We’re only hours removed from what many are calling a disastrous co-main event at UFC on FOX 8. Rory MacDonald, the Canadian phenomenon with a ‘Dexter’ personality, took on Jake Ellenberger, the self-admitted welterweight version of Chael P. Sonnen.
It’s the fight people are talking about, but for all the wrong reasons.
With Ellenberger’s new found confidence on the microphone, the bout quickly became the most anticipated on the card. The two were expected to put on a violent and physical display of mixed martial arts between two of the top young fighters in the welterweight division.
Instead, we saw a tactical, slow-paced battle. The fans aren’t happy, and UFC president Dana White took little time to let people know he was not fond of the bout either.
It was not the worst fight the company has ever put on. Was it slow-paced? Absolutely, but things were happening. One fighter was landing strikes, using footwork to keep his usually aggressive opponent at bay, and in a sense being the dominant athlete. MacDonald took little to no damage and was the master puppeteer, making Ellenberger do what he wanted for nearly the entire 15 minutes.
This often happens at the highest level, but the blood-thirsty and fickle fans cannot accept this.
Two combatants put their health, livelihood and pride on the line and are not only expected to win, but do so in a fashion that appeals to the paying audience.
A win is not good enough, as we’ve seen so many times. And I get it. I’m not oblivious to the fact that this is a business as much as it is a sport, if not more.
It’s what makes combat sports so incredibly difficult and complex.
There are few sports where the object is to do more than win. If the Pittsburgh Steelers go out and win every game next season by a margin of 3-0 and every game is dreadfully boring, they will still be allowed to play in the Super Bowl.
There are countless examples of fighters being held back because there style, no matter how dominant, does not appeal to the Tapout wearing, beer drinking fan in row 319.
Jon Fitch is the most popular example in mixed martial arts. Multiple times throughout his UFC run he seemed to be the obvious choice to be next in line for a title shot, but his rematch against Georges St. Pierre never came.
Even performances from Anderson Silva, the consensus greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all time, have been scrutinized. His bouts against Thales Leites and Damian Maia were admittedly dreadful to watch, but Silva was in complete control. For Dana White to threaten the top athlete in the sport with his job if he does not put on a more exciting performance only further excels this behaviour of expecting great performances each time out.
Boxing is no different. Guillermo Rigondeaux recently dominated knockout artist Nonito Donaire, winning nearly every minute of their 12-round affair with his crisp striking, masterful head-movement, and ring generalship, only to have HBO say they’re no longer interested in showing his bouts on their station. The man is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, only 12 fights into his pro career, and likely a top five pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but he isn’t good enough for pay-per-view.
The world of combat sports is fickle, corrupt, violent, and beautiful all at the same time. It’s a business unlike any other, where anything other than absolute greatness in its purest form is unacceptable. We have expectations which never can be attained and short memories so only your last fight matters.
MacDonald put on a great performance at UFC on FOX 8, even with no knockout or submission. He controlled where the fight took place and virtually handcuffed Ellenberger throughout the bout. We, as fans and media, need to broaden our horizons for what an acceptable fight is and come to the realization that they can’t all be great fights.
MacDonald is a great fighter, and tonight was part of the maturation process.