When it comes to violence and entertainment, they seemingly go hand-in-hand when it comes to American consumers. Whether it’s in the form of the NFL, boxing, or mixed martial arts, people love to see brutal blows, and occasional knockouts. The general public hasn’t become desensitized to the violence and some could say people are searching for new forms of combat entertainment at every turn. That is where the new Power Slap League comes into the picture.
Backed by UFC, the Power Slap League has become a new viral sensation after just two episodes of the show have aired on TBS. Competitors stand toe-to-toe slapping each other as hard as they can over the course of three rounds unless somebody is taken out by knockout.
While the premise of the show and competition could sound ridiculous and comedic to some, it has drawn the ire of many, including backlash from neurologists and professional boxers like Ryan Garcia. The competitors understand the risk they are taking every time that they step into the ring to compete in this one-of-a-kind sport.
“I’m kind of thinking along the same lines with the thought in the front of my mind that I may get killed here, or I may die here,” says Jewell Scott, a competitor out of New Orleans. “So I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to not only survive, but win and be victorious.”
We sat down with three of the competitors from the Power Slap League, Jewell Scott, Vernon Cathey, and Chris Thomas to discuss how they ended up in the league, the mental state it takes to compete and more.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)
How did you hear about the Power Slap League and get involved?
Jewel Scott: They put out a mass post for a new form of combat, and that’s what I do, combat for money. So I dug into it a little bit and they reached back out to me, and they didn’t tell me what kind of combat it was but they started throwing around UFC a lot, saying the UFC is behind it, and that had me interested. So they ended up flying us to Las Vegas and that’s when everything was real then.
Vernon Cathey: They first contacted me, the producers. They knew me from one of the competitors that was going to be on the first episode so that’s how I heard about it.
Chris Thomas: Some shit popped up on my Facebook about slap fighting and I said this shit is a joke but I’ll check it out. I’m not scared of getting hit and I damn sure can hit somebody. I thought it was a hoax, applied for it and got accepted and been on it ever since.
Do you have any background in combat sports other than Power Slap? If so, what sports?
Jewel Scott: First, I’m a professional boxer, professional MMA fighter. I have had some professional kickboxing matches, some bare knuckle matches. I’m 38 years-old, I turned pro in 2009, my last MMA fight was last year in February and I’ve been training for Power Slap ever since then.
Vernon Cathey: Years ago I did MMA, and then I moved towards the Highland Games and then just moved on from there.
Chris Thomas: I was in MMA fighting and cage fighting through Warrior Camp. It’s the hub sports center out of Spokane, Washington in proving grounds. I was just fighting there, I was actually an independent fighter just doing it to blow steam and I actually TKO’d one of their top fighters in my debut. I learned to love it, and after a couple more fights I was 3-2. I probably have over 100 street fights bare knuckle as well.
What made you sure when they had contacted you that this was something that you wanted to do?
Jewel Scott: Combat for money is what I do. It wouldn’t have mattered what it was, give me the rules and let’s play.
Vernon Cathey: I’m just a competitive athlete and I’m always up for a challenge and I saw this as a challenge. I started out in high school running tracks, played football and then started doing MMA, power lifting and Highland Games and now we are back here.
Chris Thomas: When I showed up and saw the stage, doctors and ambulances and referees that are usually on tv. It was real shit. We had our own setup, power slap setup. It’s beautiful, padded all the way down so even if you fall it’s not a hard ground to fall on. That takes some relief off, and they have people there to catch you, so you don’t get a double concussion if you get knocked out. You won’t hit the ground hard. Just the experience, being able to go to the UFC Apex Center, when I saw Dana White it was real. When I first got off the plane, they gave me $420 in cash just to eat off for a couple of days. I was like damn.
What is the training for Power Slap like? What does it consist of, and how does it differ from boxing or MMA training for you?
Jewel Scott: It’s completely different in every single sport. Boxing is not like kickboxing, kickboxing is not like MMA. So they all have their own different workouts, but slap particularly, you don’t have to work on as many skills. So you can focus a lot more on the few skills that you do use. What you do have with slap is the workouts, you have to workout the way that your technique is going to come off. The way that you’re going to slap, the way that you’re rotating, the way that you’re holding your base. Those are the kind of things that you train.
Vernon Cathey: I’m a heavier guy, I walk around at about 220-230 pounds but I compete at the 205 pound weight. So my preparation starts when I know when the match is coming two weeks out, I’m preparing and losing weight. As far as the training, I’ve always done olympic lifts and stuff like that. In the Highland Games, one of the thrusts for the hip throws is literally like slapping. On the aspect of throwing the slap, I don’t really train for it. I just try to get them hard.
Chris Thomas: I feel like I have always been naturally talented at fighting, it’s an energy thing. For me, I bring the energy through my feet and throw it like a baseball. I feel all of my energy leaving my body when I throw a hit. As far as training, I worked a lot on my upper-body, twisting from side to side to bend my momentum. I learned a lot about that through exercise balls and weighted balls.
How do you mentally prepare yourself mentally for the competition? It’s not the same as other combat sports where you can defend yourself here. You’re really just going slap for slap with your opponent, how is this mentally different from competing in the other sports?
Jewel Scott: It’s actually not that different for me overall, because I’m kind of thinking along the same lines with the thought in the front of my mind that I may get killed here, or I may die here. So I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to not only survive, but win and be victorious. So the sheer willpower that comes out of that push or that dig actually helps you. On the other hand, you’re not just standing there and getting whacked. We have special techniques that allow us to disperse energy when you hit, and techniques for rolling and turning with slaps and strikes. So normally, the people who are getting slapped and knocked out, those are the people who are not using the techniques correctly.
Vernon Cathey: My biggest part is the mental part. If you watch my fight, you never see me say a word or anything. I look at this as a job, they are paying me to perform so I need to be on my best mental side of it and be focused. In combat sports, we are always going to be different because we are accepting a fate that can happen. We are accepting that we are going to be hit. You have to be prepared knowing that it is going to happen. I would say I’m different from most athletes because I don’t jump around and celebrate, I try to stay focused.
Chris Thomas: You can take the blow a certain way. Everybody is going to get hit. Chris Kennedy, I respect him and all, but he was an idiot with how he took the hit. He was completely limp and let me slap him in the mouth, of course you’re going to go out like that. Me, I try to roll with it. I try to focus all of my energy on this dude’s hand and focus. I ain’t scared of nobody, I don’t flinch, I don’t give a fuck. I try to absorb the hit differently than being limp or loose, I tense up to prepare for impact instead of just sitting there. I try to clinch down at the same time that they hit me.
What is your ultimate end goal with this league? Beyond winning, is there anything greater that you have in mind after this?
Jewel Scott: First order of business, I’m trying to win the title and be world champion. Ultimately, after and even during, I would like to do some commentating for Power Slap. I believe I have great insight and would be able to educate our audience. I also want to be involved in coaching and helping all of the young fighters coming up, show them the ropes and techniques and stuff like that. The sky’s the limit. I have all kinds of stuff up my sleeve.
Vernon Cathey: Well with this competition, I would like to be on the other side and do something on the microphone side. Commentating, interviewing. I enjoy the sport, I enjoy meeting other people. I just want to transition to being on the other side of the camera and not in the ring, give my perspective and help be a person that allows others to tell their side of the story.
Chris Thomas: I want to be a bare knuckle guy. When I’m in my forties, I just want to be a bad ass bare knuckle fighter. I don’t want to give up my spot at Power Slap, I feel like I’m going to hold that spot for a very long time. I’m going to be Connor McGregor, I’m going to jump up to 185 pounds and challenge that division, and if they let me at Vern [Cathey], I’ll go up to 205 pounds to challenge him. Right now I’m at 192 pounds, and while I competed in the league I was 170 pounds. I’ve been a heavyweight my whole life, I’ve never been less than 200 pounds until this last year. Trust me, I can go up in weight.
As the league has launched and become a viral sensation, there are detractors. Neurologists have come forward to say this is dangerous, while professional boxer Ryan Garcia has also said the league needs to be stopped. What do you say to the detractors of this league?
Jewel Scott: I’ll slap his ass [in reference to Ryan Garcia]. I studied this for maybe a year solid, the game, the actual guys who were doing it for years now. I studied all of those guys, I know the promoters of the biggest league besides ours. There’s not many injuries that go on, there’s not many guys with CTE. There is nothing proven harmful about all this in all of the years of previous existence. There’s not many injuries because of the system of commission and doctors and assistance that the UFC provides. However, boxing on the other hand is a whole different story. Multiple people have died in boxing, you see probably 600-700 punches to the head every single fight. So the naysayers in MMA, I can’t side with them because I was around when MMA went through the same exact road. So for anyone from another combat sport to day this is barbaric, they are being ridiculous and just want to create some kind of controversy.
Vernon Cathey: I’m a firm believer of free speech, so their opinions are valid and they can have them. Without people judging or speaking up we will never get things fixed. But at some point you have to let the person that’s competing accept the matter and what is going on. You can say the same thing about NFL players, hockey players, MMA fighters, even cheerleaders. If you watch cheerleading, I’ve seen a girl get dropped from the air on a gym floor head first. That’s harder than any hit that I can ever do. Accepting the danger is okay, and people being upset about it is also fine. But it doesn’t need to end anything, the people who judge it aren’t in it like us so it doesn’t mean anything.
Chris Thomas: Shame on Ryan Garcia. Other than that, I don’t really care what anybody thinks. We aren’t forcing anybody to do anything, so they can either fuck off or they can join us. I’ve seen so much dark shit in my life that anybody that has anything to say, it’s a fucking joke. They are mostly keyboard warriors that wouldn’t stand in front of you period. They have nothing else to do.