As the sport of Mixed Martial Arts moves forward, we are seeing more and more of it’s stars entering the twilight of their careers. Many are already there, with plenty more fight to give, but gone are their days of being relevant in their respective divisions.
And that’s ok.
The original inclination was to labeled them as “washed up”, that they should hang up their gloves, etc but as the numbers continue to grow, I’m beginning to believe there is still a space for these aging fighters to continue.
We already know that MMA is a dangerous sport. But under the right circumstances, why not let these warriors continue down their paths and grow their legacies however they see fit?
While my main sentiment is that the less amount of damage they can take during their careers, the better off their health will be in the long term, but some fighters still have some pop to their punches and some slickness to their submission games. Perhaps the one issue that should be considered is that they are matched up accordingly.
Case and point: BJ Penn.
During every Fightful MMA Podcast this week, the same arguement was solidified in stating that Penn had no business being in the octagon with Yair Rodriquez. BJ is simply no longer on that level anymore. Like most sports, it’s a young (wo)man’s game. Speed is the first thing to go, but power often remains. “The Prodigy” still has pop in his punches and rest assured, that ground game is still in tact.
Now match BJ up against his original opponent Denis Siver and not many people would put up much of an argument. That to many, is a fair fight. Even when Penn was scheduled to square off against Cole Miller, there weren’t many putting up a fight (no pun intended) that it was a bad idea.
This weekend we will see Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen and to be honest, I’m looking forward to seeing which one of these guys will pull off the victory. It’s a fair fight in my books. What wouldn’t be fair is a hypothetical matchup between either of these two and Daniel Cormier, Anthony Johnson and yes, Jon Jones. Those are not matchups I want to see.
With all of my podcast guests this week, I brought up the past matchup of Shogun Rua vs. Ovince St. Preux and now the new one with Anderson Silva vs. Derek Brunson. I take nothing away from OSP or Brunson, too fine fighters who continue to compete at a high level, but my original thought when Shogun and “The Spider” were announced in these respective matchups was “oh how the mighty have fallen”.
And now I believe I was wrong to think this way.
My MMA mind betrayed me into thinking that once a fighter reached a certain pinnacle in MMA, he could no longer compete once he was dethroned. That continuing to compete against “lesser” talent was a shame and that their legacy would be ruined. I don’t believe that’s true anymore.
Yes, it would be grandiose if every fighter who became a world champion, defended a few times, then walked away as the champ, but that is such a rarity that the true reality is that they still have plenty more left in their tanks. (On a side note, I’m not convince Anderson Silva is done just yet).
Perhaps their is a space within MMA to allow these once glorious champions to continue fighting vs. competition who they can be matched up against with the same sort of qualifications and/or current skill set.
Age is another factor to consider.
Pitting a 24 year old young lion on a major up tick (e.g. Yair Rodirquez) vs. a former King of the Jungle (e.g. BJ Penn, who was last dominant in 2009) should raise red flags and simply should not be a bout that should be allowed to take place.
There are plenty of matchups that could be made for the likes of Penn, Ortiz, Sonnen, Silva and Shogun. Heck, even Urijah Faber, Jake Ellenberger, Matt Brown and so many others.
While I’d much rather see them retire safe and sound, if they do want to continue fighting, all we should ask for is a fair fight.
Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA