I recently watched Dawg Fight on Netflix. It is a documentary following an unregulated backyard fighting promoter from South West Miami Dade County. The film follows Dhafir Harris also known as Dada 5000 as he deals with his stable of fighters and referees their fights. Dada and his fighters are depicted as underdogs held back by the poverty in which they grew up. However, the documentary tells early on that Dada and one of his partners were former bodyguards for Kimbo Slice while he fought in the UFC. While it is possible that Dada and his partner blew all the money that they earned while they were working for Kimbo Slice, they still had the television exposure and recognition from appearing with Kimbo Slice at his fights. So from the beginning, Dawg Fight gives away the not so guarded secret that documentaries aren’t unbiased depictions of reality.
Somehow, Dawg Fight changes focus from the story of an up and coming organization of poor fighters and transitions to the story of the discovery of Dada as an up and coming professional fighter. A few scenes are dedicated to his training at a real gym rather than the obstacle course he had set up in his back yard, and the documentary culminates with Dada’s first professional fight. In the documentary, Dada is the favorite over his opponent, Cedrick “The Killa Gorilla” James, and Dada beats him handily as the announcers of the fight are shown to marvel at his fighting prowess.
But I was impatient while watching the documentary because throughout the entire show, everyone that was interviewed kept mentioning how deadly a fighter Dada was and how he could easily beat any of the fighters that compete in the backyard. It was even mentioned that Dada retired from fighting because it was unfair for him to beat these fighters into a bloody pulp. And because the documentary seemed unwilling to show any of Dada’s fights, I Googled his name and found a YouTube video of the unedited version of the fight between Dada 5000 and the Killa Gorilla.
Obviously, the raw footage had to be edited for inclusion in the documentary. A documentary is not going to include the fighter’s meandering to the ring while the announcers make jokes about the questionable background of the fighters that are coming to the ring and the silly way in which they filled out their prefight questionnaires. But you might imagine that the documentary would include all of the important highlights required to understand how the fight actually occurred.
The video of the fight that was shot for the documentary was essentially the same as official fight footage only shot from different angles and much closer up. The footage was cut and spliced together in fast edits ignoring the boring parts of the fight, and the narrative of the fight was mostly the same. Dada and Killa exchange punches. Killa attempts a weak takedown and Dada scrambles back to his feet. More punches are exchanged. They end up on the ground again and Killa is controlling Dada from side mount. This is when things started to get a little wonky. Up until this point the Documentary and the YouTube video mostly matched. The documentary skipped over much of the early fight where Killa was dominating by getting in most of the punches on Dada, but I could tell that the fighters seemed to be evenly matched. Whichever fighter got the first punch in would continue with a flurry of punches until the attacker slipped or needed to stop to breath. It just turned out that Killa got in more punch flurries than Dada did. That was sort of just skipped over by the documentary footage, but that is not that big of a deal.
However, when Killa is in side mount on top of Dada neither fighter seems to know what to do next. But the documentary chooses this time to play a clip of the announcers that was taken from a joke that was made at Dada’s expense while both fighters were walking to the ring. The announcers found it humorous that Dada had labeled both his stand up and ground fighting styles as “The Streets,” and they were having a laugh about it. When they were watching Dada being controlled by Killa in the YouTube video the announcers were talking about Dada’s lack of ground defense because he did not give any resistance as Killa lifted his leg and slid it slowly over Dada’s waist and completed the chest mount. But in the documentary, the announcer’s voice was altered with some kind of audio filter or even just rerecorded specially for the documentary because the discussion of Dada’s poor ground skills was replaced with a serious and intimidating announcer saying that Dada’s ground fighting style was “The Streets.” The documentary depiction of both the ground fighting and the announcer’s voice were edited in such a way as to make it seem Like Dada was in total control of the situation, and when the referee stood both fighters back up in the neutral standing position, I would have been so caught up in the falsely manufactured drama of this fight that I would not have questioned the referee’s decision to stand them up if I had not seen the YouTube version first. In the YouTube video of this fight the announcers are very concerned about the referee’s decision to stand the fighters back up from Killa’s dominant chest mount position. In fact, they call it a very controversial decision.
As I had mentioned before, both Dada and Killa seemed to be evenly matched, and as evenly matched fighters, all either fighter needed to win was the smallest of advantages. Killa’s chest mount over Dada was a significant advantage for him and Killa would have won the fight in seconds had the referee not stood them back up. In fact, the only reason that the referee could have had to break up Killa’s chest mount was to protect Dada from further injury. Dada was on his back and not fighting while Killa was punching him in the face, so if the referee felt the need to intervene he should have stopped the fight and ruled Killa the winner by Technical Knockout.
But instead, the referee took away Killa’s advantage and stood the fighters back up to the neutral position where the fight could be won by either fighter at any time. Dada was the first person to catch the other in a flurry of punches. They had a few tentative punches then Killa tried to tackle Dada. Dada dodged the tackle and unleashed a flurry of punches on the back of Killa’s head knocking him out. This is a much different outcome than the one depicted in the supposedly unbiased documentary where Dada soundly defeated Killa in a one sided battle that Dada was destined to win the whole time. But this is the power of editing and revision. You can take confused and meandering narrative and revise it into a powerful story that says exactly what it was supposed to say from the beginning.