There is an elevation that has taken place across the sport of mixed martial arts. That elevation has come with the understanding of what it not only once took to attain the highest peaks—not simply what it now takes to aspire to such heights—but also what it will take tomorrow to hold one's ground once the pinnacle is reached.
The sexy names include unrivaled champions like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. They exemplify the type of greatness that has now and forever will raise the bar for expectations when it comes to chasing the glory of domination in this sport.
What is overlooked when we bask in the light of their greatness is what it took to push them to the heights they roam. Being the king places one in the unenviable position of carrying that backpack with the large red target at all times. Everyone wants what they have, few will ever get the chance and fewer still may ever take what they wish for from these pound-for-pound kings.
When a Jon Jones dominates in such decisive fashion, it is easy to credit he and he alone with that greatness. But more so than his own actions, it is the light heavyweight division and how competitive it actually is that makes Jon Jones so great.
When names like Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson echo across Jones's resume, that is what truly defines his greatness. It is not just because he is a natural phenom. It is not just because he is a Greg Jackson prospect. It is not just because he wins them all with ridiculous ease.
It is the fact that when the bar was raised by Chuck Liddell, then Rampage, then Suga, then The Dragon, Jones somehow found a way to raise it even higher.
If these challenges had not been met and exceeded before he arrived, the entire division would still be at the mercy of one of the most devastating strikers the sport has ever seen and Chuck Liddell would still be cracking skulls once every three months.
The evolution of the sport has demanded that these athletes rise to the occasion—and they are rising at an alarming pace.
Before we know it, Rory MacDonald will be breathing down the neck of Georges St-Pierre and we will be watching another glaring example of what exactly greatness is or what it can become.
Either GSP will stand his ground and educate a young, rising star and maintain his dominance, or a torch will be passed (such as it was when Rua lost his momentum to that of Jones). Who in their right mind would have picked Frankie Edgar over the greatest lightweight in the history of the sport, The Prodigy B.J. Penn?
Hindsight is indeed 20/20.
That hindsight gives us the foresight to look forward with great anticipation to where this thing is headed. Where it is headed is an indescribable greatness that none of us can honestly fathom. As the UFC leads the charge into uncharted waters—with deals on FOX, with the deepest stable in the sport—it will become the platform for the true stars, the athletes, to steal the show.
There was a time when the heavyweight championship of the sweet science would shut the world down. When Ali or Tyson fought, the sidewalks were rolled up and everyone lost their mind for one night as they tuned in to see their champions do the work.
In November, the UFC heavyweight division will see the most competitive fight in the history of the division take place live on FOX—free for anyone willing to take a look.
That is unheard of in MMA.
It could very well signify the start of a new era in this sport. When the world gets a good look at Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos and the war they carry into the Octagon with them, they may not be able to look away again.
MMA is on a roll and shows zero signs of slowing down. In a time where the two greatest boxers on the planet can't seem to find a way into the ring with one another, it would seem MMA can't miss.
The sport may not be batting 1,000, but it damn sure is in the MVP hunt and the sky truly is the limit.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.