'Motivated' Penn and the 6 Most Overused Qualifiers in MMA
Some fighters make excuses. Other fighters give reasons. But some fighters have fans who refuse to believe they are losing for any reason that is within their control.
There is a magical place for these fans wherein every time their athlete loses, it is due to matters that are beyond the grasp of the fighter himself.
There have been many one-off excuses given and some are legitimate.
Even some people on this list had good reason for a loss here or there.
But this group of six elite fighters seem to be given a pass on losses from fanboys after every failure. It is as if the idea of them simply not being good enough is too much for the fans to handle.
We shouldn't blame the fighters for these titles they were given. But let's all hope they are generally unaware of the excuses crafted for them.
Melvin Guillard has been with the UFC since the fall of 2005. He has amassed 13 wins and 11 knockouts. He has also continually failed to win the biggest matches of his career.
Because he falters when it counts, he has yet to see a title bout. But don't worry, it isn't a matter of lacking skill. You see: Melvin simply can't stay focused.
At the UFC 136 post-fight press conference, Joe Lauzon and Dana White each stated Guillard was not focused before Lauzon defeated him via submission. That was all that backers of Guillard needed. It wasn't that he lacked ground game or lacked talent.
After all, Joe Rogan can't talk about Guillard for more than two minutes without mentioning his “natural athleticism.” No, it is simply that he had a bad case of Badfocus-itus.
Fans seem to overlook the fact that both Lauzon and White were speaking in terms of Guillard being cocky, not of an actual inability to focus on the task at hand. But nobody looks for “Humble” Guillard. Instead, everyone keeps waiting for “Focused” Guillard to show up.
With his most recent win over Mac Danzig at UFC on Fox 8, fans believe this time it’s for real... just like last time.
'Old' and 'New' Vitor
Long before his 'body was ready', Vitor Belfort was the UFC Heavyweight champion and seemed nearly unstoppable in the eyes of his supporters.
Then Belfort went through a spell of lackluster wins and upset losses that seemed perplexing to his fans. It was so confusing that they actually created a disparity between two separate Belforts.
To be fair, he did have to endure the nightmare of his sister being kidnapped, and he likely was not mentally in the right place for some portion of his career. But that only accounts for his actions from 2004 and on.
Vitor had already been giving lackluster bids from his debut in Pride FC in 1999, when he lost a decision to Kazushi Sakuraba.
The Sakuraba bout ushered in “New” Vitor and things only got worse. Between August of 2004 and October of 2006, he dropped five-of-seven bouts, and “New” Belfort was in full swing. Every loss or lackluster attempt was because “Old” Vitor wasn't around.
It couldn't be that he was past his prime or lacked the fire he once had.
It was simply the fact that he was a different man altogether.
The man in the ring or cage was some doppelganger who took the real Belfort's place.
"Old” Vitor has made a comeback, but it has been amidst the revelation of TRT usage. Don't tell his staunch supporters that the therapy has anything to do with his ascending back to prominence. That's ridiculous. It is just that “Old” Belfort has returned. "New Old" Vitor perhaps?
'Proper Training Camp' Rampage
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson came into MMA with a natural talent and aggression that is rare in the sport. He came into Pride FC and dominated competition, even hopping over to K-1 to defeat Cyril Abidi twice.
But throughout his career, Jackson also came up with an apparent inability to find a quality training camp, and his supporters often point to that when he lost a bout.
Almost every time Rampage failed to defeat his opponent, there was a problem with his camp.
Following his loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the second Pride FC Middleweight Grand Prix, Jackson hopped over to Juanito Ibarra's camp. He stayed with Ibarra's camp through six victories, which saw him grab the UFC Light-Heavyweight title, only to leave the camp directly following his loss to Forrest Griffin one bout later.
Rampage cited Ibarra overcharging him and mismanaging his talents. Such problems did not seem to exist through the entire lead-up to his loss, nor any time before then.
Jackson made his move to Wolfslair two months following his loss to Griffin, and stayed with the team through four wins and two losses, then leaving the gym to refocus on MMA.
Each time Jackson left a camp, it was due to some problem that was external to his own attitude, actions, and drive. The move always involved supposed mistreatment or mismanagement of the athlete. These were the same problems Jackson had with Hollywood and Mike Dolce's nutrition regimen as well.
Fans of Jackson do not usually have to make up the excuses for the fighter. He comes equipped with the excuses ready-made any time that difficulty affects him.
For a man with such boundless talent, his mentality tends to stand directly in his path to continued success.
Chuck 'With That Look in His Eyes' Liddell
This one more the fault of an announcer than a fan, but the point is still applicable.
Starting at UFC 76, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg apparently channeled their most inner poker player and noticed a particular look within the eyes of Chuck Liddell, which told them something that one could not obtain by talking to Liddell himself.
In UFC 76, 79, 88 and 97, Liddell apparently had some sort of look that was noticeable to the keen eyes of the commentators.
One cannot be sure if he had four distinct looks, each being one unseen in as many a year, or if Rogan and Goldberg simply had lost track of time in general and were in a 'Groundhog Day' scenario which they could not escape from.
The statement appeared to be made every time the UFC wanted to avoid the conversation of how brutally Liddell was losing. A sort of “Don't worry, it was just that he forgot his look last time. But now he has it, so things are going to be alright,” was the underlying message.
It seemed more like a company line than a fact of observation. Whatever they saw, they should have stopped seeing it, as Liddell was knocked out in three-of-four times before it was mentioned.
In reality, the look in Liddell's eyes was exactly the same as ever before. He was intense yet calm, focused and rarely blinking. He kept his eyes locked on the Octagon as he made his way to his place of business.
Maybe I'm just not great at reading Chuck's eyes. But I'll leave that up to you.
'Healthy' Shogun Rua
Starting from the day Shogun lost to Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut at UFC 93, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has been excused by fans for every loss. The reason? Rua just wasn't healthy.
To be fair, three knee surgeries is no joke, and Rua should be applauded for even attempting to compete at the highest level in the sport. That said, every time he loses a fight his fans act like he simply wasn't able to work his cardio enough due to injuries. If not for that fact, he would have easily won the bout.
The notion creates this weird alternate universe wherein one is judged for his prime potential rather than the man standing in the Octagon.
A 24-year-old Rua would fair much better against the likes of Chael Sonnen, Alexander Gustafsson or Jon Jones. That in no way means that his losses somehow do not count when they occur.
What is peculiar is that his fans do not focus on poor judging which kept ruining his plausible wins, nor do they recognize that around 30 percent of Shogun's game was taken away when stomps and soccer kicks were made illegal in the United States.
Shogun's success in Pride was intrinsically connected to his ability to stomp and kick downed opponents. His wins over Akihiro Gono, Hiromitsu Kanehara, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Ricardo Arona were all directly linked to stomps and soccer kicks.
If anything, “Soccer Kicking” Shogun should be the excused title. Or maybe “Healthy FIFA” Shogun.
The most overused and clichéd excuse title in MMA is 'Motivated' BJ Penn. The theory conjures up the reason for all of Penn's losses as being fundamentally blamed on his lack of interest in actually fighting, which is somehow simultaneously not a damnable offense in itself.
A quick Google search found a 2008 BleacherReport.com story by Derek Bolender titled “UFC's BJ Penn: Motivated and Dangerous.” While it is not the first time the qualifier was used, it is clear that even as far back as a half-decade, people have been separating a sort of bi-polar Penn.
One of the Penns is aggressive, vicious, deadly and has an unmatched ground game. The other is lazy, halfhearted and wholly uninterested in showing how good he truly is.
Each manifestation's habitat lies within the same body, but somehow only one of them can be retroactively discerned by the fans.
The most peculiar part of the 'Motivated' BJ Penn theory is that it fails to admit the possibility that BJ Penn, while one of the gutsiest fighters in the game, may simply be addicted to biting off more than he can chew.
Five of the seven men who have defeated BJ Penn have been welterweights. Perhaps there is no need for excuses. BJ Penn has had a hard time beating top-level fighters in higher weight classes. There is no shame losing to Lyoto Machida in a catchweight bout, and it is not the end of the world to be bested by two of the best welterweights of all time in Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre.
BJ Penn will always be one of the greatest fighters in the early history of MMA, but the unmotivated fantasy version of him tries to excuse something that shouldn't even be embarrassing. All else being equal, big guys can often beat up little guys. That is a fact.
That idea Penn only loses to the best of the bigger men should not be avoided. It should be embraced. If anything, it shows he is more motivated because he's willing to take on larger opponents.
For now on his name is just BJ Penn. No qualifier necessary.
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