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Bob Sapp Denies Throwing Fights, Calls Himself 'a Pioneer' of MMA

Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

Bob Sapp knows what you think of him. He reads the headlines about his "tour of surrender." He hears the talk about how disgraceful he is to the sport.

Really, all that's fine, because as long as you're talking about him, he can continue to do what he needs to do -- which happens to be losing 12 of his 13 MMA and kickboxing fights since 2011, almost all of which ended in the first round through varying levels of absurdity. But despite the circus that now surrounds Sapp, just don't ever say he throws his fights.

"Am I throwing these fights? No. Will I go into that ring and receive large amounts of damage for small paychecks? No," Sapp asserted vehemently on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.

"I will receive no damage to my body that will be long-lasting for a small, insignificant amount of cash. I think we've now seen that with examples in the NFL, and the fact that some of these guys are coming back and saying ‘hey, we want some money, we have brain damage.' I'm getting paid well underneath what a professional boxer would, or Manny Pacquiao. So in no means ever will I sustain long-lasting damage for a small paycheck. Never will that happen."

Obviously, it wasn't always like this. There was a time, however far off it may seem now, that Sapp was a generally respected fighter. Before the losing streaks and the turtling up, "The Beast" announced his arrival by brutalizing legendary K-1 champion Ernesto Hoost not once, but twice, and nearly doing the same to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

According to Sapp, nothing has changed since then. Nothing, of course, except the stage on which he plies his trade.

"When it came to K-1, at the time, when K-1 was doing well, they did pay significantly enough to have you go into that ring and, hey, any kind of injury you get, they're going to pay," Sapp said. "Let me give you an example. Mirko Cro Cop, he cracked my eye socket. Mirko Cro Cop, he received his paycheck. I received my paycheck. They also paid for my entire hospital bill. These small organizations that you see that look so wonderful, they pay none of your bills if you get hurt. Period. Period. Period. If you would like to get hurt for small amounts of money, we call that the military."

Now the big shows no longer come calling, and Sapp has become a metaphorical mercenary to be bought for the highest bidder. Need a proven name to slap on the banner or give your top prospect a notch on his résumé? For anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000, "The Beast" is at your services.

It may boil the blood of MMA fans, but Sapp seems to have uncovered a loophole in the system. His new niche has seen him travel the world over, from Solvenia to Kazakhstan, all the while expanding his brand and preaching the book of the "The Beast." If losing helps grease the wheels, then so be it.

"I am No. 1 in every media category," Sapp declared. "No. 1 in the entertainment. No. 1 for the views, for the fights, for that organization. I'm No. 1, and I have a losing record. So if I was to even come in on a winning record, obviously these small organizations, the last thing they would be able to do is afford my services. And on top of it, what am I going to do? Be No. 1 (in fighting) and No. 1 (in entertainment)? Okay, if I am, they're no longer going to be able to afford me, so I've just won myself out of a job. Congratulations Bob."

The audaciousness of Sapp's philosophy has led an army of detractors to cry foul about how "The Beast" is tarnishing the sport, one regional show at a time. But the 37-year-old former offensive lineman doesn't concern himself with any of that noise, and really, the way he sees it, the public only has themselves to blame.

"Let's talk about a sport," Sapp rationalized. "An outside governing body, rules, regulations, and statistics. That's far from what (MMA) has. Now when you say, ‘Hey Bob, it's developing and it's crawling.' You're absolutely (right). I am a pioneer of this sport. I currently hold every record for this MMA. That is correct? I have more commercials, more movies, more endorsements, and more viewerships than anyone has.

"You blame yourself. You go over there, you get the tickets. You go over to Kazakhstan, and you sit in that seat, and you go in that arena, and you bring your people all across the world, and you sit them in that stadium, and you say, I will enjoy (this)."

If you're wondering if this transition from fighter to sideshow happened overnight, Sapp won't entertain the notion. For him, it's about something bigger. It's about a perceived injustice in the promotional system, and the fact that athletes can spend their whole lives entertaining us, and still be abandoned with nothing but a closet full of accolades as soon as the party is over.

"Are you asking me, hey Bob, when did you come to the epiphany that Gary Goodridge has brain damage, and no one is paying for that?" Sapp mused. "Hey Bob, are you talking to me about the fact that a lot of these K-1 fighters went unpaid, and now all of a sudden you want to say that, you've got to be here collecting your paycheck? When did I have that epiphany? Well I will tell you. It was when the bill collector came and I said, ‘Well hey, I'm Bob Sapp. Look at my YouTube videos. Look at these people reporting on me, and here, will this work? Can I take that belt, can I take those trophies and melt them down?' Hey, you say go for the gold, are they gold? No. Those things are worth about a dollar.

"So you're asking me, hey Bob, go ahead and put it on the line. You said it yourself, you have UFC fighters who are fighting more, and who are doing harder fights, and are getting less money. So you know what? I guess you better rally up your troops my brother, and you better start paying them. Because I do the same thing as everyone else, just as a promoter. They say fight business, and I am in the business of making money. How do I judge whether I have a successful fight? Success is judged by the measure of improvement. The measure of improvement in business is money."

And just like that, the farces are excused and the world tour rolls on. Perhaps Sapp's justification rings hollow to you, but truthfully, it doesn't really matter. He already has two more fights lined-up for June, one in Kazakhstan and one in South Korea. From there more will come, as promoters continue to book the marketing behemoth in the hopes of getting their show a brief mention on a national website.

Maybe, eventually, people will people wise up and grow sick of Sapp's gimmick. But until then, the song will continue to remain the same.

"What I have to do for this (next) fight? I have to know, you may see the light, but guess what? When they hit you, you may see some darkness. So I've got to learn. Like what you said, I've got to turtle up. This time, I've got to actually have my turtle shell defend me, because if I was able to actually turtle up, that defense, things would bounce right off that shell."

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