We (if you’ve clicked on this story, "we" definitely includes you) love to compare MMA to other sports. Namely, boxing. But we also see comparisons between Dana and Bud Selig, or Anderson Silva to some other uber-stud in some other sport. What I’d like to do today, however, is compare the current MMA landscape to something I’m sure none of us have heard enough about—the election. That is, what fighter is the 2008 Barack Obama? The 2012 Obama? Who’s the current Mitt Romney smashing faces in the UFC? Come with me, and nerd out for a bit.
For me, the 2008 Obama screams Jon Jones circa early 2011. Not unlike Barry O. of 2008, JBJ right around his first title fight got people excited. Jones’s supporters at the time couldn’t stop singing his praises. Here was a guy that was going to change the whole game. He was phenom. A young, easy-to-like destroyer that only promised to bring excitement not only to the division, but to the sport in general. When Jones demolished Shogun like an episode of Bully Beatdown, the hope and excitement surrounding the kid was undeniable. Even Jones’s few detractors at the time couldn’t help but admit: This kid was fun to watch.
The comparisons to 2008 Obama are clear. Jones at the time was likeable nearly across the board, and showed promise of ushering a totally new era. Obama promised hope, and so did Jon Jones. For every spinning back elbow to the temple that Jones landed, Barack wooed a crowd in some small town in a battleground state. They energized their respective professions.
Just as 2008 Barack Obama had detractors, so too did JBJ of early 2011, and both for the same reasons. A significant number of pundits and voters alike in 2008 felt that Obama was too young, too inexperienced to take on the job of POTUS; he just hadn’t put in enough time in politics to be a successful leader of the free world. Sound familiar? Were any of you doubters of JBJ back in 2011? I mean, come on… he had hardly been training for a few years! There’s no way he could end up being anything special! Sure Jones was athletic, but he even lacked that All American D-1 status we look for in dominant wrestlers. Sure Obama could give an invigorating speech, but he was untested.
MMA and politics are individual endeavors, and the landscape of each is largely driven by individuals. In 2008, the political landscape was dominated by this exciting Senator from Illinois with very little real political experience. In early 2011, the MMA world was buzzing about this lanky kid from NY that rag-dolled grown men.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bleeding heart liberal through-and-through; pro-Obama all the way and basically one of those annoying straight ticket voters. That said, there is no way that I can compare the 2012 Obama to the current Jon Jones; Obama hasn’t been nearly as good of a President as JBJ has been a champion. It’s a shame, and I hate to admit it, but the luster has worn off. Sure, there are still some JBJ-Obama comparisons. Certainly, if Jones had some approval ratings, they have precipitously dropped as has come to be perceived as arrogant and self-centered. But still, Jones continues to dominate his contemporaries while Obama has struggled to deal with a Republican congress, and looked like he drank a pint of Nyquil in one of the most important debates of his life.
With all that in mind, I see the 2012 Obama as the 2012 GSP. Yeah, yeah, I know right off the bat: there are issues with the whole GSP not fighting for a while and there basically is no current GSP because the guy hasn’t had a chance to show his riddum in too long. However, the general feeling I get about GSP is the same I get about the current Obama. Do I think Obama will win the election? Yes. Do I think GSP will beat Condit? Yep. Am I super excited about either event? Ehhh, not really. Remember when GSP armbarred Matt Hughes?! That was amazing! Do you get that same feeling about GSP now? I certainly don’t. More than any other champion that I can remember, I think the shine… the excitement… surrounding GSP has worn off. Just like a large portion of the country has grown tired of Obama, collectively thinking "he’s not really… that awesome," so too have many MMA fans come to think about GSP.
As always, this type of comparison will depend on your point of view. If you’re still a 100% into Obama and ready to get out and canvas for him tomorrow, cover your car in "Forward" bumper stickers, and put those annoying pins on your jacket, then you might not agree with my characterization that some of the country has soured on Barack. The same exists for GSP fans. Those hardcore GSP fans out there might vehemently defend his fighting style, and love to witness the beauty of a power double-leg and guard pass. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but so what? It’s GSP and you’re still a true fan, just like some will be die-hard Obama supporters through and through. (There’s gotta be something about Obamacare and GSP’s rehab… but nothing comes to mind immediately).
This is a tough one, and I think it’s largely dependent on your point of view. My initial thought is that Mitt Romney is the Chael Sonnen of the MMA world, simply because many people are disappointed in him as a challenger, but he is the best option out there. That is, there aren’t many quality contenders out there (remember Herman Cain?!), so we’re settling with this guy to challenge the champion/President.
Sadly, though, that’s wear my comparison between fighter and candidate breaks down. Romney is anything but a fast talking media star that gets himself into positions he doesn’t deserve. Whatever your politics are, you can’t honestly think that Romney carries the same kind of bravado as Chael. So what are other possible fighters that can be equated to Romney? I’m looking for a fighter that’s perceived as somewhat boring, doesn’t have some crazy personal life, and has surprised people with his performances lately (and a certain religious fanaticism would be a plus). Somebody like Jon Fitch when he fought GSP comes to mind, but the current Jon Fitch is too experienced to be the Mitt Romney of MMA (Romney isn’t exactly a lifelong politician).
If we forget altogether for a second that Michael Bisping has that goofy accent, I think he might be the perfect MMA equivalent of Mitt Romney. He’s on the verge of a title shot (okay, Mitt has his "title shot" in a day, but whatever), people often think of him as boring (pillow fisted blah blah blah), and often surprises people with how well he performs. Just like fans thought Bisping would get mauled by Sonnen but ended up losing a controversial decision, pundits thought Romney would be embarrassed by Obama in debates. Just like nobody is particularly excited about Bisping getting a title shot but realize he might be the best option, the Republican base wasn’t too fond of Romney being the nominee but came to realize he’s their best option. True, Bisping has a reputation as a bit of a trash-talker, but he is certainly no Chael. And true, Romney doesn’t have the reputation as a hyper-aggressive attack minded politician, but he’s definitely not the most boring guy out there (remember John Kerry?). Now, if only Romney would’ve spit on Obama after winning that first debate would the comparison be complete.
There you have it. The 2008 Obama is the 2011 Jon Jones. The 2012 Obama is the 2012 GSP. Finally Mitt Romney is (kind of) Michael Bisping.
If you’ve read the whole post… I’m impressed with your patience. Thanks for letting me nerd out. Follow me on twitter @BenjaminAbrigo
BONUS: Phil Baroni= Donald Trump? Michelle Bachmann= Brock?