From the Publisher: Why the first UFC might not have happened without Jim Brown
Three old school fans with different angles on the controversial NFL great
This is Old Kid Nate…We’ve been blogging our asses off over at the ad-supported Bloody Elbow all weekend and got good traffic on both the Taylor vs Cameron and Haney vs Loma boxing events. That’s a great sign for the site’s hopes for success as an independent enterprise. So thanks for clicking, if you clicked us this weekend.
One thing that didn’t get us any traffic this weekend was another in a series of lackluster “UFC In an Empty Warehouse” events. Ari Emanuel and Dana White’s approach to swirling their product into a big pile of indistinguishable gruel may be very profitable indeed (more on that coming this week from John Nash exclusive to the Bloody Elbow Substack newsletter.)
Bloody Elbow is a reader-supported publication. This newsletter hosts the special features BE is known for and also provide some insight into the workings of the site.
So I haven’t had time to commemorate the passing of an athletic great who provided unique color commentary for the first six UFC’s — and it turns out made it possible for the first UFC to take place at all.
Fortunately I’m tight with a couple of other old MMA heads who were there to watch it happen and they both agree to let me quote from their Substack newsletters on the subject. (I’m not just a gifted hack blogger, I’m also an efficiency expert.)
First up, Eugene S. Robinson’s “Look What You Made Me Do” which for my dollar ($7/month for paid subscribers actually) had the best answer to the various moral debates about Jim Brown:
Now I’m not saying he was a good man. But Jim Brown was a man who was wholly the man he was. A competitor nonpareil it should have been known that if you played golf with Brown and had the temerity to win? You were not even just risking an ass beating on the links, you were literally asking for one. And if you dated Brown the likelihood of finding yourself defenestrated? Also exceedingly high.
And finally the high point of Jim Brown being Jim Brown, the kind of emblematic shit that marked the man for all eternity for at least a man like me, was when in the middle of an interview with a then-60-something Brown a reporter had suggested that he was indeed that. That is, a 60-something man. Only to be interrupted by a non-scripted moment of Brown asking him, all smoldering menace: “do you think you can take me?” Effectively yanking away the mask of politesse to reveal exactly what the FIGHT book claimed most people were driven to conceal and that is, the naked face of raw politics.
And I was about to call Jonathan Snowden “Bloody Elbow’s most published author” but then I remembered Eugene has a new memoir coming out in August called “A Walk Across Dirty Water and Straight Into Murder’s Row” which brings it to a tie at four each.
Don’t miss Jonathan’s classic Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting which was how I came to look him up and begin a relationship that caused Bloody Elbow to really take off.
For my dollar…ok making the same joke twice but needed to tell you that Jonathan’s excellent Hybrid Shoot newsletter is currently free but is accepting pledges of support.
More germane to our topic, he also had some fascinating insight into the critical role that Jim Brown played on the early UFC broadcasts:
“Jim was maybe 60 and you tell by the way he walked in the room and the way he acted that he figured he could still take these guys,” former UFC President David Isaacs said. “He was Jim "Fuckin" Brown. When he spoke on the air I think it had that authenticity. This is a tough guy telling us this is a tough sport. And Jim told it like it was. You couldn't buy Jim Brown. You couldn't get him to say it unless he really thought it.”
Brown called the first six UFC events as a color commentator, confident, inquisitive and almost always the most famous man in the building. His status as an icon to a certain generation of men came in handy often, as the company began facing political pressure almost immediately.
“When we went to Denver and they wanted to shut us down, he went to play golf with the mayor and we were fine,” McLaren said. “It's Jim Brown. You're not going to shut Jim Brown down.”
The rest is behind the paywall because my thoughts on MMA are for subscribers only.