The True Warrior
In yet another bizarre example of the mainstreaming of mixed martial arts, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey recently appeared on Good Day LA -- one of those wake-up shows where a bubbly male/female duo sip coffee while discussing celebrity gossip and talking to nutritionists about the latest fad diet/dog-training techniques -- to dish about her history-making win over Liz Carmouche last month.
Rousey, who has been swamped with promotional responsibilities since becoming the flag-bearer for women’s MMA, looks like she’s drowning in discomfort throughout the interview, but, honestly, what human being could be comfortable in the face of all that relentless sunniness?
The answer, of course, is Mike Tyson.
Like George Foreman before him, Tyson has made a remarkable transformation since losing his heavyweight title in 1990, going from the angriest man on the planet to perhaps the saddest and most lost, only to arrive at a place of inner peace where he’s one of the most amiable – if odd – figures in American public life. Foreman now has his Foreman grills, and Mike Tyson has his one-man, Spike Lee-directed theatre monologue, Undisputed Truth. And his face tattoo.
What Foreman doesn’t have, though, and what Ronda Rousey doesn’t have, is Tyson’s sense of operatic self-awareness and ironic poetry. A longtime student of boxing who studied films of Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano for hours on end as a young boxer, Tyson isn’t afraid to view himself as part of the whole warrior lineage, stretching back not just through the great boxers but all the way to the fields of Troy.
So when Good Day LA hosts Maria Sansone and Steve Edwards ask Rousey if she ever feels the pressure of being a world champion, and she gives them little to work with (no doubt because she’s sick and tired of peddling her emotions on television),Tyson – oh, Tyson! – steps up as a man who long ago plumbed the dark depths of his own psyche and came out the other side blessed with unashamed self-awareness. “I’m a stress guy,” he tells his hosts, both of whom he would have terrified to death 10 years ago. “I want to be a god. I want to fight against Achilles. My mind … I’m a dreamer; I’m a delusion. I have delusions of grandeur. I’m an addict because I have these delusions of grandeur.”
Who else in the world of sport could walk the high wire between confession and self-mythology half as well as Mike Tyson? Only Chael Sonnen. And I can’t imagine it’ll be long before he’s a Broadway raconteur too.