Recently, OpenAI rolled out their ChatGPT platform, a so-called artificial intelligence capable of creating written content, on anything, after being given simple prompts. The release has sent shock-waves through publishing industries who are now imagining a future where rich people no longer get, and stay, rich off the backs of human labour, but instead get rich off of machines while those who once did the labour starve or something.
ChatGPT is like the wave of AI art generators we’ve seen pop up over the last twelve months. It basically mines the internet for all content on a given topic and then remixes it into something vaguely human sounding. I would have appreciated it back in school when I was working really hard to fake a book report after not reading a single page of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. But now, as some one who, for the time being at least, pulls in a wage form writing about face-punching I’m wondering if what I do is on the verge of being obsolete.
Given that MMA writing is a pugnacious pursuit, especially here at BE, I decided to confront this menace head-on.
So I signed into OpenAI’s site and decided to play around and ask its AI some questions in an attempt to generate some MMA content — the kind I get paid to do.
Here’s how it went.
I started with just asking some background on the sport and it’s biggest player.
Q: Tell me what you know about MMA.
A: MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts, and is a full-contact combat sport that combines elements of striking, grappling, and submission fighting. MMA has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is currently one of the fastest growing sports in the world. MMA bouts consist of a 5-minute round in which competitors use their fists, feet, elbows, and knees to strike their opponent and attempt to gain a submission. MMA competitions are divided into weight classes and rounds, and the rules vary depending on the promotion.
Q: Can you give me a background on the UFC?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization and the largest pay-per-view event provider in the world. The UFC was founded in 1993 and has grown to become one of the most popular and successful sports organizations in the world. The UFC has produced some of the most iconic figures in modern sports, such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and Anderson Silva. The UFC has held events in more than 150 countries, and its broadcast is available in over 170 countries. Who are the biggest stars of the UFC today? Some of the biggest stars of the UFC today include: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Israel Adesanya, Amanda Nunes, Stipe Miocic, Rose Namajunas, Tony Ferguson, and Jorge Masvidal.
Q: Who are some of the biggest stars of the UFC today?
A: Some of the biggest stars of the UFC today are: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Israel Adesanya, Amanda Nunes, Stipe Miocic, Rose Namajunas, Tony Ferguson and Jorge Masvidal.
Honestly, that’s not bad (aside from how dated the third answer is — a trend you’ll notice later on). But this kind of banal PR speak is what this program is best at delivering. There are thousands of explainers written just like this by humans out there, so it’s quite predictable that the AI would be able to present something that makes as much sense as it does.
Next I tried to narrow in on some of those biggest stars to see how the AI handled doing a simple fighter profile.
Q: Tell me about Conor McGregor.
A: Conor McGregor is an Irish professional mixed martial artist and boxer. He is the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight and lightweight champion. He is currently signed to the UFC and competes in their lightweight division. His nicknames include “The Notorious” and “Mystic Mac”. He is known for his flashy style and trash talking. He has become one of the most recognizeable figures in the sport, and he has achieved considerable success both in and out the octagon. McGregor is the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously. He has headlined four out of the six highest-selling UFC pay-per-view events, and has also appeared in multiple films and television series.
Again, not bad. But this result makes me think there are either more puff pieces about McGregor on the internet or that the AI gives them more weight. At BE, we’re known to look a little deeper and cover topics that aren’t that nice. So I wanted to see if the AI was also capable of covering the controversial side of the sport.
Q: Is Conor McGregor controversial?
A: Yes, Conor McGregor is considered to be a controversial figure. He has been involved in a number of incidents both inside and outside the octagon. He has also been criticized for his sometimes aggressive and controversial behaviour.
That really missed the mark, so I probed deeper.
Q: Why is Conor McGregor controversial, specifically?
A: Conor McGregor is considered a controversial figure due to his aggressive behaviour and tendency to make incendiary comments towards other fighters. He has been involved in a number of brawls both inside and outside the octagon, and has also been accused of making homophobic, sexist and racist comments. He has also been criticized for his trash talking and his tendency to disrespect opponents.
I mean, that’s more detailed, but it’s still missing a few things. And what it does have, is bereft of context and sourcing. The legal department here would be furious with me if I ran that.
Let’s see what kind of treatment Jon Jones gets from the AI.
Q: What about Jon Jones, what can you tell me about him?
A: Jon Jones is an American mixed-martial-artist and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time. Jones is known for his unorthodox and aggressive style of fighting, which has earned him many victories in the UFC. He has a professional record of 26 wins and 1 loss. He has held the title of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion since 2011. He has also won many awards, including UFC Fighter of the Year Award in 2011 and 2012.
Again, positive PR speak here, with some strange phrasing and inaccuracies, too. Jones’ record is 26-1 (1 no contest). And he has not held the title since 2011. The choice of accolades listed is also strange and a human would probably pick things more appropriate.
Of course, whenever you write about Jones it is hard to not talk about his controversies. Here’s how the AI summarized those.
Q: Is Jon Jones controversial? If so, why?
A: Yes, Jon Jones is controversial due to his history of out-of-the-cage incidents. These include drug use, DUIs, and multiple arrests. Jones has also been accused of domestic violence. His actions have caused him to be suspended multiple times by the UFC, leading to numerous fights being cancelled or postponed. Jones has also been criticized for his lack of respect for other fighters and his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions.
A few things missing from there, like a certain hit-and-run incident. But more importantly, the AI is showing it will only mention things like this if prompted specifically. It has decided that the reader doesn’t need to know things like this when they first come across a topic. Why does it do that? How can we know? Is it a design feature or is just the way it shakes out when the code is running? This is a huge red flag regarding the order of information and the weight placed on different types of information. It should also be noted that the AI went into editorial mode at the end of that second question, flat out stating that Jones has a lack of respect and refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. Is that being presented as fact here? On what evidence? Again, I can’t get away with writing that so why should AI?
I also asked the AI about UFC President Dana White, I’ll spare you the puff piece there (which included the oft-reported incorrect statements about White saving the sport and revolutionizing the rule-set). When I asked about White’s controversies it said this:
A: Yes Dana White is controversial. He has been criticized for his brash and outspoken nature, as well as his tendency to criticize fighters and members of the sport publicly. He has also been the subject of criticism for his handling of certain fighters, such as Ronda Rousey, as well as for his treatment of women in the sport.
Interesting choice of information, again, and another glaring omission.
Since White said his punishment for slapping his wife should be merely that he is forever known as someone who hit his spouse, instead of any kind of financial or legal ramifications, it’s only fair that we help him out with that. So since the AI didn’t mention that incident, I had to ask about it directly. What it gave me was just fiction, which is perhaps an indictment on how little coverage this incident has gotten since it took place on New Year’s Eve in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Q: What happened after Dana White was caught on camera slapping his wife?
A: After Dana White was caught on camera slapping his wife in an altercation outside a Las Vegas hotel in 2009, he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery. White pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to 48 hours of community service and an anger management course. He also issued a public apology, stating that he was “ashamed and embarrassed” by his actions.
Wild, wild, wild response here stating things which are completely false as if they are fact. If sites start using AI to make their content, litigation lawyers are going to be very very happy.
After looking at how the AI tackles controversy I decided to see how good it was with other, more mainstream forms, of MMA coverage. Like event coverage.
I asked the AI what happened at the last UFC event. I asked this on February 14, days after UFC 284. The answer it gave me was the results of the main and co-main events for UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Volkov from 2020. Even though it’s date was off, and it picked a really bizarre event to talk about, the actual coverage wasn’t half bad.
Q: What are the main talking points from the Blaydes vs. Volkov fight?
1. Blaydes’ dominant performance: Blaydes was in control of the majority of the fight, using his superior wrestling to take down and control Volkov.
2. Blaydes improved striking: Blaydes displayed improved striking throughout the fight, landing hard shots on the feet and even dropping Volkov at one point.
3. Volkov’s resilience: Despite the loss, Volkov showed incredible heart and resilience, taking a lot of damage and still pushing forward until the final bell.
4. Blaydes’ title aspirations: Blaydes’ win solidified his position as one of the top contenders in the heavyweight division and his performance may have earned him a title shot in the near future.
That all sounds pretty good (I’ve definitely read worse). There wasn’t a knockdown in the fight, though.
I also checked to see how our grappling writers will fare in the future, asking the AI how to escape a triangle choke.
A: To escape a triangle choke, you can try to pry your opponent’s legs off of you, pushing their knees away from your body. You can also try to stand up and break the hold by pushing your opponent’s body away from you. If you’re on the ground, you can try and rotate your body and use your hands to loosen the hold. You can also create space by pushing your opponent away with your hands and hips.
A lot of these more convincing paragraphs are a result of that content already being available and just being harvested by the AI. When I tried to get the AI to predict things, it got less accurate. I asked what some of the biggest fights of 2023 could be and the first offering was Jon Jones vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, which is hilarious and clearly the product of the AI going “popular fighter 1” plus “popular fighter 2” without understanding the absurdity of the result.
Some of the most alarming content I generated from the AI were things which drastically conflicted with itself, which made it clear that the AI wanted to satisfy the bias of the person inputting the prompt. For example I asked if there was corruption in MMA and it basically said “no, no, no, of course not.” So I asked “why” the UFC was a safe and fair place to compete and the answer I got would be very convincing without any background knowledge. So then I asked, why was the UFC not a safe and fair place to compete and the answer was just as convincing. Which, to me, means you can basically get this thing to write whatever you want it to, for better or worse.
Below are some screenshots of the prompts I’ve covered here and a few more, including a conversation on Ramzan Kadyrov where the AI tells me it’s a good thing that fighters are able to supplement their income with help from a war criminal and human rights abuser.
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By now you should see that, although AI content isn’t quite there yet. It’s very close.
The algorithm is very capable of reproducing banal copy on subjects that have been well covered on the internet. However, anything that requires actual investigation, critical thinking or due diligence is just beyond it. All these toys can do is regurgitate content that is already on the internet, not create something new and thus interesting, thought-provoking or meaningful. It’ll get there, eventually, I’m sure of it. And the real sick thing is, just by writing this article I’m helping it get there.
Everything we put on the internet is now a raw ingredient for AIs of the now and future to shape and colour our world and present it back to us as if it’s the truth and not just a scattershot collage of whatever a billion people have decided to write on their blogs and Facebook accounts. With this technology on the horizon, now it’s more important than ever to audit what you read on the internet to determine what’s true and what is not. To do that you need to examine the author and what their motivations and biases are. For AI, though, I don’t know where to start.
Hopefully, at the very least, here at BE we can keep putting out work that confronts the powerful and tells the hard truths, so then at least a little bit of that goes into the goulash of whatever AI generated MMA content you’ll likely be consuming in the future.
About the author: Tim Bissell is a human writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. (full bio)
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