Oi, Meryl Streep! Leave MMA out of it!

Rob Lyons

Topics Culture

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‘Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts… which are not the arts!’ So said Hollywood luvvie Meryl Streep in her Golden Globes acceptance speech last night. Streep is, of course, perfectly at liberty to take a swipe at Donald Trump, but by being so clueless about mixed martial arts (MMA), she has perhaps revealed more about why people voted for him.

MMA is about as international as you can get in sporting terms. It’s most high-profile promotion, UFC, has numerous foreigners in its ranks. The most famous UFC fighter of them all – potty-mouthed opponent troll Conor McGregor – hails from Dublin. (That’s in Ireland, Meryl.) One of McGregor’s vanquished opponents, Jose Aldo, is ranked fourth on the pound-for-pound list. He’s from Brazil, as is Amanda Nunes, the women’s bantamweight champion who recently pounded US golden girl Ronda Rousey into submission in a mere 48 seconds. Nunes isn’t even the top-ranked female fighter – that honour goes to Joanna Jedrzejczyk from Poland. Heck, there’s even a British fighter in the Top 10: Manchester’s Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping.

So, if there really were a cull of foreigners from the US, MMA would suffer as much, if not more, than Hollywood.

But Streep’s sharp distinction between her chums and fighting fans suggests something else: that people who like MMA are just the kind of ‘deplorables’ that got Trump elected. (It probably doesn’t help MMA’s cause in Streep’s eyes that Trump was an important backer of UFC in its early years, helping it to survive the smear that it is nothing but ‘human cock-fighting’.) It’s true that MMA is not ‘the arts’, but the skill and dedication of fighters is every bit a match for the sacrifices made by actors, writers and the rest who make it on to the big screen. Indeed, actors’ lives are no doubt easier in some ways. Fluff your lines on set, and you get a second chance. Fluff your lines in the Octagon – the eight-sided ring used by UFC – and you get counted out.

By her implicit distinction between worthy and unworthy pursuits, Streep seems to exemplify the snooty cultural establishment that threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton. But guess what, guys? You lost. Maybe this is a time for reflection, not for having a swipe at sports fans.

Rob Lyons is a spiked columnist.

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Topics Culture


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