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MMA Fighters vs. Competitors: Why the Latter Are Hurting the Sport

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Jon Fitch of the USA speaks during a Press Conference ahead of UFC 127 at Star City on February 23, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
David KimContributor IIMarch 2, 2011

Perhaps it was when GSP tapped to strikes with his belt on the line or when Frankie Edgar jabbed his way to a championship win—I'm not sure exactly when the 'competitors' started popping into the MMA scene, but they're certainly, and unfortunately, here.

The "tactician", the "strategist", the "man with the plan"—these are all glamorous ways of describing the new breed of competitors in MMA.  Jon Fitch, Frankie Edgar, GSP, Gray Maynard, Jake Shields are just some of the names that come to mind when these words are used.  But can we blame them? Can we blame them for wanting to win (at all costs)?

Can we blame Josh Koscheck for "neutralizing" Paul Daley for three rounds to earn a decision victory? Koscheck, the self-proclaimed "bad boy" of TUF—the same Koscheck who talks smack before every one of his fights.  What Daley did at the end of that fight is what 99 percent of the fans watching wanted to do to Koscheck.  Daley being booted out of the UFC for that is beyond ridiculous (go watch the Hendo vs Bisping fight and tell me what you thought was worse), but that's another story.

Do we, as fight fans, really want to see a fighter "neutralize" another en route to a decision victory? Or do we want to see them fight with bad intentions? The self-proclaimed "hardcore" fan (you know the type—the guys that train a bit of MMA and spend their entire day on the forums telling everyone that they know nothing about MMA) will tell you that they "appreciate" watching these competitors and that "a win is a win."  Obviously there is no argument to that—a win is a win, yes.  However, when you pay your $59.95 for a UFC event, are you paying to watch a "strategist" neutralize their opponent or are you paying in the hopes that you'll actually see a fight? If the Yankees won a world championship by doing nothing but bunting, would they still fill the seats? Is it as simple as a win being a win?

With the way that the UFC has been cutting fighters from their roster combined with the larger sums of money being paid out to successful fighters these days (mostly through endorsements), it seems almost inevitable that MMA will attract more and more of these competitors.  But at what point will the average fan lose interest? At what point will the UFC be forced to change their ways as it's becoming (painfully, for the UFC) clear that competitors like Strikeforce are gaining momentum as they tend to have less of these so-called competitors and more of the hungry fighter types on their roster.

There seems to be this myth among "hardcore" fans that anyone who fights with a "fighter's mentality" is just a brawler and has no skills.  This is ridiculous.  What does that say about the organizations and the sport itself? How does a "brawler" with no skill work their way up the ranks and land contracts with the biggest organizations in the sport? Luck?

I don't know what the perfect solution is in ridding MMA of these competitors.  Perhaps the yellow card system? What about only giving title shots to fighters who demonstrate that they are actually "fighters"? It's not like they follow a structured ranking system anyway. (ie. Brock Lesnar title shot)

What I do know is I'm an MMA fan and I wouldn't spend $1.00 to order a fight between any of these "competitors."

 

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