The UFC will tarnish its name forever if it goes ahead with the Justin Bieber vs. Tom Cruise farce

Getty ImagesJustin Bieber, Dana White, and Tom Cruise.
  • The Justin Bieber and Tom Cruise UFC fight rumour refuses to go away.
  • The UFC president Dana White even gave the bizarre bout his seal of approval when he said he had a mystery phone call about it.
  • He said he’d be “an idiot not to make this fight” and that the UFC was willing to hold talks to make it happen.
  • Bieber vs. Cruise in a charity format would be fun, if not weird. But the moment UFC slaps its name over it, its name would be tarnished forever.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen, as the fight game is riddled with sideshows, and this may well be the next circus in an already absurd industry.
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The UFC has thrown its weight behind the Justin Bieber vs. Tom Cruise spectacle, turning the whole thing into a farce that would only tarnish its acronym, name, and brand-value around the world.

It all started with a single tweet when the Grammy-award-winning singer Bieber said on June 10 that he wanted to fight Tom Cruise in a UFC Octagon, telling the Hollywood hard man he’d “never live it down” if he refused. Bieber even tagged UFC President Dana White in the post, asking if he was willing to organise the event.

The tweet has so far attracted 40,000 comments, 45,000 retweets, and 226,000 likes and has dominated news sites, helped, no doubt, by fight star Conor McGregor’s apparent interest in wanting to play a part.

Read more: An unbeaten boxer represented by Mark Wahlberg has issued an Instagram warning to Conor McGregor: ‘Don’t call out my manager’

Though Bieber backtracked a few days later, saying it was “just a random tweet,” it seemingly did not perturb White from pouncing on a potential business opportunity.

White told TMZ that he’d be “an idiot not to make this fight,” adding that he had a mystery phone call from people wanting to help make the fight, that Cruise himself wanted it, and that the UFC was willing to hold talks to make it happen.

Really, we shouldn’t be surprised, because combat sports history is littered with circus events.

Santos Martin, fairground boxing booth fighterPhoto by Charles Hewitt/Getty ImagesBoxing booth owner Alf Weston challenges locals to fight his boxer, Santos Martin.

Decades ago, “boxing booths” were commonplace because of the appeal in challenging a trained athlete and maybe even winning in front of your friends and family in your hometown. A booth fighter would travel throughout Britain with the fairground, accepting challenges from eager locals in front of flabbergasted crowds.

If a punter could last three rounds with the booth fighter, they’d win a prize. Step right up, if you dared.

Santos Martin was a fairground boxing booth fighterPhoto by Charles Hewitt/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesBoxing booth fighter Santos Martin pummels a poor punter.

Boxing booths are rare these days, but carnival-type fights still run rife.

This was perhaps never more apparent than when former circus strongman Primo Carnera, a lumbering giant who bystanders said stunk of garlic, won the world heavyweight boxing title thanks to the mafia in 1933.

He didn’t know at the time, but Canera was backed by the colorfully-named gangsters of his day, and they threatened or bribed his opponents so that they’d lose on purpose.

Even though the sport has moved on since Carnera, the fight game still loves really weird things, which helps explain the wildly popular fight YouTube rivals Logan Paul and KSI clumsily contested, looking every bit the competitive novices they were in a six-round draw in 2018.

Read more: Paulie Malignaggi, booed and cut multiple times, complains in the middle of the ring after losing to Artem Lobov in his bareknuckle debut

One year has passed since then, and the fight game wouldn’t be the fight game without throwing up another bizarre piece of matchmaking for our apparent viewing pleasure.

This time, it looks like it’s a pop sensation and a Hollywood legend’s turn – Bieber against Cruise. J-Beebs vs. Maverick. “Baby” in the blue corner and “The Last Samurai” in the red.

It would surely be a box office success should the pair throw their microphones and movie scripts down and pick up a pair of 4-ounce MMA gloves instead. The fight combines the music, movie, and sports industries, so there’s something for everyone who likes entertainment.

If this was in a charity format, aired on a major network, fine – great, even. But the moment the UFC slaps its name over it, with White going giddy at the thought, is the moment it becomes something else; a cash-grab aimed at manipulating the interests of pop fans, movie-goers, and even sports nuts.

The moment UFC gets involved is the moment this goes from what could have been a fun event, something that could act as a fundraiser for a global cause, into something bizarre that goes against the very letters in UFC’s own name – the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Read more: An illegal elbow, 2 knockdowns, and fighting after the bell: Mairis Briedis beats Krzysztof Glowacki in wild, controversial circumstances

There is nothing “ultimate fighter” about two celebrities more than 30 years apart who, as far as we know, don’t know their rear-naked chokes from their hammerfists.

It is one thing playing a tough guy in a move, but another thing entirely when having to do it for real, in front of an audience of millions, in a social media era that will be all too happy to gif your downfall. Likewise, Bieber may have been seen on filming throwing a few punches in Floyd Mayweather’s pads, but it is one thing walking a champion’s belts to the ring, and another having to actually competing in that arena.

The UFC should beware, because if it actually pushes for this bout, organizes it, and it proves to be the athletic dud that KSI and Logan Paul was, then it only serves to tarnish its own name.

Combat sports is riddled with sideshows, and considering White reckons Bieber and Cruise would become the best-selling event of all time, this may well be the next step in an already absurd industry.

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