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Saturday, December 13, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts--- Browning & Kaplan Each Planned TUF Antics Ahead of Time; Kaplan Wants Fight of the Night Bonus Just as Much as a Win
by Ivan Trembow

According to three different Ultimate Fighter 8 contestants quoted by the Canadian Press' Neil Davidson, Junie Browning admitted to those contestants at various times that he planned his antics on TUF 8 ahead of time in order to make a big name for himself.

Among the quotes are this one from light heavyweight contestant Krzysztof Soszynski:

"To be honest with you, he did everything for show. It was a whole joke to him. Basically he told me the very first day we met - and before our fights to get into the house - he basically said 'If I get into this house, I'm going to be the crazy guy. I'm going to get out of hand, I'm going to get out of control, I'm going to pull whatever I can just to get ratings, to become the character that I want to become.' He said he was going to become the worst Chris Leben ever."

And this one from light heavyweight contestant Ryan Bader:

"I saw him a couple of weeks ago at UFC 91. He told me 'Bader, that's not really me,' this and that, but he still has that in him obviously for him to do that kind of stuff. He has some problems as far as that. But I think a couple of things he was hamming it up for the cameras, knowing he was going into that bad guy mold already, that he might as well go full steam ahead and definitely be talked about."

And this one from lightweight contestant Efrain Escudero:

"Escudero said Browning confessed one on one: "'I'm sorry guys, I don't usually do this but I just want to be on TV.'"

So, Browning did all of that to make a name for himself, and guess what? It worked. The UFC rewarded him for his behavior.

Instead of nipping Browning’s behavior in the bud by kicking him off the show the first time he did something that warranted being kicked off (or the second time), they built the whole season around him, they didn’t kick him off the show (and thus out of the UFC) even after five separate offenses that individually warranted being kicked off, and they gave him the one and only main card fight on the live finale that involves TUF 8 contestants who were not tournament finalists.

Can you imagine what the behavior of the contestants will be on future TUF seasons now that they have seen someone do five different things that warrant being kicked off the show and still not be kicked off?

Actually, I’m sure that the UFC, Spike TV, and the show’s producers can imagine what kind of behavior that message is going to further encourage, and they probably view that as a good thing: Even more hijinks to come on future seasons!

Dave Kaplan is another fighter who "made a name for himself" with his drunken antics, and of all the lightweight fighters from the show who did not make the tournament finals, he just happened to be the one that the UFC chose to fight Browning in the only main card fight that does not involve tournament finalists.

Based on this interview on USA Today’s web site, it looks like Kaplan planned the same kind of thing as Browning, and he was rewarded for it just like Browning. Kaplan said:

“I think I did a good job. There was definitely some things that I may have changed and there’s something that I might wish I might’ve done a little bit more of. But as far as, with letting Tom punch me in the face, that went 100% the way that we wanted to. … It’s one of the main events of the show, if they do a top 25 best moments of all the shows, that one gets part of it, so I’m happy with that. I feel like I was definitely one of the memorable people. Junie obviously, was one, if not the most memorable. But other than him, I mean, I get recognized everywhere I go. there’s a lot of guys, guys fighting in the finals now that didn’t make that much of an impression, as far as in the house and stuff like that. I felt like I did exactly what I wanted to do. I’m fighting on TV on Saturday just like they are, so obviously I did.”

In the same interview, Kaplan displays a Marcus Davis/Chris Lytle kind of attitude that the most important thing is not to do your best and win quickly and decisively if possible, but to go out there and have an epic back-and-forth fight so that you can get the UFC's Fight of the Night bonus:

“I don’t care about the winning or losing as far as, that’s not my main goal. I want this fight to be talked about more than the finals are talked about and I think that it has the possibility because of both of our styles of being that kind of battle… there’s a part of me that wants it to go 15 minutes. Because I want that Fight of the Night, and I want that battle, and the back-and-forth, both of us putting it on the line and punching. If I bleed that’d be awesome; if he bleeds, that’d be awesome. That’s what I want. I want the Fight of the Night; I want that extra 30, 40 grand that you get for that, and if you beat somebody quick, you’re not going to necessarily get that.”

Additionally, Browning's coach on The Ultimate Fighter, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, has come out strongly against the UFC's decision to reward Browning with a main card fight on the live finale:

"Putting him on the main card, it does reward his behavior. It shows people that if you act like a moron or idiot, you'll get face time. That equals money, so it's creating a shortcut, and they don't have to invest as much time into fighting... I realize that Spike has to sell TV time, and I understand that's part of the whole game, but as far as me as a martial artist I find it an insult."

Of course, it doesn't have to be that way. It's not a black-and-white choice between Trash TV and no show at all. Luke Thomas of BloodyElbow.com put it very well when he wrote:

"I disagree with Mir that there is an inevitability to it all. There is an enormous universe of interesting content between watching fighters train and watching them ingest one another's bodily fluids. It's nothing more than a poverty of imagination and reliance on the lowest common denominator that prevents Spike's producers from delivering that sort of content. Hopefully some of the pushback from this season will scale back the boorish nonsense we were subjected to this time around."

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