Dallas Winston opines on the unprecedented anomaly of two friends and teammates fighting for a championship in a major MMA promotion.
The sticky dilemma of teammates and training partners potentially having to square off in the cage is not a new one.
Way back at UFC 6, Russian fighter-turned-actor Oleg Taktarov drew Anthony Macias, and the fighters shared the same manager. Macias burst out of his corner and conveniently left his neck exposed during a double-leg takedown and Taktarov, who'd submitted 4 of his 5 wins at the time, cinched a guillotine for a 9-second tapout. The outcome was so blatantly conspicuous that premiere MMA ref "Big" John McCarthy, who drew the assignment for the match, publicly speculated that the fight was a work in his book Let's Get it On.
John McCarthy: "During the semifinal match between Oleg Taktarov and Anthony Macias, I believe I saw my first fixed fight in the UFC. Both fighters had the same manager, Buddy Albin, so I think it was decided backstage that Macias would throw the match so Oleg could advance to the finals and face Tank [Abbott] as fresh as possible. The fight went a little too smoothly for my tastes when Macias shot in and nearly fell into the guillotine choke, which he tapped out to in twelve seconds."
The next notable example was the infamous Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell drama. Circa 2002, "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was soaring as the UFC light-heavyweight champion and the face of the promotion with a quartette of dominant title defenses under his belt. After he was choked out by Jeremy Horn at UFC 19 in 1999, Liddell registered one of the most indelible streaks in MMA with 10-straight wins, many of which were contested against more prestigious competition than Ortiz' title defenses, and isolated himself as the clear #1 contender. However, citing the now infamous "pact" that he'd struck with "The Iceman," Ortiz opted to face Ken Shamrock instead.
In recent times, former Jackson's MMA colleagues Melvin Guillard and Donald Cerrone squared off, though Guillard had already switched camps and Cerrone made it clear that fighting teammates was a non-issue prior to their collision:
Donald Cerrone: "I'd fight a teammate. We do it every day in the gym. At the end of the day, it's about having a career. I fully support all of my teammates and I will help them with whatever, but when it comes down to it, you have to do what's best for your career."
Perhaps the most trumpeted teammate vs. teammate static stems from AKA welterweights Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck, but Koscheck put the kibosh on that with the following declaration:
Josh Koscheck: "I'll never fight Jon Fitch. I'll move up a weight class, or I'll cut my leg off and move down a weight class."
For examples with title implications, we've witnessed the likes of Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit and Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans battling for UFC gold in their respective weight classes, yet GSP had been a staple of the Tri-Star Gym and didn't train at Jackson's MMA full time and Evans had already started to rep the Blackzilians by the time he fought Jones.
That teammate vs. teammate baseline is what makes the Bellator World Bantamweight Championship bout tonight between Eduardo Dantas and Marcos Galvao a first in MMA history. They're longtime friends and training partners under Andre Pederneiras at the renowned Nova Uniao academy who forged a student/mentor relationship, with cagey vet Galvao imparting his wisdom on the young Dantas through their years together.
Increasing the uniqueness of the Bellator 89 main event is the fact that there's no bad blood or animosity between Dantas and Galvao. They still train together, they're still friends and they'll continue to be. It's an unprecedented circumstance that has to be extremely difficult for the competitors as well as the team and the coach, yet the Brazilians are willing to set their friendship aside and handle their business like true professionals.
Catch the entire Bellator 89 event, which also features the opening round of the Middleweight Tournament, streaming live and free on Bloody Elbow tonight, and don't forget to check Fraser Coffeen's preview of the event.
Bellator 89: Dantas vs. Galvao
Main Card: (airing live on Spike TV and streaming on Bloody Elbow at 10:00 p.m. ET)
Bantamweight Title Fight: Marcos Galvao vs. Eduardo Dantas
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal: Brian Rogers vs. Dan Cramer
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal: Brett Cooper vs. Norman Paraisy
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal: Andreas Spang vs. Doug Marshall
Middleweight Tournament Quarterfinal: Sultan Aliev vs. Mikkel Parlo
Preliminary Card: (streaming live on Bloody Elbow and Spike.com at 8:00 p.m. ET)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Timothy Goodwin vs. Mike Maldonaldo
Welterweight Feature Fight: Chris Mierzwiak vs. Johnny Buck
Middleweight Feature Fight: Kyle Bolt vs. Joe Pacehco
Middleweight Feature Fight: Aaron Johnson vs. Brennan Ward
Heavyweight Feature Fight: David Mejia vs. Mont McMullens