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Enter the Gladiators

I caught some of My NetworkTV's new International Fight League programming Monday night.

It appeared to be a combination clip show and promo for upcoming bouts.

It took an ABC up close and personal approach to trying to build rooting interest, showing guys with faces flattened by other people's fists and feet feeding their cute kids. It showed use the Shamrock Brothers, battling boys that hearkened back to the Corbetts of yesteryear.

The mixed combat fighters fight in teams, or given how they fight perhaps "gangs" would be a more appropriate collective noun, though they don't all fight at the same time.

The sport seems to be populated by guys with flattened noses, rock-hard bodies and a wealth of tatoos. Often smallish, compact guys, the kinds that keep payday lenders in business in seaport towns like Newport News and San Diego.

They kick each other in the head and knee each other in the, uh, ribs when they are not pounding each other in the face with what seem to be barely-gloved fists.

They also bleed on each other with regularity.

The fighters are billed as not boxers, not wrestlers and not actors, which is a lot of "nots," as well as a lot of knots and goose-eggs and welts and cuts, too. But that is what this league isn't.

What is it?

It is an attempt to give MyNetworkTV higher ratings by tapping into that UPN wrestling crowd that likes to watch tatooed guys whopping the whatall out of each other until somebody says uncle.

Its like a bar fight with ring girls.

When the ratings come out today, I will revisit this with an addendum. If it scores in the 1.5-2 rating, it will be in the hit range for the struggling netlet. Above that and who knows how much wrasslin' and kickin' and bleedin' could ensue.

"We're not out to change the world," says MyNetworkTV, "just entertainment it."

And maybe bloody it a bit in the process.

By John Eggerton