Imagine if right now, this moment, you were told you were going to be in a fight.
I know, I know – the internet tough guy immediately comes back with “Bro, dude, I fight all the time! I get in fights every day. I’m like a living legend on these streets. JUMP IN MY GUARD, BRO!”
Ok, so now that the knee-jerk reaction has been taken care of for you and the whole internet knows what a bad man you really are – if you could, think a bit harder for me.
Think about the times you knew you were going to be in a fight.
If your experiences are anything like mine, your mindset didn’t resemble the UFC’s version of what a “fighter” thinks about before a fight. You weren’t getting ready to “bear witness to the fitness of the modern warrior”. You weren’t amped to “face the pain”. You certainly weren’t looking forward to your noggin being in the way as “BOOM another hit is landed.”
Chances are you were feeling pretty damn apprehensive. Not scared per se, not afraid – but damn, damn nervous.
See, fighting is the most naked activity a human being can participate in. Wait, that sounded wrong. Let’s try again: Fighting is the frothy lubricant for our emotional…ah damnit! One more time: the act of combat causes us to grope uncomfortably into the darkest deepest cracks of…oh forget it!
Simply put: fighting is definitive in a way other sports simply aren’t.
I bet you can’t remember every game of basketball, or golf, or rugby, or whatever that you’ve ever played. Even the “big” games – championships, rivalry games, that sort of thing – fade in time.
But I’m willing to bet that you remember, with picture-perfect clarity, every single fight you’ve ever been in.
To use the example of Brett Favre, his interception against the Saints in the NFC championship game made him one of the most despised guys in sports – for a brief time. Oh, and he also took pictures of his junk and sent them to people. That was kind of a smear as well.
But it doesn’t matter. He’s retired now, and will be remembered as one of the all-time greats. And as many times as he screwed up (and he did) he always had another season to redeem himself.
Each season, the slate was wiped clean – for the team, and for the players on it. No New Orleans Saints fan still claims their team is the best because they won the Superbowl almost three years ago.
Forrest Griffin is a former world champion, a PPV headliner, and an all-time great with 14 UFC fights to his name. How much you want to bet that every time his name is brought up with fans, in the media, wherever – the first thing that comes to mind is Anderson Silva. That fight was in 2009, the same year/season the Saints went all the way to the Superbowl, yet in one sport the slate is completely wiped clean.
In the other sport, our sport, the stigma of defeat will hang around Forrest’s neck forever.
He’ll never get another season to rectify that. There isn’t a tour coming up where they’ll meet again. They won’t meet every 2 months, like tennis stars. His only chance for redemption is a rematch. And with Forrest’s career winding down and Anderson newly busy at middleweight, that’s not likely to happen.
All the respect Forrest earned before the Silva fight – like winning a world championship, or being in the most important fight in MMA history – was all but erased in the minds of many fans with that one, smashing defeat.
It’s not right, it’s not fair, but it’s the cold, hard truth about MMA. About combat sports. About fighting.
I could blame mentality. I could blame the “winning is everything” mindset of the American fan. I could blame Vince Lombardi. I could blame “Mortal Kombat” or “Bloodsport” or “Highlander” for inspiring this “victor vanquishes the defeated” mindset in combat sports. I could blame Obama – that seems to be in style with you Yanks right now.
But the simple truth is: it’s human nature. Being better at a silly children’s game is fleeting, trivial, and next to meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
But being better at a fight? That goes right back to our most primal instincts. That’s some “law of the jungle” sh*t. When one person beats another person in a direct, violent physical confrontation, it’s akin to an evolutionary statement that says to everyone watching “I am better. My genes are superior. I am a better mate, provider, and specimen of human being.”
Are there exceptions? Of course. We’ve all seen those fights that were all out wars, where the announcers proclaim that “neither man really lost this fight,” or something similar. The Gatti vs. Ward trilogy in boxing is a great example of that rare instance where the winner of the fight isn’t as important as the fight itself.
But these are the exceptions, rather than the rule. 90% of the time, in life as in combat sports, one guy beats the other, and now the winner>the loser. Case closed, let’s move on.
Now I ask you again: imagine you were told, right now, that you were going to be in a fight. And your friends, family, and everyone you ever knew would all be watching this fight. Imagine 20,000 people were gathered ‘round to watch this fight. Imagine there were whole blogs, news sites, and articles devoted to looking at whether or not you were going to get your ass kicked. Can you possibly imagine the total vulnerability – emotional, mental, physical – such a situation would force in you?
That’s what a fighter faces every time he gets in the cage. And he faces something else, too – the possibility of complete humiliation and defeat, that unless he is a big name in a big money fight, he’ll likely never get the chance to avenge.
In every action you take as a fan, in every critical word you write, in every insult you drunkenly hurl at a boring fight, in every dismissive, critical notion that a fighter is “done”, “overrated” “exposed” or anything else – never, ever forget this.
It’s pretty much the least we can do, don’t you think?
By Elton Hobson, who's decision to go all sentimental with this post and wax poetic about the unfair nature of combat sports hopefully makes him sound humble and insightful, instead of shallow and whinny. Worst-case scenario, talking about himself in the 3rd person ought to bring back all the tough guy MMA fans he just turned off with this little "3 hanky surprise".