Well first off I know this post is a few days late getting posted but I have been away from internet access for a week. I missed the Strikeforce fights (aka the Fedor loss) but in hearing about the loss AND the backlash that occurred afterward it got me thinking about legacy, not only Fedor's, but any great fighter or athlete. We throw around the term Pound For Pound best a lot during daily MMA conversation. The most recognized name on such a list of the last 10 years has been Fedor but it has become clear that he no longer in consideration for the P4P best at the moment....but of his era? Certainly. Of all time? He is without a doubt in the debate.
When we divide the term P4P best into its different categories (All time, era and current) it gets much harder to determine who rightfully deserves such recognition as the time line increases. The current P4P lists are most likely topped by GSP or Anderson Silva, Era's are topped by various fighters depending on how you define what is considered to be an era, and the all time lists even have more debate because some people see it as "what have you done for me lately?" while others are "yeah but look at what he did during such and such a time". The debate will continue to rage on and I'd like to throw my two cents into the mix.
First off, with regards to the current P$P list I have not seen many, if any lists at all that does not have one of Silva, GSP or Aldo topping the list. I believe this to be completely fair assessment of today's MMA rankings with honorable mention going to Shogun when he is 100% healthy. Anderson Silva still tops my list as I think the man is way beyond his time and way ahead of the rest of the fighters in terms of an overall fighter...which leads into my main point with this post.
How exactly do we define who is the best P4P fighter of all time? Like any sport I think you first figure out who were the best of a certain era. An era can be any length as you see fit in my own opinion. Things change so quickly in sport that it is hard to figure pin point exactly when one era starts and the other begins. After you complete a list of the best of the various era's than the debate rages on about which of these athletes deserve the term "best of all time" stamp. Before getting into MMA, lets first look at other sports:
Hockey: Orr, Lemiuex, Howe, and Gretzky. Those are usually the four names that are considered when thinking of the best hockey player of all time.
Baseball: Ruth, Gehrig, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Bonds, Rose.....ok so the baseball list is much longer but even from the list you can see it gets divided into various areas and not often do you see a whole bunch of names from one particular time span; it is usually spread out.
Basketball: Jordan is the consensus here and the easiest to pick in any sport. Yes, there are some arguments for some others but the only other player to come to mind that warrants any consideration is Bill Russel. If kobe gets a few more rings than he will make it a 3 horse race.
Ok, obviously those are debatable, but this is an MMA website so lets talk MMA. Who is the greatest of all time? Most will say Fedor, especially if we exclusively talk about the best HW ever. However here is my beef with labeling athletes the greatest ever. The gap between the top tier athlete and the 2nd tier athlete is closer than it ever has been. Fedor looked like a machine, not only because of his skill but because his opponents just were not on his level. He was so far ahead of them it was almost unfair. So that begs the question, was Fedor that damn good OR was his competition not good enough? Did Fedor fight some of the best? Of course he did but he also faced a lot of weak end fighters along the way, during a time he should have been steadily fighting the best. Today, divisions are stacked from top to bottom with great fighters and its hard to find a easy fight for anyone. This is why I believe we will see newer fighters gradually push Fedor down the list as best ever, even at HW. Look at Cain Velasquez, undefeated and UFC champ. He has fought stellar competition and being the champ is only going to mean he will fight the best. What if he stays champ for a long time? The guy has crazy skills and will have an amazing record. If he could sustain a long reign at the top could he become the best ever?
We also have to consider the technological advances in training. With supplements, better equipment, refined techniques athletes in all sports are far ahead of anything their predecessors could ever dream of. This is what makes that gap between the 1st and 2nd tier so close. Pure athletes, relying on skill alone used to be the best, now it comes down to a combo of skill and who works the hardest on improving their game. This is why the P4P lists are so subjective, its so hard to compare athletes of different times. Should be knock Fedor for dominating for many years even with some less than formidable opponents? No I do not think so, he still went undefeated for a very long time and that is a huge feat. Well than, should we knock fighters now for not being as dominant as Fedor was? I say no to this as well because of the wide pool of talent out there, staying on top is harder than ever.
So who is the best ever? I think thats a question that will only ever be purely debatable and a definitive answer will never be given because there are too many factors to be considered. Sport is ever evolving and athletes will continue to improve each passing year. Young phenom's will come by and dominate the sport and create new debates. Someone like Fedor who is widely considered the best ever may not even be considered the best HW ever in a few years.
So i ask everyone of my fellow Bloody Elbow readers, not who is the best ever, but what is your criteria in determining who reigns supreme at the top of your lists? And why are certain factors more important than others?