You walk into your favorite sports bar, getting ready to enjoy your favorite team. It could be any sport, but perhaps this time it’s football. Maybe you order a couple beers and an appetizer, and get ready for the fireworks. Unfortunately, that loud, annoying patron two tables away keeps getting on your nerves. He’s yelling at the coach to throw the ball more, even though your running game is chewing up the clock and killing the other team. It seems everything out of his mouth is completely uninformed, and unless you can tune him out, the game loses it’s excitement for you.
The uneducated fan. Every sport has them. I’ve been to too many sports bars and put up with too many of these people to be naive enough to believe otherwise. However, I seem to notice that MMA seems to have it much worse. Maybe because it’s such a new sport comparatively, or maybe because it attracts people who just like to see blood instead of enjoying something that stimulates the mind, but it just strikes me as much worse in MMA.
For instance, I was watching the Georges St-Pierre and Dan Hardy fight a few months ago. What I saw was a well executed, smart game plan by St-Pierre executed almost to perfection with technical brilliance. Unfortunately, half the crowd I attended the sports bar with saw was a boring fight dominated by a ‘chicken’ in St-Pierre. The whole time, these people jawed and ranted about how St-Pierre should stand and bang, and that he was being a wuss by taking the fight to the ground. Some of them even were dumb enough to proclaim St-Pierre’s stand up to be lame, despite a large amount of evidence in the form of knockouts and other technical superiority to dispute this claim. Why, if St-Pierre was smart enough to realize that he completely outclassed Hardy on the ground, should he be stupid enough to stand and trade with someone that dangerous with his hands? It seemed like an insult to those of us who enjoy smart fighters.
Now, I have seen St-Pierre be too cautious at times as well, but then going into that too much would digress from the point. These people just didn’t know to sit back and enjoy a good, smart, technical fighter at his smartest. I have witnessed this all too often to think it was just a one time event. Unless these two are just wailing on each other, most casual fans can’t appreciate the chess match that is really going on out there, and it disappoints me to think that they are missing out on the best part of the sport.
There are many other aspects that I believe the casual fan seems to miss as well. For instance, the match making process. While I do get annoyed at how the UFC seems to always try to make us believe these guys hate each other and just want to kill one another, while taking interviews completely out of context, I do believe they have the formula right for now. The best fighters fight the best, and there is no ducking one another. The champions have to be on top of their game almost every time out, because Dana White is not going to allow him to avoid the top contenders and pad their records. Other than Anderson Silva, the best fighters in each weight class have lost, and endured trouble in recent years. Also, if there is top talent outside of the UFC, it seems like they eventually get what they want and bring that talent in. I would like to see Boxing follow the same example.
Are there boring fights out there? Of course. Are there horrible mismatches? For certain. However, you’ll find this in any sport you come across. Does anyone remember that before the NFL has had it’s recent run of parity and excitement, it was dominated by a small handful of teams every year with boring, blowout Super Bowls?
Now, I understand that part of being a common, everyday fan means that they don’t delve into the specifics as much as myself or other die-hards do. And I do believe we are light-years ahead of where we were just a couple years ago, but I still think that the average knowledge of the common fan is lacking when compared to other sports. I also think for MMA to grow to the next level, especially the UFC, it needs to find a way to increase this knowledge base soon. First on the agenda, let’s make sure that people understand that the sport is “Mixed Martial Arts,” and no I don’t train in “UFC.”