It was a heart-rending moment, yes, HEART-rending, in all it said and did not say about the state of the post-facto fighter. The camera swung through the crowd for reaction shots after Tito Ortiz's surprise [don't tell us you were NOT surprised] crushing of the now-headruined Ryan Bader [yes...we'd be the first to make the nut-jumping claim that the great Bader has not been the same since Jon Jones put a bug in his head and a beating on his ass], and it landed on an unprepared Chuck Liddell.
Now some might say he was staring down at his iPhone. Or maybe it was his Blackberry. Or even an Android. Though Chuck seems much more like an LG kind of a guy. Wait...where we we? Oh yeah. Chuck sat there staring down. At his feet or his phone it doesn't matter because the look on his face before his face registered that there was a camera in it, was one of unmitigated misery: Tito, a man he could have gotten out of his chair and beaten, was still in a position to beat people, add up the W's, and go back to screwing porn stars. Make that "star."
Anyways, it was terrible to watch, in the few seconds you could see it: a man staring into the depths of his soul when the only thing he's wanted to do has been yanked out from under him forever and ever. Of course he recovered nicely and smiled and waved while he crushed his phone into dust with hands that wanted nothing more to do than fling him over the cage and start beating Tito death, but WE knew what was going on: "how is it possible that I beat that guy TWICE and he's still fighting while I have to sit here next to Bubblehead." Or some such thing.
And in the hubbub and Tito pulling down a replacement slot against Rashad Evans in an upcoming UFC, all may have been forgotten. By most. But not all: Having recently interviewed Gary Goodridge and Jeff Monson on my radio show and trained with early UFC fighter and Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz, I know better than most that snow on the roof belies a fire in the furnace. Whatever the hell that means.
The point though is there's no reason for fighters of a certain age to be retired unless they're UNDER-performing and don't tell me someone like Chuck is under-performing when you can't even say with a straight face that he sucks more than Tito. Sure. I hear you thinking: "do we really need more fights like Matt Hughes versus RoyceGracie?" Who says that fight sucked because they were OLD? Not me. That fight was at least as interesting as any Michael Bisping fight. Which is not saying much but whatever.
So Tito was decisioned on his way to several losses and Chuck was KTFO on his way to his and one looks worse than the other because there's concern about fighter safety? Ok. Fine. So it is just how a fighter loses that makes the difference? Well, the game changes and those who can't keep up get left behind but there still is a place for fighters from different epochs and that's in an age bracket where they can still shine.
Golf has a Seniors division, why not MMA?
Like Jack Nicklaus, even if he's dead now, could beat you and me over 18 holes, so could Don Frye, no matter what Johnny Depp movie he's appearing in this week. Of course fighters would resist fighting in the Senior, or Classics, League making the claim that they want to fight the best of the best but if the choice is that or a seat cageside where you have to look happy that a guy you know you can beat is still winning, well which do you think they would choose? Besides which no one fights with more intensity than the bull that's about to be shuffled on out of the herd.
So here's our simple formula for continued UFC dominance: old fighters, who are not bums, fighting.
You can thank me later.
Eugene S. Robinson's resume runs from writing for GQ, Hustler, PC Gamer, Revolver, Decibel...etc to authoring FIGHT: everything you wanted to know about ass kicking but were afraid you'd get your ass kicked for asking, to his MMA radio show on www.combatmusicradio.com/knuckleup and fronting the band Oxbow, all while finding time to still train and compete.