During the early days of the sport, criticism within the MMA community, be it aimed at judges, fighters, promoters or fans, was a very rare thing.
I’m not talking about fans criticizing fighters because they didn’t like them; that has always happened and always will.
I am talking about the kind of criticism that is overly harsh and unfair, that usually proceeds from false assumption—due to slights imagined or reasons manufactured—all toward the end of shifting blame or remaking a situation that substantiates ill opinion for the sake of ill opinion.
It doesn’t take much for a figure in the sport to go from criticized to hated in the blink of an eye, which is the worst byproduct of undue and biased criticism.
Sometimes making an unpopular decision, standing on the wrong side of the fence, or worse, being successful is all that is needed for harsh words to become the only way your detractors can bring you down.
Not all criticism is unfounded, but in the cases of the five individuals you will see on this slideshow, much of it is. That’s what makes it so unfair.
The case of Jon Jones is strange indeed.
On one hand, people criticize his every word simply because they need to find something wrong with him, given that no one has been able to do it in the cage.
Jones has taken some seriously beloved fighters and made them look weak and vulnerable, dismantling them with an ease that just doesn’t seem right.
As a result, many attack his character, saying that he is a fake who goes by a script in order to seem like a good guy. His detractors say, in truth, he is really a pretender who enjoys more success than he deserves.
But all of that was a precursor to UFC 151, when Jones refused to fight last-minute replacement Chael Sonnen, who offered to step up for the injured Dan Henderson.
Of course, this isn’t the first time White has used his position to attack, but it was one of the first times he did so to a big star.
Forgetting it was nothing more than a case of White passing the buck (and that’s exactly what it was), critics blasted Jones for being selfish, and fighters rallied around their boss, trampling Jones into the mud in the process.
Jones was tried in the court of public opinion and found guilty of being a coward, an ego maniac, a diva and just about any other name you can think of. This happened just because White needed a scapegoat and would rather slander one of his own than admit he should not have built an entire PPV card around one fight.
To this day, Jones seems to have more detractors than fans, which may not be as bad as it seems.
For a man who wants to become the next Ali, having detractors is a terribly important thing; for most of his career, Ali had more that were against him than for him.
They tuned in to see him lose, and he was happy to disappoint them.
In truth, Jones is a lot like Ali. Both had to look out for themselves because no one else would. Both had to build a legacy by defeating the best in their division and neither man was afraid to speak their mind and make tough decisions.
All criticism aside, White had better hope he doesn’t go too far one day and find out that Jones has decide to sign with the competition.
If someone else can keep Jones and his sponsorship money intact, well, the UFC isn’t the only MMA promotion with big money behind it anymore.
It is sometimes amazing how a man who went undefeated for almost an entire decade is still criticized as a fighter who never wanted to test himself against the best.
This is so puzzling when you consider that the men Fedor Emelianenko defeated were scooped up by the UFC as soon as they were contractually available.
At the time of each signing, any one of those men was considered a serious threat for the UFC title.
The simple fact is, during the height of Emelianenko’s reign, he was fighting in the best MMA organization in the world. He fought against the best opposition in the world on one night, then against laughable opposition the next.
But at his prime, Mirko "Cro-Cop" Filipovic was worth ten versions of Tim Sylvia or Junior dos Santos.
Fedor was the most dominant heavyweight in the history of the sport and perhaps one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters ever—no question.
All he ever did was fight anyone put in front of him, while agreeing to disagree with the terms offered by White and Zuffa.
But since he never came to terms with Dana White and the UFC, he became the target of every bad joke and bias slander White could come up with. Many in the MMA community bought it hook, line and sinker.
What a shame.
As perhaps the most self-deprecating fighter in the business, Forrest Griffin wears his heart on his sleeve, putting himself out there fully—which also means vulnerably.
The oddity about Griffin is that fans criticize him for being too human. After getting utterly humiliated by Anderson Silva, he left the ring in shame immediately, leaving Silva alone in the spotlight.
Fans called it disrespectful and began taunting Griffin for his early departure, and they have never let up since.
Yes, there is something about leaving before the decision is called that speaks to being a poor sport, but in the case of Griffin, everyone knows there is no disrespect intended at all.
The fact is, for all of Griffin’s bluster about a fight just being a fight, it is much more to him. A great deal of his worth as a man is verified each and every time he fights in that cage.
Let’s be honest, who among us wouldn’t have felt emasculated after being so completely outclassed and undone by Anderson Silva?
Sure, the normal guy says: “Not me. Silva’s the champ. No shame in losing to the man.”
But Griffin isn’t a normal guy; he is a fighter who has worn UFC gold, and unlike you and me, anytime he signs to fight, he is fighting to win.
It is often hard not to hold fighters to a higher standard than we ourselves would ever labor to meet, but seriously, enough is enough.
After all, it is not like he hasn’t done enough for the fans of the sport. Griffin has given his blood and his pride, and that is all we can ask for.
Any fan who asks for more has an overrated sense of importance.
No matter what anyone says, there is sexism in the world of MMA. All you need for proof is to look at any comments section of any written piece about Ronda Rousey.
Yes, she was fast-tracked to a championship in the UFC, and yes, she hasn’t really proven that she can deal with serious adversity yet.
But so what?
Granted, she has beaten everyone put in front of her with the same move done in the same way. But George Foreman defeated Michael Moorer with one punch, Larry Holmes won most of his fights off the jab, GSP wins most of his fights off his takedowns and top game—the list goes on and on.
In the combative sports, winning is ideally about deciding your own fate rather than leaving it to the judges, and that is exactly what Rousey has done. If her opponents cannot match her takedowns and armbars, there is no fault left to be had.
Only the testimony of dominance remains.
Instead of honestly appreciating her ground wizardry and perfect record, her detractors will try and knock her any way they can.
In a piece I did about “Pillow punchers,” her detractors said her name should have been on the list, since we haven’t seen her really throw down yet.
Talk about being guilty until proven innocent.
At least Rousey can take comfort in knowing that her performances to date have been so good her detractors have nothing but her victories to criticize.
Being a trainer and an advisor to some of the best fighters in the game cannot be easy.
If anyone has learned that by now, it’s Greg Jackson.
Be it advising Jon Jones to decline a last-minute fight with Chael Sonnen or the frequently advanced notion that he trains fighters to play it safe instead of going for the finish, Jackson has heard it all. Nevertheless, he maintains a level of professionalism that never sees him take credit for the accomplishments of those in his charge and never sees him passing blame on anyone else.
Jackson has been labeled a “sport killer” by Dana White and been criticized about the situation that led Rashad Evans to separate from Jackson’s camp. As if he alone is responsible for every difficult and complicated situation that arises in the sport pertaining to those fighters associated to him directly or by proxy.
Amid it all, Jackson continues to train his men and women and remains focused on what really matters: the fighters and the fights.