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Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Mixed Martial Arts--- K-1 or K-Work?
Commentary by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

(The following article is a commentary by Ivan Trembow and does not necessarily reflect the views of the other staff members at MMAWeekly.com.)

Even before the announcement came on Sunday that Bob Sapp would be fighting Frans Botha at the K-1 event on December 6 in the Tokyo Dome, one couldn't help but feel that something definitely smelled of a "work" when Sapp got himself intentionally disqualified against Remy Bonjasky at last Saturday's K-1 event. I don't think Bonjasky was in on it, but it does clearly fit the very easy-to-recognize pattern of pro wrestling booking. With all of the worked elements in K-1, it certainly shouldn't be out of the question that there would be a plan going into the fight for Sapp to get himself intentionally disqualified so that he could fight "someone else" at the Tokyo Dome in December in a big-money singles fight.

The way it played out, the events on the pay-per-view further played into Sapp's "Beast" character, it opened up Sapp's schedule so that he would be able to fight someone else in December, and most importantly it allowed the very exciting Remy Bonjasky to advance into the Final Eight without having to knock out Sapp in the process. Bonjasky was embarrassing Sapp in every aspect of the game. He was taking the best Sapp had to offer and was probably just a few minutes away from knocking out Sapp, when Bonjasky slipped and Sapp delivered a transparently premeditated punch to the back of his downed opponent's head.

It's no different than a pitcher in baseball intentionally walking a great hitter. It's usually not that big of a deal to send a man to first, and you don't want to take the risk that he's going to connect and knock one out of the park. In addition, it doesn't take a big stretch of the imagination to think that K-1 would want to protect Bob Sapp and ride out the gravy train of his drawing power for as long as possible, and K-1 executives are smart enough to know that Sapp isn't going to win the entire Grand Prix on his own merits (nor can they work an entire tournament). Sapp would be exposed and would probably get knocked out, just as he appeared to be headed towards before he got himself intentionally disqualified against Bonjasky.

Though I am convinced that there was a plan going into last Saturday's event for Sapp to get himself intentionally disqualified in the event that he was able to get Bonjasky to the ground for a moment, it's also possible that no such plan existed before the event. Even if that is the case, I still think Sapp decided to do it at some point during the course of the fight to save himself from what he knew was going to be a very unpleasant ending. It's the same reason that Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear (minus the mental instability) and the same reason that many boxers have gotten themselves intentionally disqualified over the years: In their minds, it's better to break the rules and get disqualified than it is to be knocked out or embarrassed.

The fact that Sapp's announced opponent for December is Frans Botha instead of Mike Tyson indicates one of three things: A) K-1 couldn't come to terms with Tyson to fight on the December 6 show, B) Tyson was willing to take the fight in December but K-1 wanted to stretch it out a while longer before putting Sapp in a position where he's likely to be knocked out by Tyson, or C) K-1 officials were trying to convince Tyson to do a worked fight of some kind and they couldn't come to terms on the particulars.

Regardless of why this particular fight is happening at this particular event, the fact is that we've got Sapp vs. Botha scheduled for K-1's December event unless K-1 changes its plans. So in the top mix of K-1 we have Sapp, Botha, Tyson (if he ever actually signs for a specific fight), Kimo (who still has multiple fights remaining on his K-1 contract), Shannon Briggs (who has signed a multi-fight K-1 contract), and Butterbean (who has been telling people that he has another big K-1 fight coming up).

The top of K-1 cards over the next year could very well consist of any possible combination of fights between Sapp, Botha, Tyson, Kimo, Briggs, Butterbean, and maybe a few more washed-up boxers if K-1 is able to sign any more of them. Most of the fights will be legitimate, while some of them will undoubtedly be worked. While that might be an interesting series of fights to watch from a freak show standpoint, it's certainly a huge step backwards in terms of establishing K-1 as a legitimate sport in America. Sadly, because the vast majority of the mainstream media isn't aware that "MMA" and "K-1" are two different things, K-1's semi-regular works and circus-like story lines will only serve to hurt MMA in the United States as well.

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