It is no surprise that in the world’s most demanding combat sport, friendships are formed within the walls of the hotboxes known as fight camps.
These fighters spend more time with each other than they do their own families. They train together, travel together, bunk together and eat together, laughing and crying all the way.
They also associate based upon the rightly acknowledged fact that iron sharpens iron, and thus a better fighter is going to make another better, like birds of a feather.
All of this is to be expected, and still, none of it is reason enough why training partners and teammates should not fight.
Yes, I am talking about Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. I’m also talking about Nick Diaz and Jake Shields, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch and so on.
It’s a hot topic as of late, and everyone seems to think it’s because Dana White just doesn’t understand the value of friendship, especially friendships formed in fight camps.
This is dead wrong. He totally understands it, and in no small way sympathizes with it.
He simply will not allow it to burn him and the UFC a second time, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the way it should be.
When Tito Ortiz backed out of a fight with No. 1 contender Chuck Liddell, he basically held the light heavyweight title hostage for a good amount of time, all under the umbrella of “friendship.”
Sooner or later, a line has to be drawn. If you are going to fight in MMA, then anyone you befriend in your weight class or the weight classes above or below you can be a potential future opponent, and you had better be ready for it.
After all, that is your job.
To think anything to the contrary is to totally ignore the horrible precedent it sets, and the ramifications of that kind of thinking on down the line.
If fighters are given a “pass” on fighting their teammates (if divisional rankings call for it), then before you know it, a shocking portion of the MMA fighting community is going to be requiring a “pass” on fighting their friends, especially during title elimination bouts and title defenses.
These friendships will not be real, but formed for the sake of avoiding those fights that need to come to pass. After all, sometimes the best way to defeat a dangerous enemy is to make him your friend, and the sport is not served by this kind of thinking.
Combative sports are very demanding by their very nature. No one is disputing that teammate vs. teammate isn’t a hard situation to deal with, not only for the fighters but for the camp as well.
But it is also a necessary evil, and everyone should know it by now. It’s simply the cost of doing business in the fight game. This is especially true these days, when a head trainer may attract so many talented fighters that it seems like he’s collecting them.
Well, if he is, he should be collecting them to fight, not to posture.
As tightly knit as the MMA community is, the truth is still plain for all to see: Fighters fight with an eye toward becoming champion; the title must be contested honestly by the best available, friends or no.
People like to say that Dana White isn’t consistent, but in this area, he has never wavered.
Why else do you think he loves Chuck Liddell so much?
Because Liddell has had many good friends in the fight game, and he would not hesitate to fight any of them because it’s really nothing personal, no matter how much defeat might sting.
And that is just the way it has to be.