Rogue's Gallery: What Makes a Great MMA Villain?
Good vs. Evil. Angels vs. demons. It drives every epic battle. Indelibly impressed images in our heads like BJ licking the blood off his glove, or Brock spitting his mouth piece out with about a gallon of saliva.
I love watching fighting. Give me two equally gifted martial artists reaking havoc in the center of the Octagon, and I'm a happy man. I have no problem with the purely technical JJ battles that are physical chess matches.
Or even the stand up battles where they spend the first round barely throwing a punch because they're finding their range. I know enough about the fighting arts that that is still interesting to me...
But then there is the wide-eyed kid in me that is on the edge of his seat when two men enter the Octagon who really hate each others guts. One of them has gone too far in the trash talking. Said something about the other fighters character, manhood or worse, maybe something about their family.
Maybe they have history. The electricity is palpable. The actions of one of the fighters, (or sometimes both of the fighters) has polarized the crowd.
So it begs the question. What makes a great MMA villain?
Maybe a good way to group them is...
1) The fighters you love to hate.
Does he have to be a great fighter, (or at least a dominant fighter)? Not really because you have fighters like Junie Browning who isn't really great, but fills all of the other criterion pretty completely.
Tito Ortiz was a great fighter, but kind of became a villain as he was losing some of his luster with his lopsided losses to Liddell.
Tank Abott, who resembled more of a Berserker Viking than an MMA fighter. When he lost, which was pretty often, it was pretty obvious why. But when he won, it was always with a spectacular knockout.
2) The fighters you hate to love.
Does he have to be disturbed? Missing a few cards from the deck? So that way even if we hate the guy, there's a part of us that understands why he is the way he is. Sometimes if the guys back story is compelling enough we will even forgive the sins of his madness.
Sometimes the guys skill set is so extraordinary, like a BJ Penn, that it's hard not to be a fan even when he's being a douche bag. I mean he actually said on national TV that he was going to try and kill St. Pierre. He called him a quitter (and then quit in their fight).
And depending on how you feel about "greasegate," would leave you more or less sympathetic with him, but c'mon, he brought his mother to the hearing who got upset because her little boy could have gotten hurt? Yikes! There's nothing worse than when a villian loses his street cred.
The interesting thing is that he seems to be laying low and training right now, which probably doesn't bode well for Florian. I think MMA fans are pretty forgiving and if BJ just lets his fighting do the talking for one fight, all will be forgiven.
Look at what just happened with Rampage and Evans at UFC 100. Rampage is a little disturbed, but really likeable. Funny guy who seems to like having a good time, and is also only about a foot and a half away from snapping and killing someone. And he's got a grill on his teeth that you could imagined stained with blood.
Does that make him a villain?
I don't think so. When he hates someone, he generally has a good reason for it, and takes time to explain why.
Lesnar/Mir was an interesting fight for me, because I wouldn't call either guy likeable. Their two fighters that you either love or hate. It makes it easy to watch the fight because the wide-eyed kid in me wants to see one of them beat the snot out of the other one.
Lesnar is the more obvious choice for villain but because he is really who he seems to be he scores major points with the fans.
And I guess that's what it is for me, the only villains that I write off are the ones that are acting, because then they become cartoony and we verge on the Professional Wrestling stuff which I'm not a fan of.
I want my villains to be three dimensional flawed creatures that get a little angry and a little stupid when they are afraid. I want to know why. I want to believe that they're trying to be good, and that when they snap, it's just a little bit out of their control.
Holy crap, I want the HULK to join MMA. That's just a little sad...or did it already happen Brock Lesnar?
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