There is a common trope among MMA fighters, tell me if you’ve heard this one. A fighter starts out their title run finishing opponents, showcasing dynamic talent, and unorthodox techniques. They’re changing the game, setting new standards as both fans and the UFC itself join in the excitement. Then the fighter wins a UFC title, finally securing the bag via pay-per-view points and a bumped up outfitting compliance check. Then something happens: they start to fight safe, they bank rounds with jabs and low kicks. Maintaining their place atop the mountain supersedes the need to wow the fans, because all that matters is retaining the bag.
Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, Israel Adesanya, and at some points even Anderson Silva: Fair or not, some of the greatest fighters to ever step into the octagon have been accused of these things, and perhaps to a degree, they did.
However, I’m going to ask you to consider that the UFC has also fallen into this trap.
Marvin Vettori and Jared Cannonier put on a monster fight, in front of dozens of fans. Imagine if that fight had taken place in front of a couple thousand fans in Italy, or Alasaka, or Iowa, or anywhere that would have them. Might some of those in attendance become more invested in Cannonier’s title prospects, or a new fan of Vettori’s seemingly un-knock-out-able-ness? Perhaps, but we’ll never know because the UFC gets paid to satisfy ESPN, not us. The barometer of success is measured in ESPN+ subscriptions, hours of content, and meeting the requisite number of events per year. Consider changing your perspective on the product they produce versus the one they purport to.
Author’s note: I used only images of Israel Adesanya as he’s been criticized for his fighting style, but the idea of a champ fighting safely to minimize risk is not a specific dig at him.
You might not agree with our opinions about the UFC but you gotta admit we call ‘em like we see ‘em without kissing up or kowtowing for access. Support independent MMA opinions by subscribing to the Bloody Elbow newsletter.
Take care of yourself and I’ll talk to you next week.
About the author