This is not the first and definitely not the last post that will address the issue of MMA vs. boxing. Recently however two key figures in the boxing world have made some disturbing statements concerning MMA. First Floyd Mayweather made statements concerning the idea that MMA fighters are all white guys who are not athletic enough to cut it in boxing. Which were followed shortly by Bob Arum’s statements that MMA fights are like watching two homosexuals rolling around, in addition to stating that minorities watched boxing not MMA. Dana White has not addressed this remarks to my knowledge except in statements saying that an MMA fighter would beat a boxer in an MMA match and that boxing cards are not as good as MMA cards in terms of fights. Well maybe Dana is not the best person to answer these statements given that he himself is a “boxing man” and has made statements that have often mirrored those made by these boxing insiders. However, fans of MMA should be more than a little upset at these attacks that have been leveled at them and there should be a back lash in any way possible.
Floyd Mayweather and others can make whatever statements they wish about who would win in a “fight” between an MMA fighter and a boxer at the height of the sport, the same as MMA fighters can make the same statement and unless BJ Penn or Mike Brown is able to get him into a cage I sincerely doubt this debate will be answered. But Mayweather’s statements concerning race and why he is better than any MMA fighter should demonstrate too many that the problem is much larger than MMA vs. boxing as a fighting style. First concerning race Mayweather’s statements are not only racist (although he says they are not) but also show the boxer’s ignorance of the subject.
“In boxing, we know who’s dominating. Black fighters and Hispanic fighters is dominating in this sport,” Mayweather continued. “And this is not a racial statement but there’s no white fighters in boxing that’s dominating, so they had to go to something else and start something new.” (Mayweather)
If any reader does not believe that this statement is racist as Mayweather claims then imagine if you will if Brock Lesnar were to make this same statement but inserting that MMA fighters were mostly white and that because MMA is a sport that requires more thinking because of its differing dimensions and levels it makes sense that more white fighters would be there over a simplistic sport like boxing. What would be the reaction throughout the sporting world? Furthermore, Mayweather’s claims that because he makes more money than any MMA fighter proves that he are a better “fighter” is a statement that anyone with a brain could see as false. Do you mean to say that a Navy SEAL, member of Delta Force, British S.A.S. or other special operations member who does not make $28 million a fight could not beat you? But I know they are not “professional athletes”, but the point is that money earned does not make you “the best” necessarily in a sport. But by your assertions Oscar De La Hoya is still the best boxer or “fighter” because he made more money than you did.
But perhaps more disturbing than Mayweather’s comments are those of boxing promoter Bob Arum, who is no stranger to controversy himself, and are perhaps more damaging to anyone who reads them. In the past Arum has made remarks that have been called racist, and most recently he has done the same concerning MMA fans or UFC audiences by describing them as “a bunch of skinhead white guys watching people in the ring who are also skinhead white guys.” In the interview with MMA Fanhouse’s Ariel Helwani, Arum portrayed the sport of MMA as
“For me, and people like me, it is not something that they ever care to see. They’ve watched it, it’s horrible, guys rolling around like homosexuals on the ground. It is not a sport that shows great great talent. The guys that throw punches can’t throw punches to save their ass. When they land, they have no chin. These are not like boxers.”
Of course one could argue that glove size and fighting styles have an obvious effect on how punches are thrown (i.e. a boxers stance makes them easy to take down) offer a contradiction to his remarks about striking. As far as skill on the ground well… boxers and boxing fans who do not try to find out anything about the ground game are ignorant of it any way. All one has to do is look at the statements against boxing to know they have the same attacks leveled at them. He like Mayweather states that blacks, Hispanics, and Filipinos buy boxing pay per views and not MMA and therefore that the sport is something like a group of white supremacists either meeting to watch a homosexual orgy? Arum’s remarks belong back in an era when races were separated, not in the 21st century.
The debate that MMA is better than boxing or vice versa is something that will go away anytime soon. However, despite what people may say about these statements being ok and that there is too much political correctness in society then when the disparaging remarks are made against boxers and boxing it must be taken in as ok. If one were to say that boxing is filled with crooked promoters (Arum and King being two), thugs and criminals, and un-educated fighters. The boxing audience is filled with people who cannot understand anything but a sport that is severely limited in its tactics, who over pay for inferior match ups, and often boring fights. Furthermore, if both Mayweather and Arum are right, it is just another example of white men making a ton of money of off minorities. Is this what they want to be known as well? But one would have to be truly ignorant to believe any of these statements. But perhaps that is something a person who agrees with Mayweather or Arum should think about. Or when you are deciding whether to watch the UFC or Mayweather’s fight or any boxing match promoted by Arum, you should see if their statements are true that there are no non-white fighters who are successful (out of the UFC’s five champions only two are “white” and there are a large number of non-white fighters), that the audience is full of skinheads, or that when the fight goes to the ground is it just “rolling around” (perhaps realize the number of All American wrestlers and grappling champions, or go to a Brazilian Ju Jitsu class) before you cast judgment. A person does not have to like MMA to appreciate it as a “combat sport”, but if you want to talk about “fighting” ask yourself this what military teaches their members to use boxing to defend themselves vs. martial arts? That may give you a clue.
Recently Randy Couture made a few announcements to the delight of many MMA fans. He signed a new contract with the UFC for six more fights and twenty-eight months, basically insuring that the “Natural” would finish his career with the UFC. But of equal importance it was announced by EA Sports on August 14, 2009 that Couture had been added to the roster of their MMA video game, bringing their total number of fighters on contract to five (according to the EA website, but internet rumors say there are more). Many fans were a little upset when his name was absent from the roster of the UFC Undisputed video game released by THQ, and in a way rightfully so. Couture is one of the biggest names in MMA and one of the UFC’s biggest draws and fan favorites. His name is synonymous with both MMA and the UFC and his abscence from the game caused some controversy. But as pointed out that with his inclusion in the EA game one thing can finally be realized in some respect and that is a fight with Fedor, and many may have to realize that this may be the only way this would ever happen. However, Couture’s addition makes one wonder if any other UFC fighters will be able or allowed to join the games roster?Also is there a way for EA Sports to produce a superior MMA game than Undisputed? What could they do to possibly make it better? With THQ and the UFC already announcing a sequel to Undisputed for a 2010 release EA Sports needs to make sure it can keep up. The addition of Couture is a major boost and by adding a few other tweaks they can produce an excellent game that many will enjoy.
First and foremost in any discussion is fighters. EA may not be able to grab anymore UFC fighters due to their contracts, but there are plenty of fighters who are out there that would be excellent additions. Unfortunately, Dana White has stated that anyone who signs on to the game would never fight in the UFC, and given that they are the big boy on the block that may deter a number of fighters who hope to fight there some day. In addition that a significant number of these fighters may only be known to the “hardcore” MMA fan in many respects and therefore not be a draw for the casual fan to purchase the game. In addition EA will have to deal with organizational name recognition in much the same way with the lack of the UFC name. Sure there is Strikeforce, DREAM, K-1, and others that can find there way into the game, but when many people associate MMA with the UFC it can be a difficult sell to the “casual” fan.
However, this can really be a blessing in disguise for the EA developers and there are many ways that they can push their game that the UFC cannot. In terms of fighters one way to garner interest is to include many “legends” of MMA such as Frank Shamrock, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, David “Tank” Abbott, and Royce Gracie to name a few. Another “untapped” fighter area is of course Female fighters and Gina Carano would be a welcome addition along with Cris “Cyborg” Santos Maroes Coenen, Erin Toughill, and others. This is an area in which the UFC can not compete and could help draw in the female MMA fan/gamer as well. Furthermore, there can be fighters who are organization or geographic location specific that would be very interesting (which will be discussed below), that would add to the feel of the “MMA World” outside of the UFC. Another area concerning fighters and fights is the idea of having some sort of open weight-class fights. Again this could be organization and location specific and should not be to difficult.
Another area is the career mode which is somewhat lacking in Undisputed. In this game no matter what your fighter does not age and does not loose attributes as time goes on. Also there is a limited amount of time to achieve a certain status and then you are forced to retire. For example if you create a fighter whether they are 18 or 40 they fight the same amount of time and can gain attributes at the same rate. In addition they never age, which means they remain that age throughout the game. EA should rectify this by allowing a fighter who is created to be more physically fit at a younger age, but less experienced than say an older fighter or just make every fighter start at say twenty. Furthermore, the game should be based on an aging and perhaps fight damage type of level that would force a fighter to retire because they are not offered matches. This would allow a fighter to gain name recognition early in their career and then continue to fight as long as they are not losing and taking a significant amount of damage.
In addition to the way a fighter is created fighting styles can be improved and this also can be based on say geographic location. In Undisputed the fighters style is based on a striking style and a grappling style, and the fighter is allowed to “train” with various camps to gain skill levels and moves. A way of improving on this would be to have a fighter “gain” moves and say experience or “belt” levels by training in a specific camp. For example if you train at a Gracie BJJ your Brazilian Ju Jitsu levels will go up, but you may not attain an advance in striking no matter how much you “spar” or train otherwise. You can also have a fighter base themselves in a camp and therefore make that fighter’s style more grounded. Of course they would have to have a “rounded” approach, but they should be more style orientated. Also in the game the fighter could receive “camp” invites, say to improve a skill set in a short period of time. If the fighters striking skills are lacking they can be invited to train at a Muay Thai camp and gain a small improvement in skills in that area or may be a new move, but they would not become a Muay Thai expert overnight.
Finally, because EA cannot use the UFC they must make their organizations have a certain flare to gain attention. A good way to do this is two fold: first have “minor” leagues or smaller shows for the fighters to work their way up. Undisputed has Ultimate Fight Nights and Undercards but by having a fighter have to “prove” themselves it would allow a sense of realism that otherwise is missing. Second, make organizations in areas outside of the U.S. with differing rules and set ups. For example in career mode a fighter could be fighting in Japan under rules that allow kneeing and kicking a downed opponent but not elbows in a ring or a fight in Brazil that follows Vale Tudo rules such as no time limit, as well as the unified rules found in the U.S.. There could also be Grand Prix’s, Tournaments, and other match types that are not included elsewhere. The possibilities are endless (except by game limitations) and it would make the game more interesting in being able to put certain fighters in unique situations. For example imagine taking an American trained wrestler and putting him into a no time limit fight like those featured in Rio Heroes? By opening up weight classes as well you can feature “super fights” that Undisputed can not do.
There of course are more suggestions people will have, and these are very basic ones to some extent (and not mentioning certain game play issues), but will allow more acceptance by a wider audience. As with every game there always seems to be areas for improvements and an MMA game is no different. EA Sports MMA Game webpage has a forum section dedicated to the topic and there are far numerous suggestions that go into much further detail. All suggestions here are more than welcome, but if you wish for yours to be heard and possibly included in the game please follow the link to them below.
There are a number of reports coming out that UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson “the Spider” Silva wants to make another jump in weight class, actually make that two! The two Josh’s (Joshua Stein at MMA Opinion and Josh Gross at SI.com) amongst others are reporting that Silva has a desire to make the jump to heavyweight and has expressed a desire to fight Frank Mir, which should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Mir’s career (first he has talked bad about some Brazilian Ju Jitsu practitioners and he beat Silva’s partner and friend Nogueira). The fact that Silva would want to jump up two weight classes and that he has already singled out a possible opponent should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed MMA; it is not like it has never happened before! For any new comer to the sport, MMA and the UFC were founded on the idea of two things: First to prove what style of martial arts and fighting is king and second to prove who the best fighters are. Everyone knows that there were no weight classes early on, but few understand the true reason why, the same with no time limits, which was to test the fighters skill and heart. Those days are long gone except for in places like Brazil (Rio Heroes) or in underground fights, none of which would appear to vie for a fighter of Silva’s caliber. He can however prove himself and test his “metal” by putting himself not only against the best fighters possible, but also by getting into a cage with fighters who are bigger and stronger than he is. Actually this should be applauded by many people, especially in the days of Brock Lesnar and others.
MMA has taken a turn from the early days of the sport. Aside from the “barbaric” aspect of the sport that its detractors focused on, in the beginning MMA did what it said it would do: put the best fighter against the best fighter. At the days of its conception there would be no debate in an organization about GSP vs. Silva because it would have to happen in order for one to be a champion. While the addition of weight classes, time limits, gloves, and other rules have made the sport flourish, sometimes one would long at least for the days when a great fighter would face another regardless of weight. Yes the MMA world has changed but perhaps not always for the best. Now a days there is a tendency for fighters to cut weight in order to be “bigger and stronger” at lower weight classes. Fighters like Brock Lesnar have to cut weight just to be able to fight at 265, while others cut down to make a fight weight and then attempt to gain it back by fight time, when they could fight at higher weight classes otherwise. While there will be controversy on weight cutting, weight classes, and the pluses and minuses of it, everyone can agree that when a fighter does not make weight it often really throws a wrench into the works.
However, Anderson Silva is keeping the spirit of the early days in MMA and martial arts in general alive as others have before him. Rich Franklin (before his move to 205), BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, and others have jumped up in weight class or fought at catch weights in order to face top notch opponents. And this has been done in the UFC, forget about Japan where this occurs in so many events over there and aside from the so-called “freak show” status, there is a reason why such events are necessary to allow MMA to claim that it is as close to “real fighting” as one can get. A lot of the appeal to martial arts has been that they allow a smaller person the ability to fight off a larger opponent, of course as long as that opponent is less skilled than the other. Brazilian Ju Jitsu arose from this perspective as has numerous other martial arts as many were either taught for use on a battlefield or in what would be called “street-fights” (the term “self-defense” is a modern term and is applied to every school whether it is “combative” or not, some of which are unproven). Unlike boxing, wrestling, judo, etc… which are entirely sport in there modern forms, MMA does have an element of the traditional combat styles that must be kept alive, and fighters jumping weight are a big part of that aspect.
Anderson Silva’s move to light-heavyweight proved that he could take on anyone in that division and be successful. He could legitimately challenge for the title if it were not held by his friend Lyoto Machida, who he has expressed no desire to fight. So what is left for Silva in the division? There could be the prospect of fighting Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans, or Mauricio Rua depending on their respective fight outcomes, but that won’t be for months. But Silva’s venture into light-heavyweight is one that he has done before and he also walks around at a weight that would make him a resident in that weight class. The weight class may not be the one he fights at, but he still has to cut some weight to be in it so it is not a true reach. At middleweight Demian Maia is the only legitimate contender he has not beaten yet and of course his title shot is to be determined by his fight with Nate Marquardt another fighter he has beaten. Dan Henderson is supposedly the next in line but Anderson has already beaten him and the “super fight” with GSP seems to be a myth that will not happen for a variety of reasons. If Anderson is looking for a challenge it may be in the heavyweight division.
And there is the challenge may be the ultimate one and one he has not faced before. imagine the match ups that could happen there: Cheick Kongo and Mirko Cro Cop offer stronger strikers who may have more powerful strikes than Silva does, Frank Mir and Gabriel Gonzaga offer skilled Ju Jitsu, and of course you have wrestlers like Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar. All of these fighters and others offer a challenge to Silva in terms of power and size that Silva could not match, but also they offer style match ups as well. Throw in Randy Couture and you also have a match up in experience to go with wrestling abilities that are superior to Silva’s. In every case Silva’s best chance to win would be speed and skill, it is doubtful he would overpower any of them (although his cardio may prove superior). He could also legitimately make a run at the title and not have to worry about fighting a friend as long as Noguiera does not recapture it. In a perfect scenario this jump would allow Silva to remain interested in fighting in the UFC and MMA for as long as he wants and is relevant. It would also provide the fans with a number of “super fights” that would drive PPV numbers up and perhaps grab more attention and fans. Finally, it would bring MMA full circle if Silva is able to have success at the heavyweight division. As a true mixed martial artist Silva would prove that size and power can be overcome with superior skill, that a smaller man can beat a big man, and that this could happen even if the larger man is a skilled one at that. That would be something MMA could hold out for the world to see, something that has been lost as of late.
After the historic match between Gina “Conviction” Carano and Cris Cyborg Santos, there has been a buzz about how women’s MMA will start to take shape. Well it will come to know ones surprise that a female pro-wrestler has decided to throw her hat into the ring. Lisa Marie Varon aka Victoria (WWE) & Tara (TNA) has recently expressed an interest in entering the cage. Already comparisons to Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley have been attached to her and her desire to fight Kim Couture has been made known. Since her retirement from the WWE Lisa has been training in MMA and has been training in Brazilian Ju Jitsu for some time now before that and although she has not officially named her school in a blog she does have pictures with Helio Soneca and has mentioned that her coach also trains Rafael dos Anjos, which leads one to believe her school is affiliated with Gracie Barra. Also featured on her myspace pictures are her and Terri Blair who is a professional female boxer, whom she calls her “workout partner.” On top of all of that she has recently hired J.T. Stewart as her manager who also manages the former UFC Middleweight Champion and current Light-Heavyweight fighter Rich “Ace” Franklin. Given these connections, or at least apparent ones, Lisa’s journey into MMA maybe a promising one, especially with the recent Santos vs. Carano fight. There are both positive and negative aspects to her journey that may come into play that will either benefit her career or cause it to be a relative “flash in the pan.”
Lisa Marie’s background as an athlete is well documented. She started out as a cheerleader earning an NCA All-American while in high school. She also won numerous Fitness and Bodybuilding titles while she was a personal trainer, before making the jump into professional wrestling in 2000. How does this all translate into a positive for an MMA career? Well as a professional fitness competitor she is used to not only training extremely hard, but also is used to cutting weight for competitions. She is listed as being five foot eight inches and one hundred and fifty-five pounds, which would put her into the largest and most competitive division in women’s mma. A self-described workout addict Lisa Marie also displayed great power and athleticism in professional wrestling. Never as big as some of the larger women wrestlers her strength seemed to be equal or only slightly less than her larger counterparts. If one were to look into her signature and finishing moves it becomes apparent that she was seen as a powerhouse type of wrestler. In addition to power moves she also did moonsaults or a backwards flip “splash” into a pinning move. She sometimes did this from a standing position. After watching a few videos of her matches and having seen some on tv no one would argue that the women is athletic. It is obvious that athleticism is in her genetics as her older brother Bobby Sole was a gold medal wrestler at the Pan- American games in 1983. Finally she has appeared on some of the biggest events in pro-wrestling so that should translate well into not being “nervous” because of a large audience. Pro-wrestlers are known to be tremendous athletes often working grueling schedules, so the work ethic and atmosphere of MMA should not be hard for her to adapt to.
But there are some proverbial roadblocks in Ms. Varon’s attempt to jump into the cage and perform at a high level. First and foremost, despite the pro-wrestling career, she has only recently started training in MMA. While most fighters come from some sort of combat sport background she does not, but instead comes from an athletic and sports entertainment one. While pro-wrestling is a grueling and demanding athletic occupation it is not a true combat sport and does not prepare its competitors for the nuances of fighting. Sure there may be some areas that translate well, but without a true striking element or real submission and grappling technique it is hard to say that its craft will prepare her well. In addition pro-wrestling has been known to take a grueling toll on its participants bodies and has been documented by many ex-wrestlers and active ones of the injuries that they accumulated throughout there tenure. Only Lisa Marie knows how much damage has been done to her body, but it is not like she is entering MMA with “limited wear and tear.” Finally, she was born Feb. 10, 1971 which means that at the time of this post she is 38 years old. At this stage in their careers many fighters are exiting the sport or on their way out. Sure certain ones remain on longer, like Randy Couture or Mark Coleman, and have had success, but there are many who have not. Chuck Liddell may serve as an example as he is will be forty in December. Granted he has fought longer than her and therefore been subject to many more strikes and such, but both began their respective careers within two years of each other. One has to wonder if her reflexes and “chin” are up to facing younger fighters with more experience.
With the enormous success of Brock Lesnar and to a lesser extent Bobby Lashley it was only a matter of time that more professional wrestlers would seek to make the transition to MMA, although this is not a new trend. But as the fighters pay increases and a less “demanding” schedule there are those who may consider the move. The fact that Lisa Marie Varon is attempting this should be no surprise given her background. The major question is that at this stage can she be successful? If she can make the transition quickly and with success, women’s MMA gains a viable star to add to the already growing roster. If she fights at 145 it adds another name into the mix to help build a following. If not does it really impact the sport? Only if she is rushed into the spotlight it would appear. But given her athleticism, strength, intelligence (she was on track to be a physician), and drive those who would bet against her or say definetly not might be in for a surprise.
Awhile ago in a post I made the argument that Gina Carano was the most popular MMA in the world. I still stand by that remark, but after her fight with Cris Cyborg Santos on Saturday August 15 people may ask where she stands in the future as the “Face of Women’s MMA”? To that I can say that Gina will remain the more popular fighter out of the two (at least in the foreseeable future), especially in the U.S. Her combination of skill, personality, and good looks means that she will have cross cultural appeal to many people that other fighters male or female do not have. She is liked by both male and female fans for a wide variety of reasons and that will continue as long as she continues to have success in the cage. And before we put the proverbial “nail in her coffin” remember that this is Gina’s first defeat in a cage. And while her Muay Thai skills are well known, she is still a relative newcomer to the world of MMA having only fought MMA for three years and having eight fights. Santos for her part proved she is a serious fighter, for those of you who do not know. But she is herself kind of a “newbie” with only nine fights in four years. She has however come up in the Chute Boxe camp and has been around MMA for considerably longer than Carano, but that still does not mean that she is a seasoned veteran in her own right and as evident by the ground “skills” both fighters displayed Saturday, there is considerable room for improvement for both in this area. But after what had been billed as the “Biggest Fight in Women’s MMA” where do both fighters go from here? And what is the future of the sport? After some careful consideration of the events that transpired, both fighters answered some questions and left many open for debate.
As stated before Gina Carano will remain popular for a wide variety of reasons. In addition to her fighting, she has a lot going for her and will still find her way in the media and mainstream America and the World. But as a fighter Saturday offered a glimpse of what can come. One of the biggest problems in Women’s MMA seems to be the lack of “well rounded” fighters. This is more because in terms of a sport Female MMA fighters are more in their “infancy” stage than their male counterparts, not because of some “physical” weakness that some may propose. Most female fighters at this point appear to be good at one aspect of MMA (BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, etc…) but do not possess the well rounded skills necessary. Out of all of these skills wrestling may be the most lacking and this is because there is a lack of women wrestlers at the amateur levels when compared to their male counterparts. Gina like many female fighters comes from a striking style background which often does not translate into being able to easily learn a ground game or grappling style. This was apparent in her fight Saturday as she had a dominant position a couple of times and either stood up or Cyborg got out of. But just training extensively in a ground fighting style may not be the only aspect Gina needs to focus on, and that may cause more problems that not translate well into her MMA career.
The major problem that occurred during the fight was two fold for Gina. First Cyborg’s aggressiveness was too much for her to pick a part as was her game plan according to Randy Couture. While this can be countered by skill, Gina’s problem was as stated above; she fell back on her Muay Thai background which is also a strength of Cyborg. A better rounded fighter may have taken the fighter to the ground or used a counter punching style like Anderson Silva or Chuck Liddell to counter an aggressive stand up. But Gina’s style of Muay Thai is straight forward and played into Cyborg’s game plan. It is easy to play Monday Morning quarterback, but the fact is that Gina was loosing the stand up war and had nothing to counter the attack of Cyborg. Many people will suggest more hardcore training in wrestling or BJJ to counter this and both are right, it really just depends on what style fits her more.
The second problem may not be easily rectified and that is Cyborg’s power. Gina’s problem making weight is well documented and truthfully it is really not a “problem” but perhaps a fact of nature. While she fights at 140 pounds, her non-fight weight is somewhat of a mystery. But at 5 foot 8 inches she appears to have a larger frame capable of fighting at a higher weight class. She never looks as lean or cut as Cyborg or other fighters in any of her fights and that may be the issue when it comes to adding more strength and power. By attempting to do so Gina may not be able to fight at 140 as it appears she would probably carry too much muscle on her frame. This is by no means saying that she is fat or soft at 140, but rather a simple fact of nature: muscle fibers are denser than fat cells and there for a smaller amount of muscle cells are denser than fat cells. If Gina were to attempt to pack on more power she would inevitably add more muscle and probably push her out of the weight class. This may present a problem as there is a lack of depth at the higher weight classes in Female MMA, perhaps not a lack of talent, but Fightergirls.com which lists female fighters has only eight fighters listed at 155 for example as opposed to the 14 listed at 140. Unless others drop down or move up a fight at an upper weight class may prove more difficult. Finally, weight cuts can deplete a fighter’s strength and power, as well as energy levels, so any gains may be lost in the cutting process.
Cris Cyborg Santos has the more interesting questions to be answered. Obviously Cris is not going to be marketed the same way as Gina is, but that does not mean her future is not bright. As far as fighting goes she is from a long line of Chute Boxe fighters, both past and present, all of whom have become fan favorites like Wanderlai Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Anderson Silva, and Fabricio Werdum amongst others. Her aggressive style plays well to most MMA fans, both hardcore and casual; especially since her style is striking based and therefore should be a focus of any promotion of her as a fighter. The fact that she finished the most well known and popular fighter in Women’s MMA in the first round should garner her more fame and fortune, as well as fight fans. But is there a way to counter the promotion of Gina Carano’s “face of Women’s MMA” that is available to Santos? Obviously she is not the type to be featured in a pictorial in Maxim Magazine or other publications, so what venue does that leave?
In actuality in today’s day and age Cyborg can follow in the lines of other female athletes like Dara Torres, Serena and Venus Williams, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith-Joyner, etc… Many female athletes face the stigma of being “too muscular” by many, but they are first and foremost athletes and therefore train for high performance in sports. As long as women have been in sports there has been one group who has seen some athletes as being “feminine” and another who perceives some as being “manly,” but it would appear that many are starting to see them as what they really are which is athletes. Will that be for everyone? No. For every person who finds certain women athletes as attractive, there will those who will find them to masculine. That is a subject for another debate, but in Cris Cyborg Santos’ case an appeal as an athlete would go far in her career. There are probably many people male or female that would like to have abs like hers, so a feature of her training in a magazine that would feature such types of articles is not unlikely. She may not be a “supermodel” but nor does she pretend to be.
Female athletes have always had to walk a fine line between competitiveness and being perceived as feminine. During the 1970’s and 1980’s in women’s tennis Martina Navratilova and Chris Everret-Lloyd were two of the more popular female athletes on the planet (Navratilova held a record of 10-4 in head to head match ups), and both had their own fan base. Navratilova was seen as the more “masculine” by some, yet represented the superior athlete to others, while Everett-Lloyd was seen as the representation of “feminine” athletes. The argument continued about feminism and athleticism throughout their career and beyond, because once they had both left the sport newer tennis stars emerged to continue the debate. Now as Women’s MMA begins to garner attention the same debate seems to surface as well. If Cyborg vs. Carano match ups work out like the Everet-Lloyd vs. Navratilova match ups the true winners are the fans. If Carano adjusts her game and comes back stronger it will benefit MMA in general because the sport needs her at the top of her game. But it also needs Cyborg as well. Both fighters appeal to different senses and tastes of the MMA audience and with both of them as dominant forces they will both bring Women’s MMA to higher acceptability.
Some pictures from UFC 101 in Philadelphia, PA.
To an MMA fan the “Heyday” of the sport was back during the PRIDE! vs. UFC days as far having the most drama. Who could forget the debates over Liddell vs. Wanderlai Silva, which was better the Octagon or the Ring, or elbows vs. knees/ kicks to a downed opponent, just to name a few. But what it always came down to was who had the better fighters and in both organizations there always seemed to be someone who could lay claim to the best in their division or best pound for pound fighter. This debate seemed to make the sport stronger and more intriguing to the fans because it did not offer an actual solution to the argument until PRIDE! was bought out by the UFC, and even then not every fighter came with the purchase. Also by this time some of the biggest names in both organizations just seemed to lack the match up potentials, like Liddell and Silva, because neither was seen as being at the top levels anymore. So the debate about PRIDE! vs. the UFC truly went unanswered for the most part, and the UFC seemed to be the only legitimate game in MMA.
But while there were other promotions who tried to come in to challenge the UFC, like Bodog, the IFL, and Elitexc, these organizations just seemed to always lack a single fighter let alone a division that could be seen as a threat to the UFC dominance of the sport, one did emerge that did have the potential to challenge the all powerful entity that closed the doors on their chief rival, as well as buying up another rising challenger (WEC). But in 2008 Affliction Clothing created Affliction Entertainment and began a rivalry with the UFC that had not been seen in a year. As the organization started to take shape it became apparent that they were concentrating on the fan favored heavyweight division as UFC stars like Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski signed with the company, as did former PRIDE FC stars Josh Barnett and Pedro Rizzo giving the organization instant credibility as having the deepest heavyweight division in MMA. But the icing on the cake was the signing of Fedor Emelianenko, arguably the best heavyweight and considered the best pound for pound fighter in the world by many fans and magazines. In one swoop Affliction Entertainment had made an organization that could challenge the UFC’s dominance right off the bat.
Affliction seemed to do the right things on paper: cross promotions with other organizations, bring in investors from sports and the business world, have fighters who could be seen as legitimate threats to the UFC’s, and get on a network or cable channel. The big bomb had already come before Affliction’s first event when UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture “severed ties” with the UFC, one of the reasons being his desire to fight Fedor, a contest that would not take place in a UFC Octagon. At the first event Affliction Banned, Couture was present immediately after Fedor’s thirty second dismantling of Tim Sylvia, again stating his desire to fight the Last Emperor. And despite the attempts of ZUFFA to block it people believed that Couture, Affliction, and especially Mark Cuban and the Donald Trump’s money would make this fight of fights happen.
But even at the first event the seams were coming undone. While the fights were entertaining the production quality of the show seemed lacking. There was a failure to sell out the arena where the event was being held and paid attendance was relatively low. Pay per view buys also seemed a little low after wards, which when the fighter salaries were figured in made the company’s first show a financial loss. But despite all of that management remained positive. They should have looked at something else, the fact that at the moment they declared Fedor the WAMMA Champion, the strength of their organization was getting ready to crumble. And the enemies were not really just at the gate in the form of ZUFFA, but they were from within and unknown.
Affliction was not done in because the mighty Evil Empire of ZUFFA and Dana “Lord of the Sith” White destroyed the Rebel Alliance (or any other movie scenario or conspiracy theory) it is because they built the organization around Fedor Emalianenko. It is not to be compared to EliteXc’s basing their whole organization around an unproven commodity in Kimbo Slice, but rather the problem was that they took a man unequalled at the time and stuck him in a notoriously weak division. It was the proverbial perfect storm coming true: a fighter unparalleled without a true adversary out there, sitting a top of a throne that could not support his greatness. The roster in Affliction proved to be not worthy of Fedor as he dispatched of Sylvia in thirty six seconds, the next challenger Andrei Arlovski faired better for three minutes and fourteen seconds and until Fedor threw a punch. Barnett was the last really legitimate threat left for him, Couture having gone back to the UFC in September 2, 2008 with a three fight deal at the age of forty-five, destroying any hope of a fight with Fedor. The final nails in the coffin were driven in the month of July 2009, with Josh Barnett testing positive for a banned substance leaving no opponent for the August 1st Trilogy card. On July 24 Affliction Entertainment folded and announced a deal to partner with the UFC, mostly to sell their shirts there.
The company was promoted to be rebellious, but really was not anything of the sort as its shirts and organization are more mainstream than even the UFC is. But despite its business mismanagement it was not that which caused the downfall, but rather the opposite in terms of EliteXc. Unlike the limited skills of Kimbo, Fedor possessed too many skills and is perhaps the most well rounded fighter in the heavyweight division in all MMA. There is now Lesnar vs. Fedor hype, but it lacks the depth of the old Liddell vs. Silva days as Lesnar still needs to win a few fights and defend his belt (remember both of these fighters were cleaning out their respective divisions during this talk). But for a brief time Affliction held our attention and had a man that is one of the most dominant fighters on the planet who could walk into the UFC octagon and claim a title at anytime. Maybe Strikeforce will someday be a force to rival the UFC, but that seems to be in the distant future, if ever. But for now, as much as many fans may wish for the old rivalry days, there is only one game in town, and that is the UFC. Is this good for the sport? Opinions differ on that point. But it is reality, and that is sad. Because it limits the number of fighters and fights out there, but more importantly it takes away anticipation of the biggest match ups possible. And like the first hill on a roller coaster, sometimes the anticipation of that hill is better than the ride itself.
During UFC 100 Hall of Famer and the UFC’s first champion Royce Gracie was flashed across the screen as he and many other past and current champions were on hand. At the end of the main event I had wished they would have shown his reaction. What could have been going through the mind of the man who helped to bring Brazilian Ju Jitsu to the U.S. and the world thought of a behemoth like Brock Lesnar pummeling a BJJ Black Belts face? The heavyweight division may be the last place in the current UFC organization that resembles the original Ultimate Fighter concept: yes there is a weight class, but it ranges from 207 pounds to 265 pounds, which is a weight disparity of 58 pounds possible. If you think about that you could conceivably (with out calculating weigh cutting) have a fighter like Urijah Faber at 145 lbs. fight Lyoto Machida at 205 lbs.(with a two pound difference). That is a jump of five weight classes! Mir weighed in at 245 lbs. Lesnar at 265 lbs. that twenty pound difference though not un-heard of would be again like Georges St. Pierre fighting at Light-heavyweight while weighing in at Middleweight (though he would still give up some weight to a 205 lbs fighter). Lesnar vs. Mir also offered a stylistic match up of a wrestler vs. a Brazilian Ju Jitsu black belt that occurred in the earlier days under the old rules. Sure Mir had stand up skills, but he is more known for his submission game, while Lesnar would use the classic take down and ground and pound that wrestlers like Dan Severn started early on. And Royce would remember that as he choked out the bigger stronger Severn at UFC 4, while giving up close to seventy pounds. It seemed as while the organization would be making history, there was also a chance for history to repeat itself.
But that did not happen as we all know. Mir seemed to be winning the stand up exchange, but everyone knew this fight would eventually go to the ground and that was were the world turned upside down. Mir with years of experience in MMA and BJJ was totally dominated by a man who while having a great wrestling pedigree, was only fighting his fifth MMA fight. In pre-fight interviews Lesnar almost always made reference to his size and strength as being assets in the fight, something the UFC was actually built on discrediting. Mir possessed the skill levels that seemed to point to a defeat of the bigger, stronger, less skilled man. He had defeated a number of fighters, including Lesnar, who were bigger and stronger than he was, why would this fight be any different? At the end of the night was Brazilian Ju Jitsu seen as a lesser skill than the skill set of a wrestler who is physically stronger and much bigger? Did Royce Gracie watch the death of his beloved martial art, that his family created and championed?
Perhaps. Especially in the heavyweight division this may be the case. Can anyone see Nogueira, Gonzaga, Dos Santos, or any other BJJ practitioner in the division beat this man? Perhaps the biggest challenge waiting for Lesnar is fellow wrestler Shane Carwin, but this offers a match up of a wrestler vs. wrestler, with mirrored skill sets. After that it may be Cain Velasquez, a man with less wrestling ability than both, or a revitalized Mir. You would need to go outside of the UFC to get a fighter like Josh Barnett or Fedor Emelianenko to offer a challenge it would appear. But in the UFC the circle has come complete in the heavyweight division. In the division where there is such a disparity in weights that it would mimic the original days as closely as possible the man who will reign as champion perhaps for a long time has changed the game once again. He has disproved the idea that superior skill wins out over strength and size and this assessment does not appear to be wrong. Can anyone see Georges St. Pierre come up an fight Lesnar and win? How about Anderson Silva or Lyoto Machida? It would appear not.
But do not despair Royce and other BJJ afficionados, there is hope. In the lower weight classes BJJ flourishes more than any other discipline. In every weight class under heavyweight all of the title holders hold Black Belts in Brazilian Ju Jitsu. Three of the top “pound for pound” fighters in the world hold black belts. At UFC 101 Florian vs. Penn features fighters who have built their careers on Brazilian Ju Jitsu. And even in the WEC the most exciting and talked about fighter now, Miguel Torres, is a BJJ practitioner. Furthermore, at UFC 101 there was a great display of Brazilian Ju Jitsu in the St. Pierre vs. Alves fight by both fighters. GSP used his BJJ skills to control Alves on the ground (in addition to his wrestling takedowns), but Alves as well showed some worthy escapes for a man not known for his BJJ level. In the lower weight classes BJJ is still king it would appear. But for the heavyweights Lesnar may be ushering in the era of the “big man” as many would seem to believe. But someday, maybe sooner than expected, Brazilian Ju Jitsu will reappear in the division again as a dominant force. Hopefully, somewhere a big man can see weaknesses in Lesnar’s game that others cannot.
So UFC 100 is less than a week a way and everyone’s focus is on that event. But at UFC 101 BJ Penn puts his lightweight belt on the line against Kenny Florian, which should be a great match up. However, once that outcome is settled rumors have it that Diego Sanchez is next in line for a title shot against the winner. While Diego is a top tier fighter and has beaten lightweights like Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida is he truly deserving of a title shot at this point? Many people consider him the most deserving or the highest rated fighter at this moment and that the other fighters in the weight class are not at his level, so it is a forgone conclusion that Sanchez is the best choice for the number one contender slot. If Penn looses to Florian it sets up an especially intriguing match up between finalists from The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 in which Sanchez defeated Florian via TKO in the first round. If it is true that Sanchez is indeed next in line he could hope to follow in the footsteps of Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans both of whom won the light-heavyweight title. He also would follow other TUF contestants such as Josh Koscheck, Joe Stevenson, and Kenny Florian (twice) who have received title shots. Diego could be next in this TUF line (along with a win by Michael Bisping) of title contenders, but does he deserve the shot right now?
Coming off TUF one Diego Sanchez was considered the most complete fighter of the contestants. He easily ran through the competition on the show and his defeat of Florian (who was fighting above his normal weight class) in the Finale seemed to point to a great career. Call him brash, arrogant, confident, etc… Diego went on a five fight win streak that included wins over top fighters like Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, and Joe Riggs. His claim that he would become a champion and end his career undefeated, especially as he began to develop better striking to already go with his great submission skills, which was evident in his fight against Joe Riggs. People began to talk about him getting a shot at the welterweight title right after his fight against Season One fighter Josh Koscheck, who had developed a rivalry with Diego on the show.
The fight against Koscheck might have been seen as a turning point to many in Diego’s career. The fight was hyped as a traditional wrestler in Koscheck versus a submission specialist in Sanchez and many believed that the fight would be fought entirely on the ground. After three rounds all that transpired was Koscheck sticking his jab in Diego’s face en route to a decision. Many felt Diego looked tentative never closing or never really attempting to take the fight to the ground. Koscheck went on to fight Georges St. Pierre for a shot at the title, while Diego went on to loose a split decision to Jon Fitch. Diego then went on to win fights against David Bielkhaden and Luigi Fioravanti before making the drop to lightweight. Why would a fighter who was once in-line for a title shot and riding a two fight win streak move out of one division and to another? Two words Kenny Florian were given, although there were perhaps other reasons.
Diego’s reason for the move to Lightweight division was that he could beat Kenny Florian, who was ranked as the number one contender for the title currently held by BJ Penn (a fighter Diego also has stated he can beat). After all Diego had dominated Florian in the TUF Finale, so in his reasoning he could also beat him at lightweight. Because as much as Florian had progressed as a fighter, so has Diego, especially in his stand up skills. He fought a former title contender in Joe Stevenson and won a unanimous decision, then won a split decision against an always dangerous Clay Guida, although many felt Diego dominated the fight. Immediately after the fight many including Diego claimed he was in line for a title shot against the winner of the Penn vs. Florian fight. But the truth is that Diego should not get a title shot based on these two wins, and it is not because of his performance in either fight.
First off Diego never won a shot at the Welterweight title when it mattered, he may have been a top tier fighter, but so were a lot of fighters and he never got past a fighter when it really mattered. Furthermore, his wins over Guida and Stevenson were impressive in many respects, but the fact that one judge favored Guida and that he could not finish Stevenson who was dominated by both Florian and Penn still leave some answered questions about Sanchez. If you were to compare his fight record against Florian as a way to determine title contention, you will see that Florian has won six fights since his loss to Sean Sherk for the Lightweight title. This leads one to believe that either Diego is getting a “free ride” to the title based on a possible Florian vs. Sanchez II match up or because he has a recognizable name at Lightweight. Either way Sanchez’s record in the Welterweight and Lightweight divisions does not warrant a title shot at this point.
Finally people will argue that fighters like BJ Penn and Randy Couture have moved up or down in weight classes and received title shots. Also there has been discussion of other fighters like Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva moving up for title shots as well. The flaw in using these fighters as examples as to why Diego should get an immediate shot at the title is that at the time of their movement in weight class these fighters were either champions or former champions, in the case of Couture and Penn they moved to weight classes were both had held titles before. Diego has not held a title or even been in a fight for the number one contender spot. Any fight he has had with future title implications resulted in two losses, hardly a resume builder in this case.
Is Diego Sanchez a top fighter in either the Welterweight or Lightweight division? Absolutely! Is he someone who should receive a title shot in either division at this moment? Not at all! Like the Welterweight division, in the Lightweight division there are a number of fighters who also deserve to be considered as well. And why should either BJ Penn or Kenny Florian be overlooked for a title contender shot in the event of a loss at UFC 101? What if the fight is a “fight for the ages” should the looser have to go fight six fights (as was the case for Florian) before earning another shot, while Sanchez has earned one after four fights since his loss in a none title shot? If Diego wants to be considered a true number one contender he should have to earn it by defeating fighters such as Sherk, Edgar, Huerta (who has come back), Nate Diaz, or Tyson Griffin to name a few. Two wins in any division should not make you a title contender. No one is mentioning Rich Franklin as a possible Light-heavyweight contender at this moment and his victories at Middleweight and Light-heavyweight are much more impressive than Sanchez’s.