Now is as good a time as any to continue talking MMA. Not because global health issues are less important, but because, well, what the heck else is this site for? I could talk about the Coronavirus, but I’d rather just link you to this disease expert rolling his eyes at the Dustin Hoffman thriller, Outbreak, and move on.
Let me pause on that thought for a second. Not MMA. But Outbreak. I actually saw it in the theatres. As a kid, I can see why I enjoyed it. Normally, making a movie with guns and explosions is easy: you get good guys with guns to interact with bad guys with guns, and voila! But what happens when the bad guy is a virus? Turns out, you can still keep the guns! Outbreak was a movie about a virus, but guns and explosions were still on the menu. How cool is that?
I’m not gonna say Outbreak isn’t dumb. Because it is. But I will say that Outbreak would be totally forgotten if it weren’t for our current situation. And that’s what brings us to Jeff Joslin — a forgotten fighter with a fascinating history.
First, let’s go back to 2006. During this time, we still thought of fighter acumen the way we do Jungian archetypes. Style and skill had yet to be mutually exclusive. Remember, this was still the era of Matt Hughes. In fact, 2006 was largely the exclamation mark on Hughes’ legacy. He defeated the number one contender in Georges St-Pierre two years prior, and 2006 would be the year he’d avenge his loss to BJ Penn.
Enter Joslin, the son of a three-time Canadian karate champion. Listen. Let me go Old Man Yelling At Clouds on you for a second. Fighter hype back then isn’t what it is now. Nowadays, all you have to do is professionally street fight, crossover from pro wrestling or bend a frying pan and voila!
Now before you call me boomer, let me clarify. That’s not to say superficial origins can’t lead to interstitial acumen. Brock Lesnar is the perfect, Coors-loving example of this. And that’s not to say the reverse can’t play out. Look at Marcelo Garcia: a BJJ phenom who looked painfully average against a merely average fighter. Or Rulon Gardner.
Joslin was different. In a shark tank of wrestling and striking palette swap characters, Joslin was a striker who just so happened to be gifted at gi. And no, I’m not talking in a “beasts in the gym” way; Joslin was the first Canadian to medal at the International BJJ Pan-Ams.
But before entering the UFC, he was the victim of an all-timer: robbed utterly, and mercilessly against Jon Fitch. You can find their fight here.
It was a great display of Joslin’s potential. He tore Fitch up on the feet with straight rights, left hooks, and lead uppercuts. For the most part, he defended the takedowns. In fact, the only time Fitch was successful was very late in the rounds. A headbutt opened up Joslin late in the first, knocking his two front teeth out and breaking his nose, but he remained the aggressor throughout. Even with Fitch being rewarded a personal timeout in the final round (much to the valid chagrin of announcer Stephen Quadros), Joslin had this one wrapped up. That is, until the judges’ announced their decision.
The win would go on to catapult Fitch into the UFC. Joslin would have to find another way. He did, by trying out for TUF. He was rejected, meaning he didn’t get a chance to witness Chris Leben fight a house, but eventually he’d get his shot at the big show. Joslin was a young-ish prospect with excellent grappling who won all of his fights by TKO. So the UFC did the natural thing and put him up against Josh Koscheck.
The fight itself was a snoozer. Koscheck was still raw himself. A wrestler with a big right hand and not much else, he took Joslin to the ground every chance he got. Other than a stiff right that wobbled Koscheck, and a triangle he locked in late in one of the rounds, Joslin would go on to lose: 15 minutes of work for $3,000.
There’s a great recount of Joslin’s night by Scott Radnley if you’re interested in more. Still, Joslin signed a three-fight contract. He’d have another shot. Until he didn’t. His next scheduled fight, against Kuniyoshi Hironaka for UFC Fight Night 9, was scrapped due to an undisclosed injury.
It sucked for hardcore fans itching to see him redeem himself after getting the Charles Oliveira treatment. But, these things happen, right?
Joslin was dealing with something far more serious. He was dealing with concussions. For fans, nobody really knew what was going on. Just one year after breaking into the big show with tons of potential, he was retired.
His moment of clarity is both sad, and sobering. He was on his way to a Tim Horton’s. He drove past it, recognizing his gaffe, and resumed the original route. Until he drove past it again. Joslin’s recounting of this story is tough to hear.
History may not remember him, but he least he avoided concussion’s dark history. He even capitalized on his retirement, becoming a trainer, doing color commentary, and even starred in one of those terrible MMA movies, which, no matter how painful for some us viewers, is still a nice feather in Joslin’s post-UFC cap.
Remembering Jeff Joslin isn’t just about keeping the content coming. It’s not just about doing what I think will be a fun, running feature. It’s also a reminder of why we care about sports in general, and MMA in particular. It’s easy to remember the highs. Or the lows. But it’s what outsiders would consider meaningless, or obscure, that keep us coming back for more. Joslin’s story also has an eerie dimension, given our current situation. He had to make a hard decision about doing what was best for himself versus doing what was best for his family. In the end, he chose family. Let’s do likewise.
Got ideas, or candidates you’d like to see featured in the coming weeks? Leave a comment in the comments section, or DM me on Twitter.