Back in 2002 when reality television was still a relatively new concept, networks were experimenting and testing the boundaries of this new, immensely popular type of production. Following the cultural phenomenon called Survivor, each subsequent show that made the air was trashier, raunchier, or more absurd than the last. It was a race to the bottom, and America couldn’t get enough.
But while reality shows featuring strangers sharing a house or living on an island were interesting, programming based on washed-up celebrities desperately clinging to fame turned out to be the most fascinating TV of all. That’s when the network executives at Fox, kings of winning races to the bottom, came forth with an idea that would captivate the minds and imaginations of the viewing public; they would air boxing matches between former celebrities.
The matchups on that initial card resembled something closer to a Barnum and Baily Circus than a legitimate boxing card. Paula Jones, famed for her alleged affair with President Bill Clinton, would take on Tonya Harding, the controversial Olympic skater who was embroiled in scandal when her husband and a friend clubbed the knees of a rival skater on the United States team.
Todd Bridges, of Diff’rent Strokes fame, would battle early-90’s rapper Vanilla Ice. The third bout on the card included Danny Bonaduce, a steroid-riddled former child star from the Partridge Family, being unleashed upon Barry Williams, better known as Greg Brady. The hour-long network special was a hit and the second (and last) episode that aired brought the insanity to a whole new level.
This time Screech from Saved by the Bell pummeled a bewildered, old, and undersized Ron Palillo, who formerly played Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter. It was billed as a battle between classic television show nerds. Next on the card was William “The Refrigerator” Perry versus Manute Bol in a matchup that seemed to have been entirely based on how odd the two men looked standing across from each other.
The main event dove to depths of depravity that would probably get the producers arrested today. Joey Buttafuoco, who is most famous for cheating on his wife with a 17-year-old girl that eventually shot his spouse in the face, fought Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, a female former-professional wrestler. The card’s main event featured a much stouter man boxing a woman, and somehow this made it to air.
That second card seemed to cross the line in the public conscience, and the series was canceled shortly after that. The show should have been canceled, honestly. The matchups were ridiculous and often unfair, the combatants barely registered as “celebrities,” and the lack of boxing skill made for mostly sloppy fights in which both fighters would exhaust themselves early and then struggle to trudge through the remainder of the brawl.
And that’s why I am proposing that Celebrity MMA be established. But I don’t want washed up child stars humiliating themselves in exchange for one last paycheck. Rather than strictly serving as entertainment for the masses, I believe this new MMA organization should be used as an extreme form of arbitration between celebs.
What if Tupac and Notorious BIG were able to duke it out in the cage and get all their aggression towards each other worked out? It may have allowed us to avoid the shooting deaths of two of rap’s most legendary talents!
Why Celebrity MMA Over Boxing?
What we learned from Celebrity Boxing is that boxing matches between untrained or undertrained competitors quickly devolves into a sloppy, boring mess of a contest. I believe that the rules of boxing make it the wrong sport for amateurs to take part in. Boxing takes years of training to develop any technical proficiency. Without proper training, fighters can’t help but throw inefficient punches until they burn themselves out and gas.
MMA offers combatants many additional attacks that allow for more exciting fights, even between novice athletes. Also, while a celebrity may not want to expose themselves to the constant brain damage that even sparring in boxing provides, they can train in wrestling or jiu-jitsu. Grappling arts allow for athletes to train at full speed without fear of injury, which increases the rate of improvement in the trainee.
Instead of having two heavily padded competitors wheezing in front of each other while occasionally winging hapless punches, let’s let them punch, kick, and grapple each other on the ground. I believe that the increased weapons in MMA will allow for more excitement and a contest that feels more like an actual fight, which is perfect for the purposes of my Celebrity MMA conflict resolution promotion.
My Vision for Celebrity MMA
I don’t want my Celebrity MMA organization to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor. Those original events were designed to be a spectacle. One that tested our conscience as viewers and humiliated the competitors. It was a cheap thrill rather than a legitimate athletic event aimed at resolving celebrity conflict.
I’m picturing a promotion that markets itself as a serious answer to ending issues between famous foes before things escalate out of control. Rather than signing the types of personalities most commonly found on VH1 reality shows, we will aim at famous rappers and mainstream celebrities. They will be difficult to convince at first, but with the proper approach and some early success, everyone will jump on the bandwagon.
We could also offer friendly bouts in which the combatants participate in order to raise money for charity or raise awareness for issues. The stakes for any given match are only limited by our imaginations. Actors could face off over a part on a show or movie, comedians could brawl over stolen joke allegations, and athletes could battle over mutual love interests in a sanctioned environment, rather than crowded clubs.
Of course, the entertainment factor is crucial to the success of the business, but if the main priority is solving problems in a legal, safe manner, I believe it could be adopted as a feasible solution to famous people’s clashes. Why spend years trading passive-aggressive barbs in the media when you can just get in the cage and settle things for good?
Celebrity MMA Matches I’d Like to See
50 Cent vs. Ja Rule
50 Cent started taking shots at Ja Rule almost immediately upon gaining prominence. For nearly 20 years, the two rappers have been writing diss tracks about one another, insulting each other in interviews, and have even been rumored to have gotten in a street fight before.
Recently the beef reignited after 50 made a comment in an interview that enraged Ja Rule. Ja then turned to social media, where he began trashing 50 Cent publicly. It’s time to finally get these two in the cage and put an end to all this posturing.
I’ve got 50 Cent by TKO via ground and pound in the second round.
Katy Perry vs. Taylor Swift
In 2018, the premise of Taylor Swift squaring off with Kanye West seems inappropriate, so we are pairing her with rival pop star Katy Perry instead. Both women previously dated John Mayer, which may have caused some tension, and the two had a squabble over business beginning in 2012 as well.
Swift accused Perry of attempting to sabotage a tour by hiring away some of her staff members. She then wrote the song “Bad Blood” in 2014, which was apparently about Perry. Pop stars shouldn’t be recording diss tracks like 90’s rappers!
Katy Perry wins this fight in the first round with an armbar.
Joe Rogan vs. Wesley Snipes
This fight may seem out of place on this list, but I’ve included it because this bout almost actually happened. Snipes came under heat from the IRS and was desperately searching for ways to score a quick payday. He decided to put his martial arts to the test in the UFC, and Joe Rogan accepted the challenge.
The fight eventually fell apart, which is fortunate for Wesley Snipes. Joe Rogan is a highly decorated taekwondo practitioner, has fought in kickboxing bouts, and is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It sure would have been surreal to see Blade taking on the Fear Factor host though!
Joe Rogan wins this fight by rear naked choke within the first minute of the first round.
Kanye West vs. Jay-Z
Kanye and Jay-Z were close for years. Jay gave the troubled producer his opportunity when he signed him to Roc-A-Fella records, which the rapper ceased to become a monumental star in his own right. After years of assorted controversies and conflicts, Kanye turned his sites on his mentor in 2016 while on tour.
West spent a portion of his Sacramento concert for the Saint Pablo tour airing his grievances with his longtime friend. Jay-Z responded with some lines on his new album. These two men were brilliant together not long ago on the Watch the Throne album. There’s no time to waste with this petty squabbling. Just fight it out and then get over it!
Jay-Z wins this one by unanimous decision after keeping the fight standing and out striking his emotionally feeble opponent.
Sean Hannity vs. Chris Matthews
One is the voice of modern conservative politics on Fox News; the other preaches liberal talking points on MSNBC. Rather than spend another decade watching pundits on both sides stay in their little echo chambers while pushing their agendas and never attempting to find common ground or compromise, I’d rather they just fight. It probably won’t solve the political climate in this country, but watching both of these men get punched will be cathartic for us all.
I hate to say it, but Sean Hannity wins this one by TKO. Matthews just seems soft and weak, physically.
Justin Bieber vs. Justin Timberlake
These two celebrities don’t have any apparent conflicts that I’m aware of, but it makes for an enjoyable “passing of the torch” fight. Justin Timberlake laid out the game plan for surviving childhood pop success and transitioning into adult fame without melting down — a rare feat indeed. Bieber appears to be doing his best to emulate Timberlake and make the transition to celebrity adult now; let’s see if he has what it takes to upset the older song and dance man.
I’m giving this one to Bieber in a shocking upset via split decision!
Until Next Time…
It’s been over 15 years since Fox took their shot at making Celebrity Boxing a hit. They had the right idea, it was just executed horribly and booked irresponsibly. I believe that it’s officially been long enough since the disastrous second episode to give celebrity combat another try.
The first change that needs to be made is transitioning from boxing to MMA. Mixed martial arts is the more popular sport these days, and also provides a better rule set for novice fighters to still offer exciting bouts. Next, we must alter Fox’s original approach to marketing. We don’t want an absurd freak show contest; we are here to help solve celebrity conflicts!
Not only would it be a lucrative method of raising money for charity, but it may also help resolve animosities between stars before things get out of hand. It is my honest belief that had Tupac and Biggie faced off in a fair fight early on during the East Coast vs. West Coast conflict, a lot of bloodshed could have been avoided.
Celebrity culture in the United States is as obsessive and unhealthy as ever. With the help of social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, we see more of their lives and hear more of their opinions than ever. With this newfound accessibility comes conflict and drama as well. Let’s get creative with how we settle these disputes. Let’s get these influential personalities in the octagon!