So says Bartholomew, the politically powerful executive played with patrician gravity by the great John Houseman in the 1975 film Rollerball. Bartholomew’s company is one of several that have conspired to provide sanitized comfort for the masses, with the deadly sport of Rollerball providing an outlet for pent-up bloodlust and a valuable lesson against individuality.
The UFC has not yet fulfilled the prophecy of that dystopian film. For one thing, the mixed martial arts promotion prides itself on safety, while Rollerball considered athlete deaths part of the box score. But in making a deal with Reebok that strips the sport of individuality, the UFC has set forth a clear pecking order: corporations and the sport itself tied for first, athletes third.
The Reebok uniforms are the most visceral change. Like Rollerball’s uniforms, which have ugly “computer” fonts befitting the 1975 film director’s vision of 2018, the new UFC cage attire is vaguely futuristic and impersonal.
For the fighters who don’t get movie roles and magazine covers, the deal cuts out a major way to make more money and stand out from the crowd.
For this broad underclass, the bigger issue is the loss of revenue from the sponsors that used to clutter their shorts and the banners their corner personnel scrambled to unfurl when the cameras panned over for introductions. The UFC long ago rid its athletes of unsavory shorts sponsors such as Condom Depot and gun salesmen, but fighters were still able to make a few extra bucks selling space on their butts and banners.
Now, nothing on the fighters’ wardrobe will distract you from the Reebok and UFC logos. A few fighters have voiced their displeasure, but the deal is done.