter withdrew due to injury, LaRosa agreed to step in for a fee.
“I’m definitely not with the whole women’s lib thing, all the snowflakes on the Internet,” LaRosa said. “I’m a conservative registered Republican, and you’re not going to talk me out of it. There are biological differences between men and women, and I am totally against a male fighter fighting a female fighter.”
Still, she was quick to point out, she’s a trained professional with more than 15 years in this sport. If some man thinks he’s going to beat her just on gender alone – more or less the exact sentiment Zylinski expressed on numerous occasions – she’s happy to prove him wrong.
“Plus there’s a pretty good paycheck in it for me,” LaRosa said.
One person who wasn’t happy to hear about LaRosa’s plans was Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp, who didn’t learn of the scheduled “sparring match” until after it was halted by commission authorities.
Her first response, Knapp said, was to question what was wrong with people who would want to watch an event like that. But then, maybe she already knows the answer.
“I think you’ve got a lot of people out there on the male side who are bitter right now,” Knapp said. “It’s that thing like, ‘Oh, you want equality? I’m going to show you equality.’ You’ve got these misogynistic egomaniacs out there who think they want to teach us a lesson or something.”
That does seem to be at least part of the cultural anxiety fueling interest in these kinds of matches. At a time of rapidly changing gender dynamics, maybe some men are more inclined to console themselves with the hope of physical strength as a last bastion for dominance over women.
Or maybe some people – men and women – just want to see a misogynistic jerk get beat up by a woman.
It’ a dynamic that many women say is a familiar one, both at work and in their social lives. It’s also reminiscent of a recent “New Yorker” cartoon – even when women are the trained experts, as LaRosa is, there’s always a man who thinks he knows better. Maybe there are also people who would like to see him learn otherwise in a violent and humiliating fashion.
“Maybe that’s true and this is a response to all that,” LaRosa said. “But for me, it was just a response to this one guy. My plan was not even to punch him, just take him down and submit him.”
Despite being shut down by the athletic commission, LaRosa insists her fight will still take place “in an undisclosed country, city, state, whatever.” Furthermore, she wonders at the wider ramifications of a commission stepping in to stop what was officially a sparring session between men and women, something that happens regularly in MMA gyms all around the world.
“That’s the thing, is where does it end?” LaRosa said. “You’re going to tell me I can’t do this thing I’ve been doing for years? Are you going to shut down all the gyms where women train with men? That’s what worries me.”
Meanwhile, in Russia, there’s seemingly no local authority interested in interfering with Gender Wars MMA. Whether or not that’s a good thing – and whether or not people will actually watch – Barrall is eager to find out.
“I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail over this, and it’s all from men asking me who do I think I am and telling me that a woman can never beat up a man and I’ll regret this,” Barrall said. “Then I’ve gotten other messages saying, ‘Yeah, go get him, girl.’ Whether people watch because they like it or because they think it will be a circus, I don’t care. All I know is, I’m going through this guy.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: What kind of person wants to watch a woman fight a man?