Before UFC 107, I was a mere tadpole in the sport of MMA. I watched it religously, but didn't have nearly the grasp or education on the history to dare raise my voice. But I knew enough that one quote resonated with me, and still does to this day.
I don't know who said it or when or from what site, otherwise I'd gladly give credit, but in the discussion of Penn vs. Sanchez, it was phrased as "hustle doesn't win championships". The object, of course, being Diego Sanchez and his unstoppable gas tank and will. I kind of shrugged it off as haterade, but when that bell rang, Diego hustled. He hustled into combinations, he hustled into kicks, and he hustled into a head kick that impregnated his forehead.
Diego, for all his heart and tenacious spirit, left 155 and showed up bloated and disinterested for his next fight against John Hathaway at UFC 114 and got demolished.
But that fight, and the talk before it, made me pretty damned depressed as a fighting romantic. It wasn't about heart, or fighting spirit, or a never-say-die attitude, it was about the better technician outpointing or out-planning his opponent. I know I should have been happy about that as an MMA supporter because of the legitimacy it brought the sport, but part of me was still a little sad that the scrappy underdogs had little to no chance.
Since that fight, the status quo remained. A younger, faster Cain Velasquez dethroned Brock Lesnar, a younger, faster Frankie Edgar dethroned BJ Penn, and a younger, faster Jon Jones dethroned Shogun Rua.
In each case, if was about technical proficiency. Cain was able to use fantastic boxing to hit a man who HATES getting hit in Lesnar, prefaced by his outstanding wrestling pedigree to counter Brock's bull-rushing attempts. Frankie's speed was simply too much for BJ, who surrendered takedowns to Frankie unlike anyone before him. Frankie used his speed advantage and boxing acumen to set up his wrestling. Jon Jones used a destructive and crisp Muay Thai assault to defeat Shogun.
In each of those fights, logic prevailed. Well, of course Cain beat Brock, Brock hates getting hit and Cain had the gas tank to keep the assault going. Of course BJ lost to Frankie, BJ found someone faster than him and paid the price. Of course Shogun lost to Jones, Shogun was rusty and out of shape and Jones was fresh and primed to take him down.
All of those arguments can be justified. What cannot be justified is if Georges St. Pierre loses to Carlos Condit.
Throughout the years, fight fans have always identified with fighters at a nationalistic level. When Nazi Germany trotted out Max Schmeling as their elite fighter, we, as a country, pulled for Joe Louis. That love continued to the black community after World War II when they felt they had no rights and representation. They hung on to Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, the one man that the prejudice population couldn't control because he was that talented. In his book, Sugar Ray Leonard talks extensively about his father's love of Joe Louis. He gave the black population a voice, a hope, a chance.
Cassius Clay (nay Muhammad Ali) resonated with the movements of the 60s and 70s, speaking for the speechless, Andy Hug representing the Dutch, Lennox Lewis representing the Brits, Evander Holyfield trying to keep respect in the Heavyweight division, Julio Cesar Chavez fighting for all of Mexico, Royce Gracie putting Brazil on the map and dominating, with Americans hoping that Ken Shamrock or Dan Severn would overtake him. Even the likes of Kelly Pavlik fighting for the depressed rust belt city of Youngstown and Saul Alvarez taking the torch from Chavez and De La Hoya for Mexico represent regional unity.
It's a hack premise to blindly associate a fighter with his nationality. Nobody likes hearing a "USA! USA!" chant. But one can say there is no higher art form than for one to identify themselves with one's work. I identify with Carlos Condit's work.
Georges St. Pierre is a hero to his country and his province. He proudly rocks a Fleur De Lis on his calf, and the red of Canada on his trunks. Georges St. Pierre is the perfect fighter. On top of that, he's the perfect "fighter". Which means not only is his technique in wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu, and every other technique top-notch, he's also a fantastic "fighter". He's handsome, clean-shaven with a shaved-bald head, bilingual, always dresses to the nines, and was the first MMA fighter to have a deal with Under Armour. He's charming, professional, photogenic, a hero to kids, and exactly the kind of champion the UFC needs.
Carlos Condit is unshaved, scruffy, violent, profane, and wears the flag of his home state as his mouthpiece.
That's why we need Carlos Condit.
Carlos Condit will not outstrike Georges St. Pierre. He won't outwrestle him. His submission game is far inferior. GSP has a better clinch game.
There is no way Carlos Condit defeates Georges St. Pierre in a five-round MMA contest.
"I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad." - Howard Beale, Network (1976)
All Carlos Condit has on St. Pierre is one thing, and it's one thing that cannot be measured in the tale of the tape; heart.
Diego Sanchez's intensity couldn't beat BJ Penn. Demian Maia's skills couldn't beat Anderson Silva. Dan Hardy's striking couldn't beat Georges St. Pierre, nor could Josh Koscheck's wrestling. Yushin Okami's strength couldn't topple Anderson Silva.
But for once, just once, I need to live in a world where heart means something. I need to know that in a world of seemingly unstoppable entities and a world that has forgotten about the little guys, that elbow grease and heart still matters.
I need to live in a world where Carlos Condit can be a world champion. Where pedigree and sponsorships can fall to guts and violence. Where bleached-smiles fall to sneers, where safe falls to violent, and where status quo falls to the underdog. Carlos Condit should give all of us a reason to hope.
But mostly, I need to live in a world where heart can win again. For that, we've got to get mad.