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Opinion: Condit vs. Brown, better late than never?

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More than seven years after they were initially scheduled to clash, Carlos Condit and Matt Brown finally lock horns. Did the long wait kill the mystic of the matchup?

UFC Fight Night Condit v McGee Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

MMA is the ultimate high risk, high reward sport. An MMA contest can be over in a split-second moments into a contest. A screw up like that seconds into a basketball or football game can certainly hurt a team’s chances of winning severely, but it isn’t over just like that.

The risk-reward relationship extends to MMA fans as well. Outside the age of COVID-19, it was exceedingly rare to see an NBA or NFL game cancelled or rescheduled. For MMA fans adjusting to the likelihood of anticipated contests being cancelled is a necessity. If they can’t do that, it would be best they find a different sport to follow.

There are countless examples of fights that leave fans drooling in anticipation, only for them to be snatched away due to circumstance. The most prominent example is Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, a contest that has been scheduled five times, only to never come to fruition. Now that Nurmagomedov has announced his retirement, it doesn’t appear the book will open again to that contest. Even if Nurmagomedov isn’t done with his career, Ferguson has lost a step and that contest has lost a lot of its lustre.

Is it worth it to even re-book a fight once it has lost its lustre?

Most would say better late than never. This weekend will provide one of the best examples of that philosophy as we will finally get to see Carlos Condit take on Matt Brown. Originally scheduled to take place back in 2013, both are far removed from where they were at that time.

Condit—who had been interim UFC welterweight champion just a year earlier—had recovered from losses to Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks by settling an old score against former top contender Martin Kampmann. Brown was six wins into a streak that would eventually reach seven before being snapped by future 170 lbs kingpin Robbie Lawler.

The mouthwatering aspect of the match-up wasn’t down to just the amount of success both were having at the time. Both—along with the aforementioned Lawler—were thought to be the epitome of violence in the welterweight division.

Up to that point, both Brown and Condit had 11 wins under the Zuffa banner and both secured finishes in nine of those eleven wins. It wasn’t just that they were putting everyone away, they were hard to put away themselves.

Brown had been submitted several times up to that point, his last four losses going into their scheduled contest had come via submission, but he had never been KO’d and appeared to have solved many of his issues with submission defense. Condit had a similar track record, having multiple submission losses on his record while never having been KO’d either.

However, ahead of the contest Brown suffered a back injury. Thus, we were deprived of a collision between two masters of human carnage, both of whom were in their fighting prime.

It wasn’t much longer before both began to decline. Perhaps Lawler deserves some of the blame as both were in the middle of the former champion’s reign of terror where those who faced ‘Ruthless’ were never the same after. Regardless, in retrospect, it looked like Condit and Brown were no longer elite by late 2016.

Since 2016, Brown and Condit have gone 2-4 and 1-5 respectively. It isn’t just that they have been losing—both had notable losses prior to that—but the manner in which they’ve been losing.

Brown’s durability and toughness seemed to evaporate. The last three losses on his ledger have all seen him finished via strikes, something that had never previously happened in his career. He wasn’t known as The Immortal for nothing!

Condit’s decline has been a different story. No, he hasn’t been getting finished in the violent fashion that Brown has, but he doesn’t look like he’s capable of doing that either. Like Brown’s nickname, Condit had been well deserving of his Natural Born Killer moniker… at least until recently. Now it appears as though Condit has been missing the fire, and killer instinct, that once allowed him to rack up such an impressive track record.

Beyond 2016, Brown—a favorite of the UFC brass—continued to push for a fight with Condit. The organization tried again for the spring of 2018, but Brown suffered another injury, a torn ACL. After he recovered from that injury, Brown again campaigned for a fight with Condit and now we’re here.

However, in the age of COVID, it feels premature to declare a fight will happen until both combatants are in the cage. But we’re closer now than we ever have been to the contest happening. The question is: Is it better late than never?

Brown just turned 40 and Condit turns 37 in the spring. Not only are both up there in age, their violent styles have put a lot of wear and tear on their bodies. Brown’s body doesn’t seem like it can hold up to the battles it once withstood and Condit appears to be going through the motions in order to pick up a paycheck. It’s understandable if one has interest in seeing these two go at it. It isn’t a point of view that’s difficult to see.

However, there’s a phrase that existed before Toby Keith popularized it in song: I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.

Of course, athletes generally always give their best, but the idea is sometimes they catch magic in a bottle and perform as they once did in their prime, if just for a night. It’s hard to say what it is—perhaps proper motivation, maybe the stars aligning just so—but it does happen. Kobe Bryant dropped 60 points in his final NBA game. Anderson Silva brought it against Israel Adesanya. It’s rare, but it does happen.

The odds are against both Brown and Condit turning back the clock. But as someone who closely monitors these contests, the stars are about as aligned as they get. Brown badly wants this fight and has wanted it for years. It’s hard to think of a fight that might allow him to push himself beyond his recent standard more than this one.

Condit is coming off a win, which might provide him with a confidence boost that allows him to regain his formerly violent spirit. We can only hope so. Then again, it is unrealistic to expect both to regain their prime forms. Perhaps we should settle for a moderately entertaining contest as their prior standards were ridiculous. Regardless, if the MMA Gods have their way we’ll soon find out if this bout is better late than never.