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Heel VS. Face – BJ Penn VS. GSP

I’ve decided to write about another one of my loves today due to a conversation that I had with my good friend John Pearson. I have to give him partial credit for this article, as a lot of the points mentioned below were mentioned while discussing the upcoming UFC fights with him.

Wrestling has been a huge part of my life since I was a child, but back in 1999, I was introduced to the world of mixed martial arts, but more specifically, the UFC.

I was always a martial arts fan, but I became an instant fan watching this incredible event take place, with a focus on style versus style, no weight classes, no rules (besides no biting, fish hooking or eye gouging), and at the time, no judges, all in a round-robin elimination tournament. The pay-per-views aimed to show which style was the most dominant, with little focus on promotion and media coverage leading up to the event.

Now move forward ten years. MMA is everywhere. Besides the UFC, several other promotions have come into existence, or into the limelight. Sideshows, showcasing the talent, their training regimens and diets, their clothing, their sponsors, as well as their personal lives bombard our television sets almost weekly, and actual UFC pay-per-views are available on a pretty much monthly basis at this point in time. MMA has become a multi-million dollar industry, and the marketing behind upcoming events is a business in itself.

One of the most anticipated, and talked about fights for the upcoming UFC 94 card on January 31st will be my future ex-husband Georges St. Pierre, versus BJ Penn for the second time. In their initial meeting in 2006, St. Pierre won by decision, and BJ is now hell bent on avenging that loss. The promotion and marketing for this fight has been insane, as the UFC marketing team has created a classic heel vs. face marketing ploy in order to draw viewers in, and they are doing an incredible job at it.

The three-part UFC Primetime series, showcasing GSP and Penn is a clear example of this. Unlike wrestling, where the storylines are (more or less) manufactured, the GSP / Penn hype is genuine.

St. Pierre takes on the role of the babyface in this series, something that comes naturally to him. He is a clear attraction for casual fans, and is the perfect ambassador for the sport of MMA. He demonstrates the “rags to riches” storyline to a “t.” Primetime depicts this by showing his strong work ethic when he was employed as a garbage man in Montreal; working crazy hours in order to make ends meet, and fund his martial arts training. The fact that he did not come from privilege only adds to his “face” persona.

GSP has always been a true sportsman, and many look up to him as a class act, and the perfect poster boy for the sport. He is clean cut, trains like a madman in the cold streets of Montreal, and conducts himself in a professional manner. He never does drugs, nor drinks while he trains, and takes every moment leading up to a fight very seriously.

In the octagon, St. Pierre is beautiful to watch, and I’m not just talking about his beautiful gymnast-like physique, which is clearly a bonus! The fluidity and precision in his movements make him almost superhero-like in stature. His passion in accepting praise and wins, as well as his grace in accepting defeat make him easy to root for.

Then there’s the portrayal of BJ Penn. Penn is the rich guy, born into a life of privilege, while growing up in a tropical paradise. Fighting is something that came naturally to him, hence his nickname “The Prodigy.” But nowadays, BJ is angry and bitter from his last meeting with GSP. He trash talks GSP, says he is going to “kill” him, and that St. Pierre “is a quitter.” He trains on the beach, in the sun, drives around the island and waves to all his admirers while doing so.

A segment of the series shows St. Pierre training vigorously in the cold streets of Montreal, while Penn takes a mini-vacation in the hot Hawaiian sun, and relaxes with family. BJ Penn’s heel persona is further enhanced when he purposely ignores Dana White’s calls, and has his brother blatantly lie to the owner of the UFC about his training practices. This automatically brings Penn’s work ethic into question, and makes it appear that he is cocky, arrogant, and completely underestimates the abilities of his opponent by relying on natural talent, as opposed to St. Pierre who takes that natural talent and strives to make it better.

As with all reality television, one must remember that many segments had to be manufactured, however, no one can deny that this fight is going to be one of epic proportions. It is a “make it or break it” moment in both these fighters’ lives. St. Pierre has the opportunity to show that he is on his way to becoming the Wayne Gretzky of MMA. BJ Penn has the chance to avenge his loss, and hold two belts in two different weight categories; something that has yet to be done in the history of the UFC.

I’m completely pumped for this fight, and wouldn’t miss it for the world. I think you’ve guessed by now that I will be rooting for GSP. I hope to be impressed with his per-for-mance.

4 comments: on "Heel VS. Face – BJ Penn VS. GSP"

Anonymous said...

Danyah's really hot.

Tha Stepdaddy said...

Great article. I'm gonna have to bring you in with me during interviews to talk me up. I wanna have sex with GSP now!

I watched the weigh in earlier today and am excited about seeing this fight. I dont like Penn. Its not because of his lifestyle (which I would give my third nut for) but because he's a natural dick. Like Phil Bologna (cant remember how to spell his actual last name right now). Hopefully this doesnt go to the judges and GSP knocks his ass out cold. Or better yet, make him tap.

Good job, Danyah.

Anonymous said...

HAHAH ya make him tap!!! THATis SO OO WORSE!

Robbies St. Nekoda said...

GSP is the guy that turned me from thinking, "MMA? It's alright I guess, kinda boring though", into, "WOW! This is great!" Penn, meanwhile, is someone whom I've always thought was a dick, but a fucking good fighter. I hate to say it, but I think this fight's gonna be very close. But come on, GSP! We're counting on ya.