All of my Rage, MTV Caged

Jake Cochran

In the past 20 years the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has had many things progress and digress the sport. In the early days the sport was proclaimed to be ‘Human cockfighting,’ by future presidential candidate John McCain. Then the sport went through a long reform process adding strict regulations and recently the FOX network decided to make it part of its regular programming.

With that giant step forward, MTV’s new series Caged is looking to set it back substantially. While I would be vastly exaggerating to say it is setting the sport back to the human cockfighting days, it is certainly not helping the growth of the sport as a mainstream.

The series depicts the fighters as uneducated people who have no other option in their lives other than to fight. They show some fighters training outside on blankets as their main place for training and they show the ‘serious’ fighters training at a gym called Karate Mafia.

The facility is very nice all the equipment is up to par, but one of the main plot points of the season is about how the most promising fighter on the show, Matt “Danger” Schnell has to take over the gym because the owner is going to jail, for a crime involving the death of another man. If that doesn’t set the sport back in the eyes of the public, I really don’t know what would.

The sport is already considered ultra-violent by many and by showing the dark crimes of one man in the sport, that is supposed to be seen as a mentor for many of the fighters on the show, really does not go over well.

During this time that Schnell takes over operations of the gym, he has his sister take over as a secretary of sorts to manage the new fighters that would come to the gym. In the normally welcoming time where a would-be trainee is told to sign a release form so that they cannot hold the gym liable for injury because if they don’t she will kill them!

Now that is usually not the normal way people are welcomed to a respectable gym, the glorified secretary also continues to show her, “take no shit” attitude by telling people they are not training hard enough and verbally berating them, from behind a desk…

Another point on the series that is shown with frequency is that the fighters are often out of shape or having trouble with cardio or motivation. If anyone has ever trained in any competitive capacity in the sport they would realize these fighters are very well conditioned athletes and usually have an unwavering sense of determination. After all there are much easier paths to take than competing as a professional fighter.

They also show one of the fighters complaining about how he needs to cut 12 pounds for Friday, drinking beer on Wednesday and ‘breaking down film’ on his opponent. The fighter then claims that he switched to light beer to cut weight, and a day later the same fighter is seen sitting in a car, with the heat on, in the Louisiana sun, in a sauna suit crying that it is so hot…

The last time I cut weight for a competition, I do not remember that being a part of my routine, usually a fighter doesn’t make that the first way they try to cut weight. I’ve seemed to have found an unheard of success with the long lost art of running to cut weight, that might just be me though. I also don’t remember sweating to ever hurt enough to make anyone cry, especially when it is the first few pounds on the cut.

There is a phrase that people in the MMA community to describe people that are have a rudimentary understanding of the sport but want to show off their macho persona for whatever reason. That phrase is, “they train UFC.” The phrase is basically the equivalent of telling someone when you play football that you practice NFL. It makes them look stupid and shows the level of understanding they have for the sport that they believe the sport is called UFC.

But who is really to blame for this, is it the fighters for being shown in these unprofessional moments? I don’t really think so; I think this is more a product of editing. If you were to show a day-by-day account of what actually goes on in a training camp you would be left with a boring television show. Training for a fight isn’t the most action packed endeavor, sometimes people get hurt and sometimes people have hard weight cuts, but really it’s not that dramatic.

Well, maybe MTV isn’t all bad, after all last year they signed a contract that lets them air a prominent fighting organization, Bellator, on MTV 2, bringing MMA closer to the mainstream, giving these fighters more exposure. Maybe this makes up for all the unprofessionalism on MTV Caged…

The clear answer is no, no it does not at all. Anyone who wants to see the sport brought further into the mainstream and see it discussed on major platforms as more than just a random time filler about random tough guy thugs should not support MTV’s Caged. The show just depicts the fighters and animalistic and not as what many fighters are, and that is hardworking high-level athletes.