When I watched the fight between Matt Hughes and Renzo Gracie over in Abu Dhabi, I found myself gnashing my teeth. These guys were taking "sportsmanship" to the next level. Not only were they touching gloves, they were acting like long-lost cousins!
Although I know it wasn't one, it gave me the same queasy feeling I get about "worked" fights. Yes, there's a world of difference between a pre-determined outcome and just taking it easy on a guy because you respect him, but it's not that far away from Sean Salmon tapping because he had more important things to do in a few weeks.
This queasy feeling hit me again this weekend watching Pat Barry's man-love for Cro-Cop. In the first round, Barry had two opportunity to finish his opponent, and in both cases, let him gather his senses.
Some speculated it was because Barry was afraid to go to the ground with Cro-Cop, or was nursing a hand broken on Cro-Cop jaw. I think both these are ruled out by what transpired over the rest of the fight.
Barry looked for every opportunity to HUG his opponent. Not only did he let Cro-Cop back into the fight, he practically gave the Croation his neck for the sloppiest RNC to ever win Submission of the Night.
Do I think Barry in any way "worked" this fight? Absolutely not. But I do believe he took it easy, tried less hard, and generally gave his opponent the kind of deference usually accorded Hulk Hogan in his latter days.
In light of these developments, I am calling for an end to:
1) Mutual congratulation after an especially spirited exchange
2) Fist-bumping the opponent at any time other than the start of each round
3) Hugging or any other displays of man love, up to but not including Lay and Pray
Anybody else remember this?
I don’t think there should be an official rule against displaying sportsmanship—I just think it’s gotten out of hand because it was celebrated by fans and announcers eager to show that the sport wasn’t barbaric. Now I think the pendulum needs to swing back the other direction.
I think it’s appropriate to fist-bump after an unintentional eye-poke or groin shot, as a show of sportsmanship. But when guys are slapping hands and hugging after every spirited exchange, we’re getting 1 minute of fighting and 4 minutes of sparring.
Pat Barry seemed to be fighting under K-1 rules, and it wasn’t entirely because he was afraid to go to the ground. Their fist-bumping after Barry let the Croation up brought to mind the “gentlemen’s agreement” between Marcus Davis and Chris Lytle that “the first one to go to the ground is a pussy.”
But Cro-Cop did take it to the ground, and Barry looked like he was suddenly playing a different sport. As Dana said, Barry learned an expensive lesson: Cro-Cop is not your friend. Hopefully, the other fighters were watching.
When you enter the Octagon, you’re in a fight. Defend yourself at all times. If you want to hug your opponent, do it at the bar after you win.