Power Slap: Road to the Title

Power Slap: Road to the Title

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Power Slap: Road to the Title is an American slap-fighting sports television series produced by UFC president Dana White where two fighters take turns slapping each other across the face until one of them either passes out, is deemed unable to continue or forfeits. If the fighters last three rounds, judges determine the winner using a 10-point system. The series premiered on TBS in January 2023. That month, clips from Power Slap started to go viral online. The series has inspired controversy for being unsafe and having a perceived high potential to cause brain damage since fighters can't defend themselves from the slaps. Concerns were raised after fighter Chris Kennedy was reportedly given short-term memory loss after participating in the first televised fight of the series.


Russian and Romanian Slap-Fighting

Before Power Slap, slap-fighting tournaments were a sport in Russia and Romania. A compilation of Russian slap-fighting tournaments was uploaded to YouTube in September 2020 that gained over 6 million views in three years (shown below, left). One of the most well-known Russian slap-fighters is nicknamed Vasily the Dumpling (shown below, right).

Power Slap Press Conference, Concerns, Delay

In October 2022, the official @powerslap TikTok[1] page posted an announcement trailer for Power Slap. On November 11th, 2022, Dana White held a press conference about the show, which was uploaded to the UFC YouTube[2] page, garnering over 103,000 views in two months (shown below).

On November 12th, the Washington Post[3] published an article where neurosurgeon Nitin Agarwal expresses concern for the safety of the event, quoted as saying, "When it comes to the physical aspect of the martial arts, safety and defense are primary. By its virtue, slap boxing is an offensive sport. There is no defense […] You can’t use your shoulder to protect you, you can’t use your hands to protect, you can’t even turn your head to soften the blow or control where the blow is going to be placed. So that’s very worrisome."

Power Slap was meant to premiere on January 11th, 2023, but was delayed until January 18th after Dana White was filmed slapping his wife Anne in the face while drunk at a bar after she slapped him on January 2nd, 2023 (shown below). TMZ[4] reported on the incident, where White said, "There's never ever an excuse for a guy to put his hands on a woman" and that he and his wife apologized to each other since. His wife told TMZ that the slap was "uncharacteristic" of him.[5]

Prior to the premiere of Dana White's Power Slap, a clip of Romanian slap-fighter Simion Sorin Comșa having his face purportedly "disfigured" in a slap fight started to go viral online (shown below).

Power Slap Premiere, Further Concerns, Chris Kennedy Short-Term Memory Loss

Power Slap premiered on TBS on January 18th, 2023. The entire first episode was uploaded to the UFC YouTube[6] page three days after it premiered, garnering over 293,000 views in a week (shown below). The first fight of the episode features fighter Chris Thomas against Chris Kennedy. Kennedy is knocked out after a single slap from Thomas. On January 19th, Mirror[7] reported that Kennedy was left with short-term memory loss after the fight.

On the same day, Yahoo! Sports[8] reported on the story, with neuroscientist Chris Nowinski quoted as saying Kennedy "may never be the same" and noting the fighter's "fencing posture," which is purportedly a sign of significant brain injury. On January 23rd, it was reported that UFC fighter Eric Spicely declined to join Power Slap after he was offered only $2,000 US to show and $2,000 to win.[9]

On January 24th, MMAJunkie[10] reported that Power Slap president Frank Lamicella, in an interview with MMA Underground, responded to criticisms that fighters can't defend themselves from the slaps, quoted as saying, "Learning to roll with the slap but not committing a flinching foul [matters]. So it’s really a lot of timing. When do you close your eyes? Do you leave your eyes open the whole time? There are elements [of defense]."

On January 26th, Mirror[10] reported on an interview White did with MMAFighting.com[11] in October 2022 where he denounces "goofballs" concerned for the safety of the slap fighters, quoted as saying:

“The bottom line is, in a boxing match, guys get hit with 300-400 punches in a fucking fight. These guys are going to get hit with three slaps. For these morons to be talking all the shit that they are about the athletic commission, the athletic commission did the right thing. So did we. We run right toward regulation, regulate the sport to make sure it’s safe for everybody, because a lot of people are going to get involved in this just like they did MMA. What you want is you want to make sure there’s clear cut set rules, people have to take the proper medicals before, during, and after the fight to keep the thing safe. It should be regulated and Nevada did the right thing. I applaud them and that’s why they’re the most respected athletic commission in the world.”

Online Presence / Reactions

Power Slap clips became notably popular on TikTok, Reddit and YouTube following the sport's premiere as both the official pages for the sport and fan pages uploaded content related to it. Joe Rogan reacted to Power Slapping on an episode of his podcast with UFC fighter Sean O'Malley prior to its premiere, saying it's "not for [him]" because he likes the "puzzle" and strategy elements of fighting competitions (shown below).

Search Interest

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