Fighting Indifference

Justice “The Monster” Smith is on his back, his hands protecting his face. Meanwhile, “Big” Shane Carwin is whaling on the 290-pound man, squatting on his chest, landing one ferocious punch after another. An animalistic force sweeps through the crowd. People jump to their feet, howling, blood lust fragrant in the evening air. Suddenly, the referee dives in to protect the Monster, and the fight is over, called after a mere 31 seconds. I can't help but reflect on this sad, sick spectacle of extreme fighting; the whole thing is so depressing, so very wrong. The Monster should've kicked Carwin's ass.

I had no idea I needed to be a part of mixed martial arts until the seventh fight of Saturday's “Extreme Wars: Bay Area Brawl,” when the Monster, who stands 6 feet 11 inches and has lats that resemble a wingspan, stepped coolly into the octagon cage. There was a hush, broken by a fan screaming, “Wow!” The earlier bouts had followed a standard formula: Fighters touched gloves, boxed a bit, then scrambled on the mat trying to secure submission holds, like a game of Twister gone to hell. It was pretty great, but the Smith-Carwin contest stirred something new in me. Call it fear.

That fierce bout achieved the promise of this fledging sport — at least for half a minute. Too bad hardly anyone witnessed it. The “Brawl” drew a painfully low attendance for the Oakland Arena, despite the night's charms: punishing heavy metal music, a man dressed as a gorilla, four nearly naked ring ladies (who acted like Hooters bikini contest winners, which they were), and the long-haired fight caller Jeff Weller, who, according to his Web site, is “one of the leading authorities on International Heavy Metal music from 1979-2004” (an excellent thing for him to admit). “I'm speechless,” he boomed to the crowd after Big Shane dispatched the Monster. He was the only one: The rest of us were going apeshit.

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