Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Danis, Internet Celebrity, and Fake it Til' You Make it?

I've been watching the rise in visibility of Dilon Danis through primarily Instagram: I've seen the clips posted of post-match threats and arguments with the Danaher Death Squad guys, Gordon Ryan challenging basically the whole squad to a murderer's row one after another style match, winner take all, and the Marcelo-Danaher Peace accord, then to see his MMA debut with Bellator unveiled, to his ousting from Marcelo's with Mansher as well.
After a disappointing showing at the IBJJF Pans, and with his looming Bellator debut, he faced Jake Shields (training with, among others, the Danaher Death Squad under the tutelage of Danaher at Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC) at Submission Underground's most recent event and lost on ride time/taking longer to escape the the overtime positions.

It's been quite a wild ride for a guy who a few months before he was working wtih Conor McGregor was a virtual unknown outside of sport Jiu-Jitsu, an admittedly niche sport.
Danis was known to those of us who follow the big, well known name recognition academies, and was part of Marcelo's "Dream Team" of American black belts, Matheus Diniz and Mansher Khera alongside.

Enter Conor McGregor and his recruiting of Danis to work with him on his grappling acumen for the Diaz bout. It didn't take 20/20 vision to quickly spot the transformation in Danis's online persona. With each increase in likes, and access to notoriety, the persona amplified. Early on, I found it hard to fault the guy for doing what works. Sizzle sells well and so does flash. Years of doing Jiu-Jitsu and competing and training had done little for his public visibility, and arguably his bottom line financially. While I doubt he's raking in as much as he claims, I also find it hard to believe his connection to McGregor and his subsequent increased fandom/stardom didn't improve his monthly income be it directly or indirectly through sponsorships et cetera. The topic of notoriety and how it translates directly and indirectly into dollars and cents within the grappling-centric world is a topic for its own discussion at another time.

I was at work, bartending, with the Belllator card on one of our TV's and I look up and lo and behold, Dilon Danis is walking down the gangplank and his Bellator debut was announced. This was aired and shown on Cable TV. Say what you want about Bellator, but their formula has worked thus far and it has come a long way from its earliest incarnations. While Bellator semi-rebranded from its tournament-centered days, at current with Scott Coker at the helm it has found its MMA niche with a nice balance of freakshow fights (Kimbo vs DaDa and Chael vs Ortiz), its own legitimate B-Squad level champions, fading UFC stars/veterans, and cross promotions with organizations in Europe. Again, to laugh and scoff at Bellator's efforts would be to discredit a company that more often than not does in fact have its fingers on the pulse of what fans want to see, no matter how much purists want to decry it otherwise. It remains to be seen if PPVs are converted with their upcoming NYC show in late June.

I doubt Danis will fare as well as he expects, because my own 2-3 amateur record tells me a couple things: training is simply not the same as winning fights, a seasoned pro is always tough when you're learning on the job as a professional with no amateur background, and above all else, Jiu-Jitsu acumen or other grappling style background  is no sure fire guarantee of MMA success (ask the countless jiujitsu practitioners, judoka, wrestlers, sambo guys et cetera).

What he has done, however, it parlay training with McGregor for a couple fights into a much, much larger stage and far more money than he would have made going the tried and true path of fight some amateur fights for a few years, turn pro, work his way up the regional circuit, then knock on Bellator, WSOF, or the UFC's door.

In a lot of ways it reminds me of the Brittney Spears Southpark episode (which also references the American fiction short story, the Lottery) that satirizes our perverse joy in watching the successfeul crunble and decay under the scrutiny of fame and success and all its accompanying trappings. At any rate, with a debut coming in relatively short order, in the meantime we'll have to settle for watching him perform at the Worlds this weekend and any other invitational Jiu-Jitsu matches along the way to his MMA debut. 

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