Jolin the Mennonite runs to his barn fight on episode 3 of Amish Mafia. Photo courtesy of The Discovery Channel.
The show Amish Mafia has garnered a great deal of popularity in its first season, but also a considerable amount of criticism, particularly for stretching the boundaries of what most would consider the willful suspension of disbelief that comes with “reality TV.”
To be fair, there is a disclaimer at the beginning that reads, “The Amish Church denies the existence of the Amish Mafia. To ensure the safety of the innocent Amish, select re-enactments of events must be used.”
So, as the manager of this site, when the show held what appeared to be a Mixed Martial Arts fight in its third episode, my eyes and ears perked up. It was a contest between Jolin, the tattooed, gun-packing, black truck drivin’ muscle of the crew, and a nameless, faceless opponent.
Prior to the fight, Jolin says to the camera he wants to get a submission in the fight, implying he has some sort of training in the sport, or at least has watched an episode or two of the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter, a reality show with real fights.
The fight takes place in — you guessed it — a barn, complete with a makeshift ring, surrounded by bales of hay. And no scantily-clad ring girls. The kicks, punches and take-downs appear to be accentuated by special-effect noises to make them sound louder. After initially on the receiving end of some ground-and-pound and a triangle choke, Jolin secures a choke and gets the tapout.
So, last month, I emailed the Discovery Channel, asking about the fight and if it had been choreographed.
Laurie Goldberg, a Discovery Channel spokeswoman, emailed me back: “The fight is a recreate since the actual barn fights are sporting events that would need to be sanctioned.”
I then sent a follow-up email to her, asking “Did producers look into getting the fight sanctioned? Does Jolin have any actual MMA training/fighting experience?”
I also brought up that the show staging an MMA contest — and coming off as though it was real — might offend those who spend their days and nights training to fight in actual MMA fights.
Goldberg’s response was a curt, “No more to comment. The show states upfront that recreations are used.”
Today I called Greg Sirb, executive director for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, but he laughed and said there was no way he was going to comment on anything having to do with the show.
Not long after my short email exchange with Goldberg, there was a torrent of stories on the Internet about the existence of any “Amish Mafia”, and the veracity of scenes like the collecting of “protection money” from local Lancaster businesses.
I don’t expect the flood to ebb anytime soon if the show continues the way it has so far.