It’s midweek and many storylines from UFC 217 continue to resonate loudly, both inside and outside of the MMA bubble. For some, it was that three new champions were crowned while for others, it was the witnessing of humble pie being served.
The fine line between trash talking, selling a fight and fighter’s caring about fan reaction is a blurry one but one thing is for certain: mixed martial artists are no different than you and I. They are human and deal with things with a variety of emotions.
Case Number One: Michael Bisping
“The Count” did a masterful job playing the heel in the buildup with his title fight vs. Georges St-Pierre. He berated him, called him a lizard, flipped off fans who booed him and cheered for the Canadian.
Heading into the fight, you either were with Bisping or vehemently against him. And that’s exactly what he (and the UFC) wanted. The bottom line was that as long as you tuned in, watched the fight, he did his job.
But in doing so, especially with the bravado required to sell the fight the way he did, there was a risk involved. When you talk that much trash, you better be able to either back it up or at the very least - win.
Michael was able to back it up but in the end, he was submitted via rear naked choke, losing the title, sending him into a whirlwind of emotions, dejection and disappointment. Today, he is no longer the champion, will not be getting a rematch anytime soon and for a segment of the fan base, he got what he deserved. While I may not agree, one look on the silly meme’s online and you will see there are those who are happy the Michael got served his slice of humble pie.
With that being said, I sincerely believe it pales in comparison to the buffet of humility that was served to the subject of Case Number Two: Joanna Jędrzejczyk.
Widely regarded as the best woman to ever compete in the sport, she was a massive favourite heading into her title fight vs. Rose Namajunas. Truth be told, the overwhelming sentiment was that ‘Thug Rose’ had no chance winning.
During conference calls, press conferences and in her face, Joanna taunted Rose, calling her ‘mentally unstable’ - this after Namajunas made it crystal clear that she has long battled demons while doing what she could to raise awareness for mental health.
For some (including yours truly), Joanna crossed the line, and in doing so, the MMA Gods rained down a shower of karma inside the octagon, a cascade of monstrous punches that had Namajunas shock the world, when she defeated Joanna via her striking acumen. It was a sight to behold, arguably the highlight of UFC 217.
With the devastating loss now on Joanna’s record and mind, will she be less verbal or more calculated in her attempts to get into her opponent’s heads, will she remain steadfast and the same or will it make her an even more aggressive trash talker. We will find out soon enough.
Then there is our final Case: Cody Garbrandt
“No Love” went all in, in a variety of fight hype, trash talk and physical assaults onto his former teammate TJ Dillashaw, doing anything and everything possible to defame the character and skills of his opponent.
Cody’s confidence shone through in epic fashion, for he was not only the champion, but one who displayed a special knack for not only exceptional performances in the octagon, but possessing a style and flair that guys like me truly enjoy watching.
But this type of confidence and flair can also be translated by some as arrogance; the kind that cost Anderson Silva is middleweight reign when he lost to Chris Weidman at UFC 162. While Garbrandt did do some clowning around vs. Dillashaw (and I for one loved it) it was the smallest of errors that cost him the title. One bob / weave the wrong way, and was lights out for Garbrandt.
Bisping, Jędrzejczyk and Garbrandt are not the only victims who have been served humble pie, for MMA (and Combat Sports) has it’s fair share of other patrons at the table of humility.
The same can be said for St-Pierre, Namajunas and Dillashaw - not all good peeps emerge victorious but when they do, especially in extreme cases of title fights, it feeds the sweet tooth of fans and fighters who live and breathe the true virtues of martial arts: be humble, show respect and let your skills do the talking.
Thankfully, trash talking will never go away when it comes to prize fighting and nor will MMA karma disappear. That’s the beauty of these unseen foreseen forces; like fighting, anything can happen in any given fight.