Explain The Appeal of Wrestling / UFC to Me

I had an interesting realization about myself today: I really don’t enjoy watching two people fight each other in any way. And given the popularity of things like UFC / MMA / WWE / Action Movies, I’m wondering what it is I’m not “in to”.

Don’t get me wrong – the point of this post isn’t to bash those who do enjoy watching a good fight, a consenting adult watching two other consenting adults beat each other up is fine in my book. And the point of this isn’t to condemn violence in general – I’m not opposed to using violence when forced by the complete and utter failure of peaceful measures. The point of this post is to merely dissect what people may find appealing about fighting, so that I can try to understand why I, myself, don’t find it appealing. Comments are welcome, especially by my friends who do like to watch fights. Think of this post 50% for me, and 50% to inspire thought in others.

So the best I can tell, people watch fights for a variety of reasons:

  1. They feel a rush, similar to a true adrenaline surge, by watching.
  2. They see it as a competition, with the most competent fighter showing superiority over his or her opponent.
  3. They see it as a call to better themselves physically. Fighters must be in good physical shape, and it is this shape that may inspire others to exercise, eat right, etc..
  4. They enjoy seeing fantastical versions of normality (e.g., action movies)
  5. They just like physical violence in general, and enjoy watching it.

Now I’ll take each of these reasons and explore them a bit.

Rush
A true adrenaline rush is a pretty powerful feeling, as anyone who has ever had one (which I’m assuming is most people) can attest. I suppose it is possible to receive a ‘lite’ version of one by watching others fight, although it would seem to me that if watching fights were to engender anything, it would be an aggressive attitude in the viewer. Watching others, especially in high school, talk about watching WWE, I sometimes saw an aggressive form emerge, which was probably pretty appealing to someone who was smaller in stature, or not as physically confident about him or herself. I totally get this – If I’m self-conscious about myself and my abilities, immersing myself in a televised fight may give me a glimmer of what it is like to be physically dominant over another person. For the 5′ 7” crowd and lower, that is probably pretty appealing.

I’m not physically small though – and while I could really stand to lose some weight in my midsection, my arms and legs are fairly powerful. If I were forced to fight someone, I don’t have any doubts about my ability to put up a good fight against the people I come across on a regular basis (Since I don’t normally run across professional fighters, they’re not any of my concern). Perhaps this is why I don’t feel any sort of rush while watching a fight.

Competition
Competition in wrestling is fairly obvious: The better athlete should win the fight. However I personally believe that you lose a bit of respectability in competition when you can physically prevent others from competing. This is probably why I like Baseball better than Football. In football, one can physically prevent the opponent from competing – in baseball one cannot (e.g., you’d never see the catcher kick the legs out from under the batter as the pitcher pitches, or the guy covering first base physically run toward and tackle the base runner after a hit). I suppose in my mind, competition is best experienced when all sides have an equal chance to perform proactively, not in a reactive manner. Perhaps that’s why I don’t see fighting as an exceptional form of competition.

Physical Betterment
This is probably the easiest for me to dismiss personally. Seeing finely honed fighters popping muscles I didn’t even know I had is pretty damn impressive. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a really effective motivator to lose weight personally. It’s sad to say, but I’m being honest – I don’t exercise often and I eat poorly most likely because nothing I’ve run across yet has motivated me sufficiently to overcome barriers (e.g., the joys of sleep, traveling and paying for a gym, etc…). Watching an extreme fighter hasn’t motivated me in this regard, so I don’t seek it out.

They Enjoy Seeing Fantastical Versions of Real Life
In real life, if someone insults you, it is pretty bad form to haul off and hit them. You’ll get in trouble, laws will be broken, parts of you or the other person may be broken, etc… However the world of wrestling and fighting on TV lets you escape from this and imagine a different world. Action movies do the same. For me though, these fantastical versions must be really extreme for me to enjoy them. For example, I don’t enjoy seeing a man strike another man, and the second man fall to the floor. I do enjoy seeing Neo punch Agent Smith through several walls in The Matrix, because it’s SO far out there it really captures the imagination. I suppose for me, it must really be extreme to count as entertainment. I also think this reason explains why WWE is so appealing – it places events into a soap opera-esque story line, which further blurs the line between reality and television.

They just like violence
It’s sorta sad, but I assume some people just really like violence, and the idea of hurting other people. I don’t think I have to explore further their motivations or how this doesn’t apply to me other than to state that I’m mostly a peaceful person, and I don’t wish violence or pain even upon my enemies.

So those are my theories on why fighting is appealing to others, and why it doesn’t appeal to me. I’m really interested in hearing how it appeals to you, and why you watch it (if you do). I don’t really have any desire to be converted, I just am wondering why people find it so attractive!

One Reply to “Explain The Appeal of Wrestling / UFC to Me”

  1. I think it's very likely that nothing I can say about why I enjoy the UFC/MMA would make any sense to you – especially since you don't view two guys stepping into the ring as competition, and in my eyes it's *the* purest form of physical competition there is. There's a fundamental disconnect there between how we perceive it, so there's no common ground for understanding.

    It's funny that you'd mention professional baseball, a sport with a long history of steroids, corruption, player strikes, and money being able to buy the best team, as an example of great competition. In my eyes, it's perhaps the best example of a sport that has strayed so far from its roots that it's unrecognisable. I think that's why some people like amateur sports – the purity of the game is still there, uncorrupted.

    I do think it's perfectly fine for people to not enjoy MMA/UFC – I understand completely that the physical violence isn't something everyone enjoys. And for me at least, it's much less about the violence than it is about the competition.

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