Perhaps it's my sordid past as a pro wrestling and 1990s HBO boxing fanatic, but I've always loved hype. I enjoy hearing back stories, learning about personalities and why I should care about the two guys or gals stepping into the ring or cage.
But there's one aspect of the UFC's approach to fight promotion that has been driving me nuts for a while. It's how they pick and choose how to treat losses, especially on the Countdown shows. It especially stood out when viewing Sunday's non-promoted Road To The Octagon show on Fox, a special that flew under nearly everyone's radar because no one knew about it.
I understand there's plenty of trepidation and groaning about Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera and Ryan Bader vs. Lyoto Machida on top of a major Fox show, but I put that aside in hopes of learning anything new about the four men entrusted with putting on a great show in front of millions Saturday.
With both fights, the UFC and Fox missed opportunities to tell the real story about why Vera is such a longshot Saturday and how Bader recovered from one of the biggest upsets of 2011.
Read about what they neglected to say and why it matters after the jump.
With Rua vs. Vera, the standout storyline is obvious: Vera got the golden ticket. They did a good job at painting the picture of his difficulties through the years and how you really don't know what you're going to get when he fights. But they left out two key details: his 2006-07 contract dispute that cost him a shot at the heavyweight title and his release from the UFC after an embarrassing loss to Thiago Silva.
In the case of the former, they missed a detail that saw him on the sidelines for nearly a year and again, he lost a shot at a title because of it. If you're trying to explain exactly how up and down his career has been, that's kind of a big thing to ignore.
During the special, Vera talked about peaks, valleys and "Hell" regarding his career. One would assume the "Hell" reference was about his release following his one-sided January 2011 loss to Silva that saw him being spanked, slapped and his nose readjusted. I say assume because it wasn't mentioned. Again, it's kind of an important detail if you're telling a story about someone's path of adversity.
With Bader, the UFC did some WWE-style revisionist history. They talked about his run to 12-0 and loss to Jon Jones that set him back. Anyone that follows the sport remembers what followed: a first round submission defeat to Tito Ortiz that was one of the biggest upsets we've seen in years.
That was conveniently ignored. Instead, it was presented that his comeback fight was his TKO win over Jason Brilz last November. Casual fans know Ortiz and mentioning the loss wouldn't have hurt Bader's cred. Again, he won two in a row after that so he's on a streak. Instead, they're pretending the Ortiz fight didn't happen.
One more thing that was left out: Machida's second round loss to Jones in December. Apparently, no one ever loses in the UFC even though I can't get the image of Machida slumped unconscious after that fight out of my head.
I understand the standard response that in promotion, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. My problem is that the UFC is being presented as a true sport, especially under the Fox banner. In real sports, losses aren't ignored. When my very average Boston Red Sox played the New York Yankees this past weekend, Fox pulled no punches in explaining how disappointing they have been. When the NFL kicks off this fall, adversity is embraced, not swept under the rug. That's what makes the upsets so much fun to watch (unless you have money on the game, of course).
Our society loves underdogs. They embrace what it's like to have people expecting you to lose and love it when you win anyway. The Summer Olympics happening right now are all about that human connection. It's easy when you're expected to be on the right side of the ledger. It's when you tip the apple cart and pull off the unexpected that things get really fun.
The UFC should embrace and promote the true stories behind their fights -- even when they're not as rosy as they'd have you believe.