The art of trash talk

The art of trash talk


Almost as long as athletes have been prizefighting, they have attempted to wage battle on a second front by infiltrating their opponent's minds with a few well-chosen words. Back in 1910, in boxing's first "Fight of the Century," Jack Johnson beat Jim Jeffries so thoroughly that at some point of the match, in order to demoralize him, he began stopping during exchanges to shout out to ringside reporters what to print in the papers. 
Over a century later, mental warfare remains as much a part of combat sports as ever. For an opponent, the ability to create or exploit a sliver of doubt can be a game-changer, while to an audience, the type of audacious self-confidence exuded by fighters like Johnson is often either riveting or appalling. 

Either way, it's polarizing, and invested fans are what every promotion counts upon to fill arenas, build television ratings and sell expensive pay-per-views.

Look at the list of some of MMA's biggest events. Ortiz vs. Shamrock II, Liddell vs. Ortiz II, Lesnar vs. Mir, Evans vs. Jackson, Sonnen vs. Silva II, St-Pierre vs. Diaz. What do they have in common? A back story and an antagonistic relationship predicated on trash talk.
"I think the main thing is when it's personal, it makes it personal for the fans, too," UFC women's champion Ronda Rousey told FOX Sports. "When they pick sides and there's a group of friends watching the fight, and some friends pick one person, and some like the other one, and there's a big back story to the buildup, everyone is arguing for their fighter. When the fight itself happens, it's not just about the two fighters anymore; it's about who in the living room is right. A lot of times, the whole trash talking side of it is what brings it into your living room and makes it really personal for the people watching. If you're in a stadium and cheering, and the person next to you is booing, you're going to cheer even louder because you want to be louder than the booing person. So it escalates when there's disagreement, and that's what I go for. I don't just go for cheers. I go for noise and influence."

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Great article.




Tank Abbott, doing it right. Tito Ortiz, doing it wrong.