Any time, any place, any weight.
Jon “Bones” Jones is catching a lot of flak for refusing to fight Chael Sonnen on eight days notice. Many people believe that Bones should’ve adopted the “just scrap” mantra and come out in eight days and show the world why he’s the best fighter in the world.
What happened instead was that “Bones” and his team decided that they would need substantial time to prepare for a different opponent and thus will headline UFC 152 against Vitor Belfort. Many fighters and MMA personalities came out and attacked Jon for his decision to not just go ahead and fight on eight days notice.
They’re all missing the point. Jon Jones is the future. And in the future they don’t “just scrap.” They just win.
This “just scrap” mentality will die with the exodus of the older generation of fighters. The fact is that fighting is evolving and changing into more of a sport than ever. Whether that’s a good thing or not is
another topic of discussion.
In the first UFC, there were open-weight tournaments, with guys fighting to prove what is the best martial art. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Royce Gracie reigned supreme in the first two tournaments, besting boxers, wrestlers and karate fighters. These guys fought whomever was in front of them and went out on their shield if they had to.
Fighting was about mastering your craft and imposing your will upon your opponent.
Later on in the PRIDE Fighting Championships, there were guys with losing records who were beloved because it was about putting on a show for the fans. Winning was always the goal, but giving a winning performance was paramount, also.
Times have changed.
The death of this concept coincides with the commercialization of MMA. As MMA becomes more mainstream, the need to scout and study an opponent becomes more and more necessary. It’s less about going out on your shield and more about formulating a game plan to beat your opponent.
With that mindset, you’re seeing more “safe” fights. You see more guys circling around then throwing jabs and some guys employing lay and pray. They do whatever it takes to get points on the judges’ scorecards.
A big part of this is because of Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC. Nobody comes close to their revenues or PPV numbers. So if you’re a Zuffa fighter, your main priority is to stay a Zuffa fighter and not get cut. So if you have to do that by employing a less-than-exciting game plan, so be it.
To a lesser extent, it’s also because the base of MMA has moved from Japan to the United States. Over here the mantra isn’t “just scrap”, it’s “just win.”
To the casual fan, a fighter on a winning streak is great and can’t be stopped. Once that fighter loses, he sucks. Winning has its monetary benefits, too, because in the UFC, most win bonuses double your purse. Thus, the reward for winning outweighs the desire for giving fans a good show.
At the end of the day, these guys are prizefighters and professional athletes. This is their job. So “win at all costs” may mean win no matter what the fans think of how you do it.
So while we demand our fighters to just win at all costs, that’s exactly what they’re going to do. And by all costs, we the fans may be the ones ultimately paying for it.