Slapping for ‘sport’ is absurd. Power Slap founder Dana White profits from pain. | Opinion

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I recently witnessed what I believe is the most absurd "sport" in the world. Other words could be used to describe it, but I'll leave it to your imagination for the best adjectives. It's called “Power Slap,” a spectacle that has gained popularity through the efforts of UFC President Dana White.

If you haven't experienced this so-called "combat sport," here's how it works: Two contenders face off with their hands behind their backs and take turns delivering powerful, open-handed slaps to each other's faces. The match continues until one contestant cannot get up off the floor by the count of 10.

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The acoustics of this part-spectacle, full-reality TV sport include resounding slaps echoing across the arena, distorting the opponent's face on contact. Miss any action? Don't worry. Slow-motion replays vividly capture the impact. Formal Power Slap competition started in 2022 with eight pre-recorded episodes.

But, don't fret, there are rules to the combat:

  • Participants must be at least 18 years old.

  • Slaps must be delivered with an open hand to the face. The slapper must notify the referee and their opponent before delivering a slap.

  • The league includes different weight classes to ensure fair matchups, so as to prevent a 300-pounder from facing someone half their size. It's also important to note that this sport provides equal opportunities for women to slap each other silly.

  • Judges determine the winner if both competitors endure three to five rounds.

So, what do the winners walk away with besides a bruised face and their bell rung? Anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.

The party that benefits the most is Dana White, who has admitted to making $450 million from Power Slap. White owns several venues that profit from other people's pain, including the aforementioned mixed martial arts league Ultimate Fighting Championship and MTV's “Ridiculousness.” If White's words are accurate, then those who make money from it are, at the very least, severely undercompensated.

Power Slap takes profits and risks to a whole new level

I have to give it to White; he’s convinced men and women, and even “little people,” to participate in one of the strangest sports in recent memory.

Dana White attends Netflix Is A Joke Fest's "The Greatest Roast Of All Time: Tom Brady" at The Kia Forum on May 05, 2024 in Inglewood, California.
Dana White attends Netflix Is A Joke Fest's "The Greatest Roast Of All Time: Tom Brady" at The Kia Forum on May 05, 2024 in Inglewood, California.

Even before actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars after Rock joked about Smith’s wife, social media was filled with unsanctioned slap competitions.

There are videos showing men exploiting unhoused individuals by making them fight and slap each other in exchange for money while onlookers bet and laugh at their expense. During the early 2000s, they even had a series of videos called “Bumbfights,” which received widespread public criticism. It seems like White turned what he saw into something to turn a profit and for people to gamble on the outcome.

We live in a society where some people enjoy watching competitors apply chalk to their hands before attempting to knock out their opponent with a slap. However, these competitions have drawn the ire of the medical community, which advises that this latest "sport" can cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This is a neurodegenerative disease that can result from repeated head injuries, ranging from mild concussions to speech impediments and dementia.

During a 2022 interview, White addressed the safety of slap competitions by stating, "The commission is currently working on it. Everyone is in a learning process right now." What came of the learning process remains to be seen.

Participating in Power Slap requires a strong chin and the ability to deliver a knockout slap. In one video, a competitor smashes a watermelon the size of a human head. Imagine what that does to one’s brain.

Slap competitions called out by UFC fighter for brain injury risks

White’s attitude resembles the one taken by the NFL before the league reached a $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players before the start of the 2013 season.

Former athletes sued the NFL for concealing the dangers of concussions. The league denied wrongdoing, but Commissioner Roger Goodell urged "the right thing for the game and the men who played it.”

Despite the known dangers, the league continues to operate and is even the subject of jokes. During the Tom Brady roast on Netflix, comedian Jeff Ross made a memorable joke about White, who was in the audience with some of his UFC fighters.

Ross said, "I love you, Dana (White). You’re like Michael Vick but with human beings." The joke was intended to say White treats humans like Vick treated pit bulls. Vick, a former NFL quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was convicted in 2007 of federal conspiracy charges and imprisoned for dogfighting. He was also suspended by the NFL and lost millions in endorsement deals.

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White has turned something as simple as a slap into a major event, racking up millions of views on TikTok and Instagram. The league has harnessed the viral nature of online content to broaden its audience.

Yet even members of the boxing and UFC community have criticized Power Slap. In 2023, Boxer Ryan Garcia called the competition “a terrible idea that needed to be stopped.” UFC fighter Sean O’Malley said he didn’t watch Power Slap because it's linked to brain injuries.

"I can't watch it. I understand concussions; I've been through them. I know how bad it is to do that to your brain. I can't even see it,” O’Malley said.

It makes a statement when boxers and UFC fighters criticize a slap competition.

Years from now, when these participants struggle to remember their names and addresses due to brain injuries, I hope the $2,000 they made for enduring that punishment was worth it. Power Slap is an absurd sport for sure. Other words could also be used to describe it. As for the best word to describe its founder, "greedy" comes to mind.

Reach James E. Causey at jcausey@jrn.com; follow him on X@jecausey.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Power Slap founder, UFC President profits from pain via absurd ‘sport’