Ok, I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for nostalgia. It doesn't matter which sport you name, my favorite athletes are all too old to be taken seriously. Brett Favre, Shaquille O'Neal, Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva...the list goes on and on. Today's athletes are far superior to those of days past. Nine times out of 10, the younger dog kills the older dog in a battle to the death, but that doesn't keep me from hoping and praying that the old dog still has what it takes to win one more round.
Unfortunately, in most sports, the veteran doesn't stand a chance. Brett Favre, the former iron man of the NFL, played one season too many in 2010 and was brutalized into riding the bench for the first time in two decades. Shaquille O'Neal, an unstoppable force in the NBA, sat out the majority of his final season in the league.
I could name names all day, and there's always a time when the aging superstar takes one step too many onto the playing field. It's sad, especially for someone like me, who can't let go of the past, but it's a fact of life. If you stick around too long, you're eventually going to find out the hard way that it's a young man's world out there.
There's not much to be done about this in traditional sports. Football, basketball, soccer, hockey and baseball all involve too much of a numbers game for the average old man to stick around well past his prime. There are a few exceptions, but they are certainly not the rule.
Combat sports, however, is a different story. MMA features strictly one on one competition. Sure, as last night's fight between Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz pointed out, the young man is still going to win 99 percent of the time. However, there is still a place for the aging veterans of the sport, even if it's just as a divisional gatekeeper. Who really wants to see them stick around and be continually beaten up by these young bucks, though? Not this guy.
Which brings me to the question I posed in the article's headline. Should we have a "legends" division in MMA? Surely I'm not the only one who still wants to see guys like Tito, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and yes, even Ken Shamrock continue to compete.
Obviously, they're not going to be winning any standard titles against the young lions of today, but if they still have the will to compete, and they can still bring in the money, then why not let them do so?
I'm not saying they should headline, or even compete in every show, but they could certainly draw a penny or two if given the opportunity. Once they reach a certain point in their career, veterans are simply not going to be a significant threat to any legit title in mixed martial arts. They aren't a total lost cause, though.
I know I would pay $50 to see a card of divisional contenders mixing it up, plus one special attraction legends fight. That way, no one will have to see Couture getting his teeth kicked out by Lyoto Machida. No chest crushing knee from Rashad to Tito. Let the young guys fight the young guys, and the old guys fight the old guys. No fuss, no muss. Everyone goes home happy.
The complicated thing would be setting a criteria for who fights these strictly special attraction legends fights, and who stays put in a standard division. You can't really put an age limit on it. "The Natural" won the heavyweight championship well past his 40-year mark. Again, he's the exception, not the rule.
Still, how would one go about even forming a legends division? It's something I would love to see, but even I am not sure exactly how it would work. One thing is certain: there are definitely enough veterans with the desire to compete, the will to win, and the gas (compared to their peers, at least) to get there. The question is how will it be done, and are there enough nostalgia junkies like myself out there to make the payout worth it in the end?
What do you think, readers?