- There’s a ton of ‘buzz’ about a proposed fight between Justin Bieber and Tom Cruise.
- It’s unclear what Bieber’s ‘beef’ is with Cruise or if it is just a PR stunt.
- Inexplicably, UFC President Dana White is giving the ‘fight’ a veneer of legitimacy.
I’ll preface this article by saying that I have no clue why Justin Bieber challenged Tom Cruise to a fight on Twitter in the first place. Cruise might very well deserve a beating for Eyes Wide Shut but since Bieber was a toddler when that was released I doubt that it’s the bone of contention here.
Celebrity ‘beefs’ and fight challenges in the 21st Century are downright bizarre. Until the past decade, celebrities would occasionally get into fistfights with one another. After they did, their publicists would work overtime trying to keep it out of the media and pretend it didn’t happen. For example, in 1976 Chevy Chase and Bill Murray came to blows on the set of Saturday Night Live. Brian Doyle Murray (Bill’s brother) broke it up and that was that. Bill Cosby sucker punched Tommy Smothers of The Smothers Brothers comedy team at the Playboy Mansion in 1977. Hef himself intervened, the two men dusted themselves off and and everyone soon went back to nude roller disco backgammon or whatever it was that the Playboy publisher was into at the time. Unless you enjoy exploring rabbit holes of trivial Hollywood minutiae this might be the first time you’ve heard of either altercation.
RECENT CELEBRITY FIGHT ‘PROMOTIONS’
Celebrities circa 2019 do a lot of feuding with all manner of recriminations thrown back and forth but a minimal amount actual fighting. No doubt a lot of this is orchestrated as a publicity stunt to benefit one or both of the principals. Much of it has a ring of legitimacy when the celebrities in question are ‘cutting promos’ back and forth but inevitably they patch things up or at the very least forget about it and get back to what pays the bills. The most virulent feuds reach a point where one or both celebrities do the 21st century equivalent of ‘throwing down the gauntlet’–the Twitter fight challenge.
This is where it gets strange—there have been a few recent Twitter beefs that were either resolved to some degree or looked to be going nowhere until an actual fight promoter enters the fray suggesting that despite having no pugilistic significance whatsoever the hypothetical bout could bring in massive box office and/or PPV revenues. In 2017, Chris Brown and Soulja Boy were feuding and ultimately would challenge each other to a fight. It didn’t appear to be going anywhere until Floyd Mayweather, Jr. got involved insisting that Mayweather Promotions would make the fight happen. Before long, Mayweather’s attention would turn to his mega-money fight against Conor McGregor and his promotional involvement with the Brown v. Souja Boy beef unceremoniously ended. In February 2017, Chris Brown pulled out of the ‘fight’ commenting that the beef was ‘immature’.
DANA WHITE GETS INVOLVED WITH BIEBER V. CRUISE
The interest in a Justin Bieber v. Tom Cruise feud/fight appeared to have run it’s course a week or so ago. Bieber himself dismissed it all as a joke. That was that until for some inexplicable reason Dana White became involved. The UFC majordomo is clearly mellowing as he ages—there was a time when the mere suggestion that he involve himself in this kind of promotion would have been met with a ‘F-Bomb’ laden request not to waste his time. White now claims he’s received phone calls from ‘real guys’ connected to the stars. TMZ Sports has reported that Bieber’s representative Scooter Braun, Hollywood power broker Ari Emanuel who is co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor (they now own the UFC) and White discussed matters on a conference call. Bieber is reportedly down to scrap if Cruise signs on.
For his part, Dana White suggests that “it would be the biggest purse ever and I think it would be the biggest Pay-Per-View ever too.” It better be, since Cruise pulls down as much or more money than any actor in show biz as in the $100 million per film range. He’s one of the highest paid guys in Hollywood in terms of his salary demands and he always juices himself into the ‘back end’ My hunch is that at some point reality would set in much as it did with Mayweather Promotions when they ran the numbers for Chris Brown v. Soulja Boy. It’s one thing for two celebrities to go back and forth in the press and talk about fighting. It’s another thing entirely to get people to pull the trigger and buy a PPV at anything close to prevailing boxing PPV prices ($70 or more). I have my doubts that 4.8 million people would drop that kind of money to watch Cruise v. Beebs—that’s the number they’d have to beat to top Mayweather/Pacquiao which if I remember correctly was priced at $79 (SD) and $89 (HD). ‘Biggest purse’ is not always easy to discern with a lot of fighter compensation hidden in PPV points, etc. but they’d have to top $400 million to even be in the discussion.
WHY THE FIGHT DOESN’T HAPPEN
Bieber is in a position where the outcome of a hypothetical fight wouldn’t hurt his career and/or public image at all. Win, lose, draw he’s got the same fanbase and is still Justin Bieber.
There’s just no way that Tom Cruise could do the fight and look good. Cruise is not a big dude–he’s ‘listed’ at 5’7″ and may actually be an inch or two shorter. His use of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to look taller than his female co-stars is legendary. He’s also made a career doing ‘tough guy’ type roles using many of the same camera tricks to make him look bigger. He can’t afford the visual of standing face to face with Bieber at the beginning of the fight and clearly being several inches shorter. Making the optics even more ridiculous–most fight referees are big guys like UFC official Dan Mirgliotta who goes 6’4″ 275 pounds. He’d tower over both Bieber and Cruise making them both look like grade school students squabbling on the playground.
There’s no way you could give Tom a dollar figure that would justify putting his well crafted public image in jeopardy. He doesn’t need the money, he doesn’t need the name recognition, he doesn’t need the career boost. There’s no upside for him to do the fight and some serious downsides. If Bieber should win, the media won’t report it as a 26 year old guy beating a 57 year old guy. They’ll make Tom a laughing stock. This is above and beyond the more pedestrian risk of having a resume full of tough guy roles and being ‘exposed’ as a smaller than average not so tough guy. When you’ve reached a point in your acting career that you’re pulling down 8 or 9 figures per film you have a strong interest in protecting the ‘personal brand’ you’ve created.