One fan’s opinion on the catastrophe that was UFC 151
I have started and scrapped at least six different posts about the debacle that was UFC 151. I am finding it very difficult to coherently put together my thoughts on the issue. Most of the articles I attempted to write turned into vitriolic diatribes against Jon Jones and his “selfish” ways, or Greg Jackson and how his psuedo-philosophical approach to MMA was the downfall of mankind… I know my loyal readers here at Moai Martial Arts have been clamoring for my educated opinion, not my rants and raves against two guys that I didn’t really care for before the 151 mess. As I waded through hate filled paragraphs, I stumbled upon a theme. I believe we are witnessing a massive shift in the world of MMA. We are officially in an age where champions are Mixed Martial Arts ‘Athletes’, and not Mixed Martial Arts ‘Fighters’. The ramifications of this new age may have outraged the Zuffa brass this week, but strangely enough, it is also what they have been trying to achieve since taking over the company over a decade ago.
As a sport gets bigger, there is inevitably more money to be made in it. As soccer’s popularity grew in America, we saw better athlete’s throwing on cleats and hitting the pitch. Since Zuffa took the reins, the UFC has become a giant in the sports world. They are setting new records by the day and lining their pockets with crisps $20’s by night. With this boom, we are seeing athletes that could have likely chosen other paths or sports be funneled towards a career MMA.
Enter Jon Jones. His freakishly athletic family tree assures us that he could have likely been successful in any sporting endeavor he chose. His performance in the cage further asserts that MMA was the right choice for the kid. But Jones is not a born and bread fighter like Chuck, Randy, and Wanderlei were. He is an ‘athlete’ first, and a ‘fighter’ second. His thoughts are more about self-preservation and financial success, rather than pure aggression and entertainment like the gladiators of years past. He likely doesn’t enjoy getting hit in the face or inflicting damage on others like the PRIDE boys did. He is just really, really, ridiculously good at doing so and can feed his family by dismantling guys in the cage. Whether they like it or not, Zuffa may have helped foster this change in mindset themselves, remember the old UFC PPV intro with the cheaply costumed gladiator and triumphant music? They canned that a few months ago in favor of a flashy, slick new intro highlighting the history of the sport and stars that helped make the organization into the behemoth it is today.
Jones sees MMA as a means to a good life for his family (his decisions outside of the cage may be detrimental to that though…). As much as this mindset upsets fans, it is sadly what we are destined for in the future. Athletes will purely be getting into the cage as a way to make money, just like 99% of the professional athletes out there. The UFC is a nationally broadcast product now, and genetic lottery winners will be lining up outside their nearest MMA gym attempting to get their piece of the MMA cash cow pie. The days of guys getting in the ring or cage just to fight, just to express their deepest desires as men are gone. The thrill of the crowd screaming in utter frenzy no longer fuels our champions to fight, the Ca-Ching! of the cash register does. The days of the warrior are painfully gone. The adaptation to the era of the MMA ‘athlete’ may be tough for some of us die-hards; those of us that pray to Wanderlei, and toast to Big Nog and Fedor. We may have a hard time accepting the new MMA landscape, but we must. We love this sport. We will still experience great moments, (Shogun/Hendo was one for the AGES!), but their will be more politicking and selfishness surrounding it all. Just make sure you keep your collection of PRIDE DVD’s easily accessible for whenever you need a reminder of the good ol’ days…