The announcement this week that the Honorary Starter of the 2012 Daytona 500 would be WWE Star John Cena surprised me.
I have nothing against the man or the WWE, but I feel NASCAR and, specifically, Daytona tapped the wrong sport for this gig.
In 2011 the UFC inked a lucrative deal to show Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) matches on Fox from its premiere organization. This was an incredibly big move on Fox’s part and proved to many that MMA was – and is – a legitimate sport with rules, regulations, and now a primetime spot on network television.
Choosing a MMA star to be Honorary Starter of “The Great American Race” – that is shown on Fox – would have made infinite more sense to me. What better way to gain crossover followers in that coveted 18-49 year old age bracket?
NASCAR fans and MMA fans may not appear to have anything in common, but I would argue their sports share a similar history.
Before NASCAR was formed there were several “stock car associations” that tried to be legitimate, get the best racers, and make the most money. Not until Bill France and a host of other big names sat down to organize stock car racing into one entity – NASCAR – did the phenomenon we know today come to be.
MMA has grown from many segments. Like NASCAR, a variety of different organizations exist, all vying for legitimacy, fandom, and the almighty sponsorship dollars. One man, Dana White, has harnessed the sport into one gigantic powerhouse.
The other levels of MMA still exist, are viable, and are fighting for their audiences, but the bottom line is, MMA has arrived and Dana White’s UFC is the pinnacle.
It seems only logical to me to unite and exploit Fox’s relationship with Dana White and UFC with NASCAR. MMA would get a wider national platform to be introduced and validated and NASCAR would show their modernity.
Kevin Harvick recently attended the UFC on Fox 2 event in Chicago and stayed visible for interviews. His main purpose was to plug the Daytona 500 that Fox is covering on Feb. 26, but Harvick was also able to give his opinions of the night’s matches. He seems to be somewhat of a fan.
WWE is a great entertainment source and I’m sure NASCAR is thrilled with the connection. My opinion, however, would have been to tap the far more logical, broader horizons that MMA offers.
White is a masterful attention grabber. He is famous (infamous) for the bonuses he offers his fighters, the strong opinions he wields tyrannically, and his empirical control of the UFC.
Brian France, coming from the lineage he does, would certainly feel comfortable with that kind of personality. Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Harvick, all fiery personalities, could live vicariously through the fighters in the UFC.
I can only lead these 800 horses to White’s water, I can’t make them drink.
What do you think, fans, was the WWE the right organization to pick the Honorary Starter of the Daytona 500 or would White’s UFC been the better choice?