“They look like they’re gonna kiss,” one of my friends whispers. It’s Saturday night and we’re sitting in Monty’s, Victoria’s sleaziest strip bar. EJ’s not talking about the peelers though — tonight there are no girls in sight.
It’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) night and she’s talking about the fighters getting ready to square off on screen.
The two Light Heavyweights stand face-to-face while the referee recites the rules. Their lips are mere centimeters apart. Supposedly they’re trying to stare each other down, but EJ is right: it looks like foreplay to a smooching session.
“Obey my commands at all times,” referee Big John McCarthy says, as the fighters’ faces drift closer still. “Touch gloves, go back to your corners —”
“Make out!” I holler.
Two muscular studs sitting at the next table turn and glare at me. Like most of the guys in the bar tonight, their biceps are straining against their too-tight shirts like anacondas struggling to shed their skins. Whoops! Almost forgot: never let the macho men know how homo they are.
As the fight starts, the tough guys turn their attention back to the TV. They pound the table with their fists, grunting encouragement. I’ll be they wish they were fighters too.
They probably roll around shirtless in their living rooms, pretending to be ultimate fighters Matt Hughes or Randy Couture, while they experiment with “ground and pound” techniques. Kinky.
If only they knew what faggy fantasies their macho masculinity inspires.
I come to Monty’s every month, always on UFC pay-per-view night. It’s a dingy bar, the kind of place where white powder dusts the top of toilet paper dispensers in sperm-encrusted washrooms. Cover is cheap, but drinks — hawked by pushy, impatient waitresses — are madly overpriced. The men are sullen and aggressive.
My little queer posse, sitting front and centre, fits in about as well as flamingos among boa constrictors.
Whenever too many beers disappear down muscle-thick throats, I’m glad for EJ’s presence. Like a schoolboy, I feel confident knowing I can say “my six-foot friend knows karate!” if someone bumps shoulders with me in the drink line. Or, for that matter, when I cheer for the wrong fighter and some asshole glares a warning.
Ironically, I know more about the sport than he does. He’s cheering for the Canadian he saw on reality TV the other night; I’m cheering for a nine-time champ.
As a mainstream attraction, the UFC is a recent phenomenon. According to its press, it’s the new king of combat sports. The heir to the throne of boxing, if you will.
It’s the big player of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), a fighting style that combines stand-up and ground techniques. There are a variety of MMA organizations, including the PRIDE Fighting Championship (only sounds gay, I swear), but the UFC is the biggest and best.
It began in 1993 and gained widespread popularity in 2005 with its reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. Still not sure what I’m talking about? Imagine two sweaty, shirtless warriors fighting hand-to-hand on their feet and on the ground, locked inside an eight-sided cage. Voilà, the UFC. Call it masculinity’s wet dream.
In the early days, one commentator referred to it as “the ultimate proving ground.” Meanwhile, critics called it “human cockfighting.”
Cock fighting? No way. Those are bananas inside their Lycra shorts, not massively proportioned male members. C’mon now.
Which brings us to me, a faggy-assed queer in a hetero strip club, damn near jerking off while I watch the UFC with my gayer-than-gay friends. How could I not be? The anaconda boys at the next table are out of their seats, pumping their fists while two half-naked men roll around in “top” and “bottom” positions on the screen.
Besides the servers, there’s barely a woman in sight. Well, not unless you count the ring girls. They appear only briefly, a last-ditch attempt by the UFC to say, “No really, we’re not gay. See? Girls in bikinis!”
Yeah, right. The UFC is about as ‘not gay’ as my asshole.
Not only is there a top and a bottom position, there’s also a “mounted” position. This is a variation on top position, considered more dominant. Guaranteed to get a roar out of any bar crowd, it involves one fighter straddling his downed opponent’s chest. This is a great position for any round of ass kicking or oral sex.
Once in this position, the top fighter will begin a “ground and pound” — shorthand for “get on top of your opponent and beat his face in.” Most bottom fighters in this position commit the tactical error of “giving up their back.” This means rolling over beneath their opponent.
The two fighters have now gone from prime fellatio territory to what resembles a discovery channel romp. This invariably leads to an attempt at a “rear naked choke” by the top fighter. Once the choke is “in deep,” the recipient is forced to tap.
Let’s recap: the fighter in the top position mounts the fighter in the bottom position. He pounds him. The bottom rolls over, exposing his back. The top applies a rear naked maneuver. The bottom submits. Ding ding ding!
They don’t make pornos this gay.
I wonder what the wannabe-ultimate fighters seated at the next table would think if they knew I came to the bar to play voyeur to the most homoerotic event in town.
They look at the screen and see a celebration of heterosexual machismo; I see the ironic slipslide of masculinity.
It’s a card trick, a sleight of hand. First there’s one thing, then in a blink it becomes another altogether. The subject of spectacle becomes the object of desire. The desire to be macho becomes the desire for what is macho.
The nude Greco-Roman sculpture, body carefully chiselled by its male creator, comes alive.
Fists fly. Crowds cheer. Men in sweaty tangles embrace on a mat. I lean forward, palms sweaty. I could swear my soft-packer has grown hard in my pants.
“Touch gloves,” John McCarthy says. “Go back to your corners.”
He points to one fighter, then the other. “Are you ready? Are you ready? Let’s get it on!”