Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren nervously shuffled his feet, wiping the sweat away from his brow as referee Jason Herzog held his wrist in anticipation of the outcome. As the scores were read, Warren's expression did not change. He was worried, concerned that he may possibly be the first champion to lose in a non-title affair under the promotion's banner. I'm not buying his post-fight remarks.
Moments later, Warren's exuberant, almost brash confidence beamed into our living rooms and into the crowd in Yuma, Arizona. Warren had defeated WEC veteran Marcos Galvao in the eyes of three judges sitting cage-side, but for most fans -- he had stolen a victory away from Galvao.
The criticism of the judge Chuck Wolf's 30-27 scorecard was the focal point of the discussion the following day. Many fans, including myself, felt the decision was a robbery, despicable proof that some people in this world were born stupid. How in the world could anyone watch the second round of that fight and deem Warren the winner?
At some point during the last two days, I became convinced that Warren's relentless charm, positive thinking, and ambitious attitude put him into the good graces of the big guy upstairs. There isn't a deity in the world who's going to punish MMA's version of Tony Robbins. Let's just all accept the fact that Warren is a hypnotist of incompetent judges and move on.
Despite the controversy, the main event battle with Marcos Galvao was another performance that proved Warren possesses the greatest intangible asset a fighter can have when he enters the cage. Toughness. Durability. Heart. Call it whatever you like. Joe Warren epitomizes what it means to be a "blue-chipper".
Galvao bombarded the champion's chin with flying knees, standing knees, punches, the kitchen sink, a Buick, a bag of hammers. You name it, it met Warren's chin in the second round of action on Saturday night. Warren stiffened up for a moment as Galvao's patella met his chin on multiple occasions during the round's action, but he drove forward furiously as if it was only a minor obstacle in his path to victory. Eventually, Warren succeeded in his plans to thrash Galvao from top control, taking him down in the third round.
In this three-round affair, Galvao had bested Warren on my scorecard, but one has to wonder if Galvao could repeat the performance in a five-round title showdown. In the broader scope of things, is it unfathomable to suggest that Joe Warren is the quintessential tough guy who has the drive and determination to brute force his way through adversity and miraculously come out on top in the end? He's already shown those characteristics time and time again, despite how you may feel about the decisions against Galvao, Freire, and Yamamoto.
Is he the type of fighter, even with the glaring weaknesses in his game, who can essentially outwork and tire everyone put in front of him? Clay Guida is the lightweight version of that type of fighter, and he's found success near the upper tier of the division. He's never been a champion though. Most fans would say that the Bellator featherweight strap doesn't truly matter due to the UFC's belt belonging to Jose Aldo. But five rounds against Joe Warren, a man made of iron who possesses an endless oxygen tank and world class wrestling? I'm interested to see it happen eventually.
Warren's lofty goals for the future include belts at both featherweight and bantamweight, along with a run at Olympic gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics. The confidence that Warren has conveyed when speaking of those goals has annoyed some fans, but I think we should embrace it. Warren may not be the most exciting fighter in the world. He does, however, have a strange way of sucking you in when he fights, mainly due to the brutality his chin takes and the amazement of his continued consciousness in the face of blunt objects jolting his noggin. He meets adversity head on, choosing the path of greatest resistance like it's some sort of sick fetish he needs to feed. As for his arrogance, perhaps Crash Davis was right. "You be cocky and arrogant, even when you're getting beat. That's the secret. You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance."
When my almost four-year old asked me why I needed to shut off the endless parade of Thomas the Train episodes at 9 o'clock, I simply stated that it was time for him to go to bed. As he barraged me with crying and whining, he badgered me with the question over and over. Finally, I said, "I'm turning it off because I'm going to watch Joe Warren, the real Thomas the Train". While Thomas the Train isn't the exact model of The Little Engine That Could, he is a similar anthropomorphic character who never gives up.
Not realizing the ramifications of this answer, my son began excitedly asking if he could watch Joe Warren. The term "facepalm" immediately came to mind, but perhaps Joe Warren can become the spokesperson for children overcoming adversity everywhere. After all, Warren won't ever quit, a lesson that can never be taught too much to the youth of the world.