As both a Marine and fan of mixed martial arts, however, it is difficult to accept the notion that the any major promotion is closely in line with my Marine Corps values. Marine ethos instills a strong belief and dedication to honor, courage and commitment. Again, these values seem common amongst mixed martial artists who actually compete. The promoters, however, in growing their business and attempting to garner mass public exposure, often depart dramatically from these key values that are a way of life for Marines. In order to attract the desired publicity in the press, promotions are often led by polarizing and controversial figures. More concerning for the
One of the things I value most is the consistency of the Marine Corps, and the confidence instilled by the knowledge that my superiors in the Corps are held to the exact same standard of behavior that I am. Consistency and the belief in leadership by example and shared common experience are central to the experience of
While I might not always agree with their decisions, I respect them. Private enterprise, and particularly in the promotion of prize fights simply does not share the same values—nor should it. Money is the motivating factor—not honor, courage, and commitment. In the sport of mixed martial arts, with great frequency the decision makers are people who have never put on a glove and never stepped into a ring. Without personally experiencing the “warrior ethos” displayed by the athletes, promotion of events may miss critical elements.
Promotion of the sport using gimmick and divisiveness may have negative long term consequences on the growth and acceptance of the sport. The experience of both the WWE and boxing promoters may be instructive. Don King and Vince McMahon, while achieving high levels of success in the promotion of their respective businesses, played a role in creating a negative image for professional wrestling and boxing. In the quest to garner attention, increase PPV buys and gate receipts, there is no discernible line promoters will adhere to in the quest for short term profit. As a United States Marine, I believe closely establishing the brand and values of the United States Marine Corps with these private enterprises, as opposed to the athletes themselves, could have negative repercussions.
Affiliation with the athletes directly, who actually embody the “warrior ethos” and represent the sport almost uniformly in a respectful manner carries less risk and more closely attaches the Marine Corps values with the great sport of mixed martial arts. Further, world class athletes competing in a number of promotions would be connected with the Marine Corps, with an affiliation with the athletes directly. Finally, longevity in the relationship between the Marine Corps and the sport of mixed martial arts will not be placed at risk by the actions of single promoters or other non-athletes.
From a recruiting standpoint, the Marine Corps sees the affiliation with mixed martial arts as a great opportunity to formally tap into a new market of aggressive, 18 to 24 year-olds that are physically fit and willing to push themselves to the limit. As a Marine, how could I not be excited about the potential of these new recruits? But do these short term gains out weigh the potential for tarnishing the Corps image? Can a promotion ever truly represent the fighting community better than the fighters themselves? In terms of honor, courage and commitment, I believe the answer to this question is no.
Jason P. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Whitman College and a Master’s of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University. Mr. Smith participated in both track and rugby while at Whitman, and was an award winning member of their national debate team. Upon graduation from college, Mr. Smith became a Marine Corps officer. Throughout his fourteen years of service (both active duty and reserves) Mr. Smith has prepared his Marines for combat and participated in both Operation Enduring Freedom as a provisional rifle platoon commander in Pakistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom as a convoy commander in the Anbar Province. Mr. Smith currently holds the rank of Major in the United States Marine Corps.