“AND IT IS ALL OVER!”
“Introducing your NEW champion…”
And now we hate him. We are not absolutely sure why, but we know there is a reason. We will figure it out soon. In the meantime, let’s make a case for how unworthy he is of the belt. Type our hearts out through our favorite social networking site, or about all of the fighters that would walk all over the champ. Nod aggressively while reading Chael Sonnen’s latest interview transcript about how he could easily dismiss of this new champion. Explain that the new champion’s recent string of wins can be attributed to either:
1) Pure, downright, out and out luck.
2) Lack of any real competition.
Nevermind that he is a professional fighter. Nevermind that you were dumbfounded when he defeated all of his challengers. Nevermind that he has made you eat your words time and time again. Nevermind the sheer improbability needed for a fighter to have that many “lucky” wins in a row. He is now the champion and there’s a problem with that, right?
Think about the major sports. Sure, Some people love the Philadelphia Eagles or Golden State Warriors but there is no definitive reason for such allegiance. At least not a plausible one based upon results. Think about the fans of the New England Patriots or Los Angeles Lakers. They know exactly why they love their team and so do you. The people they root for have a golden ornament showing that they’re the best.
Modern MMA fans do not abide by this code. We know exactly who we like and why. There’s just something about the title-holder, though, that deserves disdain
Take Fedor Emelianenko. He had amassed an incomparable record of 30 wins and a negligible loss at by the age of 33. This may never be matched. At the same time, the rise of Zuffa’s power gave way to issues for not fighting top competition. Strip him of his WAMMA belt and forget that Pride Championship belt. Remove his status from the top of the pound for pound list because he didn't fight the "right" oppinents.
Fine. I present Brock Lesnar. His second professional fight was against former UFC’ heavyweight champion Frank Mir. His fourth fight won him the heavyweight championship over the living legend Randy Couture. That being said, the respect didnt come from the fans. Forget that he just beat the champion, the threshold for being the best. He did not earn that title shot and should not be considered the champion even if he defended the belt twice. We loved seeing Cain Velasquez make him turtle up.
So, we want a fighter who fights top competition. I offer Georges St-Pierre. He has held the welterweight belt for almost five years and taken on all comers. But, all he does is lay and pray and wait for the judges decision. We can’t wait to see him lose that belt and see Dana treat him like Jon Fitch.
You know who doesn’t “grind” out decisions? Anderson Silva. He has even moved up a weight class to display his dominance in the sport. Surely, we can all agree that he is the best champion, strike that, fighter. Not even close. He completely disrespects his opponents. We can't wait for him to receive his comeuppance in the form of a knockout blow. We can not wait for a snapshot of his prone body to become our new screensaver.
Okay, so we hate champions because they have not faced difficult enough competition. We hate fighters that lay and pray. We cannot stand a disrespectful fighter. The perfect solution must be a competitor who has rolled through all competition in a devastating manner. He also needs to be as humble and respectful. It would be great if he could peform superhero acts outside of the cage as well. Maybe he could apprehend a thief in the day and annihilate an "unbeatable" champion at night. Oh yeah, it would also be nice if he was the rare fighter willing to fight someone from his own camp in the name of competition.
Enter Jon Jones.
Well, he’s too arrogant. He’s too religious. He’s too proud. He doesn’t like fans that buy replica belts. He should be a heavyweight. We have no idea who will beat him, but we cannot wait until that happens.
While we’re at it, let’s quickly discuss Frankie Edgar. We have absolutely nothing bad to say about him. There’s just something about him, something we can’t put our collective finger on, that makes us think that he will lose every single time he steps in the cage. He’s just not good enough to be the champ.
And the list goes on and on. We just flatout dislike the fighters who beat the best to become the best, for one reason or another. There are temporary exceptions. We liked Lyoto Machida, but hated the idea that he was invincible. For that reason, we applauded when Shogun beat him (twice, as far as we’re concerned). We loved Shogun, but was beating a pair of over-the-hill UFC Hall of Famers really enough to catapult him to a title shot?
When a fighter earns the belt, he must also agree to hold a microscope with an attached spotlight. He’s the guy every fighter must challenge. Even if he clears out the division, he is ridiculed for not moving up to a different weight class or putting his record and legacy on the line for a superfight. If If he opts to move up but fails, he was never that good in the first place. We are a fickle group, us MMA fans.
We can turn on beloved fighters as quickly as Dana White can affix belts to their waists. In this modern day of MMA, no fighter is safe from a fan’s disdain. There’s no understandable reason to dislike such an adored fighter as Wanderlei Silva, but God forbid he beat the champion in any weight class. Someone, somewhere, would create a negative buzz and there would forever be a negative connotation.
We can nitpick any little atom about a fighter and it can be the reason we yearn to see him go limp inside the Octagon. But, why? We want to root for the underdog until he becomes the best. Then, we abandon the bandwagon in search of another prospect unlikely to garner a title.
There is no such thing as ‘good enough’ for an MMA fan. We can spend countless hours trivializing every last thing about a fighter at the top of his weight class, or we can accept that he is the best and respect his achievement. In the end, we can liken it to how we feel about the girl who wants to take the relationship to the next level. We can choose to accept the commitment at hand or sit there alone and angry condemning every last thing about her.
I suppose Bruce Buffer should change his introduction of a new champion to, “Do you, MMA fan, take this new champion, for better or worse…”