Slap Fighting Sport

OPINION: Dana White’s Power Slap League – A slap in the face to fighter safety?

Slap Fighting is undoubtedly one of the dumbest things to come from the Internet in recent memory, going toe-to-toe with the ice-bucket challenge and Tik Tok dances. It’s sole purpose is to put competitors at serious risk of injury, all while banning them from defending themselves.

With Dana White at the helm, the UFC president will be hoping his new venture proves fruitful. However, a highly controversial New Years Eve incident between him and his wife , as well as Conor McGregor’s recent cycling accident have made the last few weeks a testing time for the 53-year old.

With his new slap fighting organisation, appropriately named ‘Power Slap’, attracting unprecedented, and in my opinion, deserved levels of backlash, White might be wishing he’d never bothered in the first place.

There’s been much debate about the ethical nature of the sport, with many critics highlighting the potential health implications that come with receiving repeated slaps to the face. White was quick to counter these claims, arguing that that “the bottom line is, in a boxing match, guys get hit with 300 to 400 punches in a fight. These guys are going to get hit with three slaps”.

On paper, White appears to make a good point. While blows to the head of any degree will always carry an element of risk, the short and sharp nature of slap fighting contests do limit the damage being done. However, with just two events in the book, some pretty shocking stuff has already been witnessed. In my opinion, Dana is fighting fire with fire here. The ferocity of the slaps, plus the evolution of technique will only increase the level of damage inflicted onto opponents.

Neuroscientist and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation Chris Nowinski tweeted out this video expressing his dismay at the sport. You can decide for yourself who you trust more.

UFC veteran Eric Spicely also revealed on Twitter that Power Slap had approached him. It’s worth noting that Spicely, whose currently on a 4-fight losing streak, pulled out from his most recent UFC bout in 2020, citing head trauma as a cause for him being on antidepressants. His tweets also revealed the shockingly low pay offered to him by Dana White’s promotion. This is yet another example of how ridiculous this new venture is, with no regard shown for competitors, both young and old.

Putting aside the health implications for a minute, it’s worth considering why Dana is exploring this new trend. Slap fighting became something of an internet phenomenon last year, with many clips going viral online. Being the savvy businessman that he is, White has clearly identified the “sport” as a lucrative opportunity to take advantage of all the internet hype surrounding it. However, the New Year’s Eve altercation with his wife in which they themselves exchanged slaps has ensured that Power Slap has been nothing short of a PR disaster.

In response to the backlash, White has taken to Instagram to assure critics that he’s working to improve the safety of the sport. “The commission is working on it. Everyone is in a learning process right now. They have learned a lot since the March event and you will see that as the show goes on”. While it remains to be seen what measures are to be taken to improve safety, it’s hard to see what can truly be done to protect competitors. I personally can’t see much changing due to the simplicity of the sport.

As for the future, it appears likely that the Power Slap is here to stay. Recently signing a partnership with Monster Energy, the organisation are continuing to expand their roster as well as their online presence.

In my opinion, none of this will stand the test of time, with interest already dwindling between events. If the safety issues aren’t properly addressed, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if authorities slap a big fat ban on slap fighting all together. I think the majority agree.

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