A Duo Of Despicable MMA Cliches

We’ve just gotta take it one game at a time and see what happens. Can of corn. Be quick, but don’t hurry. You’ve gotta learn to deal with these things or you’re not gonna be in this league too long.

If you’re a sports fan, these clichés are so played out and ubiquitous that you probably don’t even bat an eyelash when you hear them anymore. And really, nothing is being said when a player or coach or announcer utters one or all of them.

MMA clichés are different. MMA clichés don’t begin because there’s a microphone stuck in a guys face night after night after night and he more or less has to say SOMETHING; they begin because an idea gets started by some dunce, fans perpetuate that idea, and then all of a sudden it just becomes part of the vernacular. The internet is largely to blame for this, as clichés are able to gain traction in the blink of an eye.

Alot of these clichés are bad, but here are my least favorite two.

The whole “Is this bad for the sport?” argument.

When modern MMA as we know it began in 1993, the only rule was that you couldn’t bite. It was marketed as a bloodsport that was banned in almost every state, and if someone happened to perish in combat, well, dammit, that’s just the way it is, because these things happen in MMA sometimes.

As it puttered along through the 90′s, the perception didn’t change much. A renegade, rarely sanctioned sport like MMA was an easy target for politicians who were hungry for publicity. I could prattle on about the sport’s slow and steady acceptance into the mainstream, but I won’t. The UFC has a lucrative deal with FOX. They’re featured on ESPN, and they have one of the web’s most rabid fanbases. This thing isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay.

So why do some people act otherwise? Put on the relatively recent Ultimate Fighter episode where Julian Lane utters the immortal meme “Let be bang bro”, after making a drunken ass out of himself for 7 solid minutes, and I bet some tightwad in the room quips (with a look of mild concern and possibly even shaking his head) “Man, that guy is bad for the sport.”

No, he isn’t. You know who he’s bad for? Julian Lane! That’s it. Like someone is going to be sitting there thinking “You know, I love the brutality and intensity of MMA, but coming to the realization that some of these guys get drunk and act like idiots is just too much for me to process. Perhaps I’ll begin watching professional croquet.” If you think a guy with a pink mohawk and double-digit IQ represents the totality of the image of the sport you love (or even the perception of that image), and you’re honestly worried that because he’s such a tool he’s actually going to drive away true fans, you are insane. Repeat: insane. Not because what you’re thinking might happen is impossible, but because you shouldn’t be thinking what you’re thinking in the first place. Let tools be tools. There are tons of them, and they represent themselves.

They are what they are.

The same kind of thing happens when a fighter is particularly affable and good natured. Junior Dos Santos is, by all accounts, the nicest guy in the world. Everyone loves him. And objectively, he IS good for the sport, but only because it would feel awkward to call a good person and awesome fighter otherwise. If Junior Dos Santos was a windy douche bag, though, he wouldn’t be bad for the sport. Junie Browning, Mike Whitehead,The Artist Formally Known as Jon Koppenhaver, Devin Cole, Melvin Costa, Brandon Saling, the video game MMA Supremacy, Bas Rutten’s commentary the past 8 years … these are all things that might be perceived as “bad for the sport”, but they hurt only themselves. Do not forget this. MMA has your back.

“Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.”

This is a reprehensible cliché for two reasons, and I spent the last 15 minutes trying to figure out which reason I hate more. I couldn’t decide, so here they are, in no order.

The first reason is that this is something someone says when they’re trying to sound righteously indignant. The idea is that, since judges screw up fight verdicts all the time, why risk leaving your fate in their hands? Why not kill yourself going for the finish?

The problem with this state of mind is twofold. For starters, it assumes that leaving your fate in the hands of the referee is much, much better. Granted, I’ll admit that there are probably more bogus judges decisions than lame fight stoppages, but MMA referee’s are hardly pristine in their in-fight judgements. Want a fight to get stood up after 4 seconds on the floor? Mario Yamasaki and Dan Miragliotta, at your service. Want totally inexplicable, no-rhyme-or-reason-to-them fight stoppages? Give Yves Lavigne a call. Want a fighter to get seriously hurt? Hit up Jon Schorle.

Second, it’s not a problem with the judging system. We don’t need to score rounds based on the Dewey Decimal System, and we don’t need to go back to PRIDE-style judging (where fights were allegedly judged “as a whole”.) The ten point must system is fine. The people using it need to improve.

Will they? Probably not. Alot of judges are grandfathered into their positions by the old boys network that many athletic commissions (most notably Nevada) employ, and are unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. But to consciously fight like you’re unwilling to allow the possibility of forcing someone to do their job, even if it might mean doing a worse job at your own, seems like a terrible idea. As a fighter, your main responsibility is to fight the best fight you can.

And that brings me to reason number two. Alot of MMA fighters MOST LIKELY PATH TO VICTORY (sorry I turned into Steven A. Smith there) is to go to the scorecards. Never mind the fact that alot of guys try to finish their opponents and simply are unable to due to an opponent’s toughness, lack of power, lack of technique, etc. There are grinders out there that often aren’t great athletes who strategically take apart their opponents for three rounds. Now, this isn’t to say that they aren’t capable of finishing. But guys like Jon Fitch, Yushin Okami, Vladimir Matyushenko, and countless others … these are guys that methodically go from Point A to Point B, then B to C, without worrying about sprinting towards Point Z. It’s a style of fighting, not a lack of ability.

Are there holes in this argument? Sure. You’ll see things like Tim Boetsch being bloodied and battered for two rounds, clearly needing a finish to win, coming out in the third guns blazing and getting the job done. But it’s pretty damn rare.

Guys should fight to their strengths, not to their detriment. They shouldn’t cave in to pressure from higher-ups like Dana, and they shouldn’t cater to the fans in attendance. They should do whatever it takes to get their hand raised. And for certain guys, that means setting up shop and controlling their opponents for three rounds. Is it always the most exciting thing to watch? No. But guys need those win bonuses. Get over it.


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