Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Fighters or Superstars? “The Ego has Landed.” Fame and Fortune Some fighters choose to become megastars. Others do not; why?

The picture with Sakuraba and me in his dojo in Tokyo, Japan, is epic for me. Sakuraba must have been the most famous fighter in MMA at one point. They give him the name “Gracie Hunter” because he beat Royler Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Ryan Gracie, and Royce Gracie. Kryptonite is what Sakuraba was for the Gracie family. 

Sakuraba, the Japanese Mega Star

The Japanese megastar Sakuraba did not speak English, but boy, he sure was a character in Japan, and it was hard not to like him. He should have had a beer sponsor for life (insiders know what I mean), and he was a TV celebrity. The number of commercials and promotional activities he did was impressive, and so were his comical talents! He was one of the fighters that contributed to making Pride FC a household name in Japan. 

Even later, when he ended up in the hospital a few times, he never wanted to give up and often only fought much heavier opponents. He smiled and joked from his hospital bed. They even made a theme showing Sakuraba with bandages everywhere on his way to training and the ring being old and having injuries but still full of fighting spirit.

The announcement from Dana White to put Sakuraba in the hall of fame did not come as a surprise. If any fighter deserves to be in the UFC hall of fame, it is Sakuraba! This is where many superstars find a place in the UFC hall of fame.

So, what does make some fighters reach the status of superstars?

Becoming a champion takes talent, super hard work, dedication, discipline, intense daily training routine, a healthy diet, mental health care, and many rounds in the gym! Then there are the ingredients of having the correct management, trainers, sparring partners, choosing the opponents, and timing! Superstars also need to become great actors and know how to work with the media.

Bob Sapp and Bas Boon

Bob Sapp made his career out of two fights, both against Ernesto Hoost, both fights he won, and the timing was right. K-1, they thought they had a mega American star, but lots had to do with the health of Ernesto Hoost, who was maybe 50% of what he was entering the fight, not to mention an illegal blow in the back of the head.

So, when Bob Sapp faced Mirko Cro Cop, Remy Bonjasky, and Ray Sefo, he lost and was DQ (illegal punch to the ground when Remy was down). By now, K-1 realized Bob Sapp would never be the K-1 GP champion, partly that was the “managements” fault (which he did not have, signed off to K-1).

The two biggest losers had the highest Tv ratings.

Bob Sapp was not the champion everybody thought he would be, but he was a great actor. His heavy, loud laughing and crazy faces he pulled made him the best-paid fighter in Tv commercials in Japan. Participation in talk shows is a daily routine. There is not much time for training or focus on the next fight.

But he was a rating canon for Fuji TV, and so was Akebono, the Sumo wrestler from Japan who started a K-1 and MMA career. He almost lost all of his fights. But he gets the best ratings every time his arguments are on Tv.

Hong Men Choi Korean Mega Star

Hong Men Choi from Korea was the next Korean fighter. He is exceptionally tall and heavy. The promoters work with Hong Men Choi to make him a superstar in Japan and Korea. Unfortunately, this dream comes to an end. When they book Hong Men Choi vs. fight Brock Lesnar (US Dynamite show), the athletic commission cancels the fight. No payday for both superstars and a headache for the promoter. They found some abnormal growth deficiency in Hong Men Choi’s brain, and he did not get permission to fight!

Bas Boon and Hong Men Choi

Muhammed Ali was the first example of a real fighter with a huge big mouth, “I am the Greatest, “and then proved it to the world. He decided not to fight in the Vietnam war because he did not want to kill other human beings. He did not know that was one of the reasons Cassius Clay (later changed his name to Muhammed Ali) was loved by everybody. I remember I would wake up living in the Netherlands as a kid to see the live broadcasting of Ali fighting at 3 Am Dutch time. 

With a small black and white TV with 12 channels, my whole family would be awake and sit on the TV and comment on the fight.

Mike Tyson a household name.

Mike Tyson, the boxer who became a worldwide household name. His impressive way of knocking out mostly much bigger opponents was loved and respected by the fans. His life story of making millions and losing all of it, prison and his love for pigeons, and finally making a stand-up comedy show is extraordinary. How can this fighter not be attractive to any other human being?

Superstars like Chris Eubanks would enter the ring with the ” Simply the Best” song by Tina Turner. And then do his famous, recognizable thing before entering the ring. He would stand there on the edge of the ring with his chest raised in the air toughing both gloves, looking around, and the fans loved it, ego on display.

“The Ego Has Landed”

Badr Hari never became a K-1 Gp championship winner (finalist, he came close), but his bad-boy image and constant media press attention made him one of the best-paid kickboxers. Among other celebrities, his relationship with Estelle Cruyff (niece of the famous soccer player Johan Cruyff) was in the daily news in Holland and elsewhere.

Badr Hari’s emotional problems.

Badr’s emotional outbursts after losing a fight and personal life challenges were epic. And the people loved it. It made him relatable and obnoxiously amusing. In Japan, he became very famous! You would say people would distance themselves from that behavior, but the TV and fans loved it. Because of his behavior and popularity, they reward Badr Hari with a sponsorship deal from KIA cars. I can only say, well done, well played, well deserved!

Conor Mc Gregor a proud Irish fighter with a big ego.

Conor Mc Gregor is Irish, and he is proud of it, and so he should be. His big mouth is not just trash talk. He also delivers. Mc Gregor became a champion in two weight categories in the UFC and made huge bets on his performances, even challenging Dana White. Mc Gregor’s fame is well managed as his co-promotion fight with Mayweather goes in the history books as the fight of half a billion $.

The latest incident was Mc Gregor throwing a barstool at a bus with his future opponent, fighter Khabib Magomedov! The UFC and other media outlets will play this clip a thousand times before the fight takes place in October. Anything for promoting fighters, especially if they bring in millions of PPV buys.

A classic example of promoting your brand at any opportunity, Mayweather here with his “The Money Team” outfit with Nieky Holzken (picture taken after Nieky won the Glory Tournament) in Tokyo Japan

Mayweather, another character with a huge ego, is the undefeated world champion in boxing, making his image all about money. His trademarked company TMT “The Money Team,” became a reality! Put two of these huge names and “loudmouths” together (Mc Gregor and Mayweather), and you get millions of spectators willing to pay big bucks to see the fight to see these superstars! Happy sponsors, excellent TV ratings, happy fighters, possible rematches, and many controversies!


Mickey Rourke, a movie star, goes professional in boxing.


In some rare cases, actual movie stars take a U-turn and start a professional fight career. One of the few people who did this is the star of the movie 9 1/2 weeks, Mickey Rourke. I recommend everybody to see the movie the wrestler.

Movie Superstars who fight for real.

His performance is fantastic in this movie. Rourke is a character whose controversial political views have stopped his career for a few years. His love for President Putin (who wore a t-shirt of Putin in 2014) is well known, and his support for Joe Doherty, an IRA member, seeking asylum in the US. Mickey Rourke gave 1.5 million of his earnings he donated to support the asylum case of Joe Doherty.

Fighter Mc Gregor also can be seen recently with President Putin (lots of egos, haha), and these pictures became worldwide front-page news. Exciting the fighter’s image, good or bad, they are in the information, and people talk about it!

Incredible fighters but not world-famous and not extremely rich!

Then there are fighters like Felix Savon, the heavyweight amateur boxing champion from Cuba who won three Gold medals at the Olympics and won 6 world championships. Promoters offered him many millions to fight Mike Tyson, but he refused.

At the age of only 33 years, old Savon retired. Sometime later, he had a song, “You Loves the US,” which was dedicated to him by the first rock band to play in Cuba, “Maniac Street Preachers,” in witness of Fidel Castro. Savon helped train Boxers from Cuba for the 2004 Athens Olympics. He kept declining millions of dollars to become a pro.

Aleksander “The Experiment” Karelin

The Russian wonder wrestler (his father was a truck driver and Amateur Boxer) won gold at the Olympics in 1988, 1992, and 1996. His record is 887 wins with two defeats. Yet he only had one professional MMA fight. On 21 February 1999, Karelin fought against Maeda in Japan in Maeda’s fight organization named “rings” (Randy Couture lost to Valentine Overeem, the same organization “Rings”).

Although Karelin won the fight, he never went back to professional fighting. Putin invited Karelin for a position in politics, which was the end of his professional fight career. Ivan Karelin is the son of Aleksander and was born in 1994. He is now competing in the Greco-Roman heavyweight division, and it wonders me why any MMA organizations did not contact him.

Maybe an idea to make a hall of fame with fighter superstars who chose to stay amateur?

Trashing Talking yourself into the big bucks.

I imagine if these “attributes” of talking trash, being in the press 24/7, relationship scandals, political “outrage” preferences, challenges, etc., could be orchestrated and implemented at will to further a fighter’s career like movie stars do.

I can see Golden Glory fighters Semmy Schilt, Nieky Holzken, and Robin van Roosmalen with these personality attributes and scenarios in their personal life. Their careers would look different (from a financial point of view). Then again, charm and something very admirable in people’s character just to be themselves and decide how they feel the best way to present themselves.

Behavior and lifestyle choices.

It is how to prepare for a fight and behave inside and outside the ring regardless if it brings them millions more dollars and fame! Exceptions to the rule are fighters like Ramon Dekkers, who did not need any of the above to become a legendary global fighter. His hobby was fishing like Mike Tyson like his pigeons, both met each other in the Cage in England, and there was something magic!

Quote Bas Boon: When your ego becomes a way of life, the reality cuts like a knife. When your ego makes you lie, your creativity is dying. Pointing the finger at someone else to blame is the ego’s top performance and short happy life of fortune and fame.

“My opponent is my teacher. My ego is my enemy” Renzo Gracie

Golden Glory owner Bas Boon, GSI, bought its Showtime.


(C) Bas Boon www.basboon.com

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