Over the years, I have often pondered what it is that makes fans love or hate fighters, despite usually having no idea who these athletes are in person. From MMA to the big four sports in North America, in part, even globally with soccer, rest assured, every single athlete has their fanatics and of course, their detractors.
On a minute scale, I can relate to all of these athletes. When you are considered a public figure and are out there on mainstream television, radio and of course, on social media, being criticized or praised is simply part of the game.
Early in my career, I struggled with the notion that anyone could “hate” me. I mean, I would simply go out there, do my job with integrity, never rock the boat and to wit, always be nice to everyone you meet. But low and behold, I would get ripped apart by a vocal minority.
Then, I remember being told the very simple adage, one I didn’t respect nor understand back then, but later, learned to embrace wholeheartedly: “you can't please everyone”. No matter what position I took, left, right, or politically correct, I would still get “hated”.
I then began to see it happen with Georges St-Pierre, early in his career, all the way until this very day. Here’s a guy I know on a somewhat personal level and can vouch for his character, yet there he is online, being ripped non-stop.
I got to know Rashad Evans, Miesha Tate, Anthony Johnson, Roy Nelson and so many more of these athletes in a manner that was more than “media” and “subject”. I got know about their pasts, their current life, what plans they had in the future, their life struggles and so much more. Genuine people (in my opinion) who no matter what they did, were going to get ripped apart by the fan base.
While no one is perfect, I do understand we all look at some athletes as not someone we can relate to or someone we can cheer on to victory. There are those who simply do not resonate with our own personalities or belief system and so, we want to see them lose.
Look at the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate for example. They are the prototypical anti-establishment figureheads who are other loved or hated. Fans either agree with their sentiments and applaud them for being real, while others scoff at the notion of their behaviour, labelling them as unprofessional and thugs from Stockton.
Brock Lesnar was another example I saw first hand. Here was a monster of a man who no matter who he was fighting, which venue we would be at, what hotel we would all be staying in, would take the time out of his day, to ask me how “ I “ was doing. He was a joker and a prankster and a guy I could talk fishing with. But his larger than life persona was either beloved by the fans or despised. And he couldn’t care less … a lesson he taught me very well.
These days, we have the case of Daniel Cormier and bitter enemy Jon Jones. DC, who comes across mainly as a laid back, father-type who lives the devoted family man life vs. Jon Jones, who also has a spouse and kids, yet seems to always find himself with trouble. Cormier is booed, as is Jones, but today, there is no comparison. The booing for DC will surely be drowned out by the cheers for Jones.
So what gives? The answer may be as simple as “it is what it is”.
We could break down the psychology of the fan base and the whole ‘follower’ mentality, but on an individual level, it’s up to the paying public to decide who they cheer or boo for. It’s their prerogative. In the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t matter to each athlete. But the smart ones will either embrace it, or the words of Conor McGregor … “I don’t give a <expletive>!”
Conor embraced the public spotlight and ran with it. As did Tito Ortiz, Chael Sonnen and Frank Trigg. And now Daniel Cormier has once again, publicly stated he will embrace the roll as well, for it matters not whether they talk good about you or bad about you. As long as they are talking about you, you are doing fine.
Just accept it and like the smarts one have done … run with it for as long as you can.