The morning after Lyoto Machida’s knockout victory over Rashad Evans, I noticed something funny, across the MMA blogosphere. Many people seem to be questioning whether or not he is “good” for the sport - particularly in a financial sense.
The argument goes as follows: UFC champs like Georges St-Pierre (welterweight) and Brock Lesnar (heavyweight), both of whom are perceived as exciting, aggressive fighters, sell out arenas and fuel Pay-Per-View sales.
Therefore, it’s at least conceivable that a fighter like Machida, who is perceived (wrongly, for anyone who saw the fight on Saturday night) as having a “counter-fighting style,” might not have the same box office appeal as his fellow champs - most of whom have bigger muscles and some of whom have bigger mouths.
I think that this argument is dead wrong. Lyoto Machida has the potential to be the most popular champion in the UFC. There, I said it.
Although I don’t think my position is so controversial, when seen through the broader lens of American pop culture. Think about the Ramones, or Eminem. Think about Ernest Hemingway. Think about Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keital.
Think about Jackson Pollock. What do all of these artists have in common, aside from their iconic status? The average man isn’t so far away from them.
The Ramones didn’t have excellent musicianship. Hemingway never wrote a sentence you couldn’t find in the local newspaper. DeNiro and Keital look like your next-door neighbors, not movie stars. And we all secretly think that we could pull off a Pollock, given enough time, paint, and alcohol.
Lyoto Machida doesn’t look like a monster (Lesnar), or posses the athleticism of an Olympian (St-Pierre.) He’s a hard working, soft-spoke guy, just like the average American male.
He makes our sport more approachable than any other world champ since Royce Gracie, who - for those of you who are new to the sport, or simply have short memories—is still perhaps the most recognizable name in the history or MMA.
He might not have big muscles, or tattoos, or a pink-faux-hawk. He might not be able to body-slam NCAA champs or bench press 400lbs. But hey, neither can we.
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