Nostalgia can be a funny thing.
It plays with the senses, confounds reason, and clouds memory. Like a drug, it impairs proper judgement and good sense in favour of a high that's progressively harder and harder to achieve.
In combat sports, nostalgia is a fun, almost vital part of the fan experience. No sport fosters an emotional fan connection like one-on-one fighting, and that's a connection that can stay strong in the face of time's cruel onward march. Time and again, we forget the obvious realities of the fight game while we rally once again around a beloved fight or fighter.
Most of the time, when it comes to fighting, nostalgia is like pissing your pants: sure, it feels all warm and fuzzy while it's happening, but once it's over you're left with a big mess, and an even bigger embarrassment.
Recently, there's been a lot of talk surrounding a possible rematch between Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira at UFC 134 in Brazil. That isn't really a surprise to me as both men are some of the most legendary figures in all the sport. Their names in a headline will, for good or ill, get fans talking.
No, what surprises me is that the reaction has been largely positive. As in, people actually want to see this fight happen.
So I'm going to go ahead and throw a cold glass of water on those (potential) plans before the sport of MMA finds itself once again with a spreading stain on its pants and an embarrassed look on its face.
I can already hear the howls of the MMA faithful as they pour out of the woodwork to burn me in effigy. How dare I desecrate the names of two of PRIDE's greatest legends! In fact, if MMA hardcores had a "holy trinity" it would be these two men along with Wanderlei Silva (Fedor having been excommunicated to the M-1 underworld).
But beyond rabid fandom, there is a legitimate argument being put forward for making this fight.
"Both guys are old and past their moment," the argument goes, "so why not have them square off now in a fun, just for the hell of it fight? What's the harm?"
It's ironic, because just last weekend MMA fans were railing against the perceived pointlessness of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley fight. And now, within the space of a few days, here they are calling for a fight that has "pointless" written all over it.
I realize the analogy isn't a perfect one. Manny Pacquiao is by no means over the hill, and any PPV with his name on it—be it Pacquiao vs. Jose Canseco, Pacquiao vs. Zulu, even Pacquiao vs. His inner doubt—is a cultural event.
But Shane Mosley certainly is. And the perception of this fight from fans top to bottom was that it was a "keep busy" fight, a filler fight for Pac-Man in lieu of a serious, actual, Floyd Mayweather-inclusive fight.
In other words, barring a fluke Mosley win, it was utterly pointless. Boxing fans accepted it, but MMA fans were livid. To paraphrase Gus Johnson, such things don't happen in MMA.
Yet here we are, talking about dragging a bell-rung and injury plagued Nogueira out for another dance with Mirko Cro Cop's ghost. I think a large part of this has to do with how unbelievably awesome their first fight was, back in the halcyon days of PRIDE. If you've never seen it, then for God's sake stop reading this article and go watch it! Few fights in all of combat sports have ever been so emotional and dramatic.
In fact, if you had to judge based on this fight alone, you'd be forced to to conclude that Antonio Nogueira is one of the baddest men who ever lived.
And he is. So is Mirko, for that matter. But their moment has passed, and the magic of their first clash will never be duplicated.
Look at what made their first fight so exciting: Mirko's incredible striking and Antonio's cast iron chin.
Today, Mirko's striking consists of high-fiving Pat Barry and absolutely refusing to pull the trigger, while Nog's iron chin is a thing of the past. In two of his last three, "Minotauro" has been knocked cold by guys who had a reputation for "pillow-fists" BEFORE their fight with him.
Call me crazy, but that doesn't exactly seem like a recipe for a fun rematch. Instead, it looks like the makings of a classic fistic disaster.
My grandfather served in the air force in the Second World War. My friend's grandfather served in a similar position in the German Luftwaffe. If they ever actually fought, I guarantee their battle was dramatic, emotional, scary, and pulse-pounding every single second.
If they fought again today, it would be two old men circling each other, tentatively poking each other with their canes.
That's not a fight I want to see. And neither is Mirko Cro Cop vs. Minotauro Nogueira II.
Nostalgia can be a funny thing.