Remember being 16?
Not that great. And don’t sit there in your adulthood and pine for it or act like it was, either.
You probably couldn’t drive, or if you could, you would've needed to take your mom’s car and have had her permission to do it too.
Restricted movies were off-limits, no matter how swarthy a teen beard you could muster to impress the ticket-taker.
Booze? Forget booze. You were a ways off from legal age, even if you’re reading this from one of the more liberal countries in the world, and practically a lifetime away from sipping an ale if you’re reading in the U.S.
Yes, 16 was an awkward, clumsy time when you were growing into your mind and body and learning a thing or two about the world around you—and certainly far less than you’d ever admit at the time. An adolescent, stuck somewhere between a child and adult, as modern-day poet laureate Kid Rock once said.
The UFC was 16 in 2009, and it took to Las Vegas to celebrate its adolescent angst that year with UFC 100. The centennial event in a promotional history marred by controversy and cockfighting comparisons, it was a wonder they got there at all. This was hardly 16 candles on a birthday cake while The Crests played in the background, instead supported by Brock Lesnar, Georges St-Pierre and the roaring of a crowd looking to be satiated by carnage to the fullest extent possible.
Dan Henderson provided it that night, fighting on the undercard against Michael Bisping and starching the Brit with arguably the most memorable knockout in the history of the sport. It was a fitting analogy, as Bisping’s career was in something of its adolescent phase right alongside the very promotion that was paying him. The loss, his first by stoppage, dropped him to 17-2 and robbed him of any momentum he’d accrued in his previous eighteen bouts.
But as with any adolescent, both Bisping and the UFC grew in the time between that loss and today. The fighter became quite adept at rebounding from setbacks and minimizing damage to a career that blossomed into proper adulthood while the promotion exploded and found mainstream success within its grasp, moving from blood sport in its youth to spectacle in its adolescence to a $4 billion juggernaut in its own adulthood.
Interestingly, the narratives of Bisping as athlete and the UFC as promoter aligned perfectly, as the two matured together, culminating in Saturday’s booking of a Henderson rematch at UFC 204. Bisping stunned Luke Rockhold with his most mature in-cage performance to become middleweight champion at UFC 199. The UFC developed a penchant for fun fights that make more money than strict competition right around the same time.
UFC 204 is the cross-section of that.
Bisping, his career fully ripened and the results speaking for themselves, has been given a chance to rectify the nastiest loss he has on his record.
The UFC, finally mature enough to see and appreciate the money that can occasionally be made in a freak show, is going to benefit as well.
Henderson has no place within shouting distance of a world title fight, a 46-year-old who’s 3-6 in his last nine fights and who has openly stated he was planning to retire in June before this opportunity presented itself. But the money he’ll generate for himself, Bisping and the UFC is as green as that which would have been generated by anyone else, and there’ll be a good bit more of it generated this way.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition, this notion of a feud born of adolescence coming to its final resting place after its major players have matured so much. No one would have said we’d end up here, with the 37-year-old Bisping defending a middleweight title against Henderson when they were scraping The Count off the canvas on that hot July night so long ago.
That’s the beauty of this game, though. It’s as unpredictable as any you can find, and it provides these weird little narratives and weird little moments that tie them together.
Just another reminder that it’s a good thing we don’t all stay 16 forever.