There is nothing quite like watching superstars come into their own.
It’s thrilling to see them revel in their abilities, usually at the expense of their opponents. They push the envelope of their own preconceptions about their limitations, and the really great ones surprise even themselves with their daring and execution.
They make hay while the sun shines, and in the case of fighters, that means they fight often, taking on whoever is in front of them, destroying them with an ease that almost seems scripted.
They leave the viewing public, and even their opponents, in awe of their skills and abilities.
Jon Jones has done all of this, and in the last year, he has been the candle that burns twice as bright as any other in the UFC stable.
But as he continues to impress in excess, the powers that be in the UFC would do well to remember that candles that burn so brightly can sometimes burn half as long.
In short, there is a difference between making a wish upon a shooting star and hitching your wagon to it.
The fight game is more like Algebra than simple math. Dana White is always talking about how something unexpected and bad happens every day in his line of work. This is because in a sport full of variables that explode like landmines between the gym and the cage, there is no such thing as a sure thing.
The writing that proves this true is on the wall.
Of all the pitfalls that have caused problems for a fight promotion, none is bigger than fighter injury.
Countless big fights have been postponed or even cancelled due to serious injury, usually occurring outside of the ring.
Frank Mir never got to defend his heavyweight title the first time around thanks to a bad motorcycle wreck that not only put him on the shelf for over a year, but seriously affected his psyche. After he got back on the saddle, it took many losses before he got back to winning form.
Currently, Georges St. Pierre is sitting on the sidelines while rehabilitating a knee injury. He is an international superstar and a major PPV draw, and he will not be stepping foot in the cage until the last quarter of 2012.
While Jones has not suffered this kind of setback as of yet, it is almost a mathematical certainty that sometime in his career he will suffer an injury that puts him on the bench for at least a little while.
When that time comes, he and everyone else will learn that the sport waits for no one.
If the UFC is going to appeal to a worldwide audience, it needs worldwide flavor, and that only comes in the form of diversity of marquee fighters, and that means Jones has to share the stage.
While the sport of professional prize fighting may indeed transcend language barriers, the post fight interview does not.
In Mexico, for instance, the company will need to put fighters like Cain Velasquez, Diego Sanchez, the Diaz brothers and others on the main stage. It speaks directly to the heart of those foreign peoples to see their countrymen held up high on the biggest stage.
To put it plainly, Jon Jones may be the man, but he can’t be the mythical “everyman.”
For the UFC to succeed in their plan for global domination, they’re going to need hometown boys to get that hometown noise.
If any sport has depended upon its biggest attractions to sustain itself, it is the sport of boxing.
They tried this, and it worked for a while, so they kept it up—building the sport on media luminaries. Fighters like Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, and others were the marquee names. Fans tuned in for only the main event, oblivious to the fighters toiling on the undercard.
But now all but two of those stars are gone. Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr. will be bidding the sport a fond adieu, and already, we can see the mess left behind.
Not to mention the horrible precedent such business decisions set.
Boxing still has many great fighters, but superstars like De La Hoya, Mike Tyson and others set the bar so high (in their own perspective ways) that they are a hard act to follow. This, in turn, is leaving the sport to enter a new era with no true heir apparent to the throne of the next PPV sensation.
There has always been a natural ebb and flow when it comes to the combative sports, and MMA is no different.
Having brilliant fighters is a wonderful thing, but not the only thing, and certainly not the thing that matters the most.
As always, it should be the fights that matter most, not a single fighter.
When the fights are paramount, then the sport is served best, and the fighters who see their careers rise and fall with each contest.
And that is exactly how it should be.