Dream 11 pulled in an impressive 12.7 rating last week. Perhaps the most interesting news is that the highest rated fight of the show was the Super Hulk fight between Hong Man Choi and Minowaman. Conventional wisdom for the past year or so has said that Choi is done and that his window of being a big draw had closed, but this rating says otherwise. Don’t be surprised to see him back in K-1 sooner than later.
Also interesting here is the face that the “freak show” fight outdrew any of the more traditional fights, including the much hyped Hansen v. Aoki title fight. In the past few years Japanese combat sports have seemed to move further away from the freak show fights that characterized much of the sport earlier this decade. Sengoku largely claimed its reputation to be a place with more serious combat; Dream allowed the pageantry, but at first kept away from the true freak show fights, while K-1 has firmly distanced themselves from the likes of Choi and Sapp. But for Dream, much of that changed with the Super Hulk tournament – an entire tournament built around the idea of freak show events. To see this fight outdraw the rest of the show can only be read as a sign that fans still care about these kind of fights, and still want to see them.
This should come as no surprise to fans who have been following the news online. Rumored or announced in the coming months are fights from Jean Claude Van Damme, DMX, American Gladiator Justice, plus Tank v. Butterbean and lots and lots of Bob Sapp. No matter how far MMA and combat sports move towards the “real sport” end of the spectrum, there will always be fans who look back fondly on the days of Keith Hackney v. Emmanuel Yarborough, and there will always be promotions willing to give those fans what they want.
This begs the obvious question – is this rating a bad thing? If it leads to more freak show fights, and it almost certainly will, does that diminish the sport, or is it all in good fun?