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Canseco’s MMA debut a farce

by Kaz Nagatsuka

It was exactly what you’d call a chaban, or a farce.

Former major league star slugger Jose Canseco made his debut in mixed martial arts on Tuesday night at Yokohama Arena.

The 44-year-old, who had spent a colorful but controversial 17-year career in the big leagues with eight clubs, including the Oakland Athletics, completely failed to make any impact, as he was KO’d by 218-cm South Korean Choi Hong Man just 1 minute, 17 seconds into the first round of the Dream 9 show.

In this brutal, no-mercy sport, it’s not unusual when a fight ends a moment after the gong is struck. But Canseco’s bout absolutely left nothing but a disagreeable aftertaste for the announced crowd of 15,009 fans, and in fact, it was such a disgraceful event, certainly to the sport but also to professional sports in general.

Canseco isn’t the first celebrity-type fighter who made a switch from his original sport to fighting. Especially in Japan, some of the biggest promotions have historically relied upon those who had already gained fame in other categories, such as sumo, football and even actors and comedians (and of course pro wrestling), to draw the public’s attention.

From the baseball diamond, Takashi Tachikawa, a former Chiba Lotte Marines outfielder, has participated in K-1 kickboxing before Canseco.

Nevertheless, the former American League MVP was far from ready to step into ring, although he certainly has a bulky body (with some chemical assistance, possibly). Other celebrity-oriented fighters have had better shape compared to him.

Canseco showed nothing to convince us that he is a professional fighter. In their first contact, he swung a big right hook that actually grazed Choi’s face, but the rest of the way was just a big yawn.

What was disappointing was, he took his latest challenge so lightly. Canseco, who was driven in a white luxury limousine from Narita Airport on his arrival, even took some swings against former Seattle Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki as a game-opening ceremony at a Yokohama BayStars-Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles game at Yokohama Stadium two days prior to his MMA debut.

He even said at a news conference on the same day that he was scared of facing the giant Choi, which ordinary gutsy fighters would never say.

Now, who would believe that a guy who has that kind of attitude before his fight is desperate to win in his first MMA match?

Nobody.

“I think I accomplished a great thing. I think everybody should try to conquer their fears,” Canseco proudly said after the fight, referring to the fact that he overcame the scare of facing Choi.

The pathetic (and funny) thing was, Choi probably scamped against Canseco, because he didn’t know how to deal with such an amateurish layman in the ex-baseball man.

Professional athletes should get paid money for skills that are generated from high-intensity training and elaborate physical abilities, not for a street-level brawl anyone can exhibit.

“I don’t know here on in, I have no idea (when I’ll fight again), but I’m going to keep doing this as long as I can,” Canseco said.

No, not again, Jose. Please don’t bother.

If you think you drew attention this time, that’s because the fans didn’t know exactly how good — or bad — you are. But the second time on, they have an idea already.

This is not for you. People would rather watch a “catfight” at a nightclub.

Perhaps, the only chance that people turn their attention to this man would be when he announces that he takes on Mark McGwire in a “Bash Brothers” showcase under MMA rules. Or, if it’s in Japan, a fight against former local baseball great Kazuhiro Kiyohara may draw national attention, if promoters continue to pursue entertainment (or chaban) like that, instead of a true recognition as a real sporting event.

Staff writer Ed Odeven contributed to this article.