It’s that “should have turned right instead of left;” “if only there were a few more seconds;” “just another few inches that way;” “wrong place wrong time” moments we have all experienced. Sometimes it is a mere afterthought, in other cases it can affect, if not change, the course of a life. From oops to dramatic is how these times can annoy or haunt us.
For the professional athlete the shelf life is limited from the start. No matter how talented, strong, or young it is inevitable that it will end. A missed opportunity can change everything in a career. Worse is when it is beyond the control of the athlete. Nothing they did wrong just the hand of fate smacking them down and that usually comes with the largest on the scale of “what if” moment–INJURIES.
Health issues have played huge roles with four fighters, all of who have worn UFC belts, in the news recently: Andrei Arlovski, Frank Mir, Robbie Lawler, and Carlos Condit.
This weekend at least (and at last) Mir and Arlovski are fighting and both appear rejuvenated to the point that they are both legitimate contenders for a heavyweight title shot once more. The former champions have waited since 2005 for this matchup to happen, they are forever linked by fate. When the motorcycle heavyweight champ Mir was riding was hit by a car he suffered multiple breaks of the femur and torn knee ligaments that sidelined him long enough for the UFC to put up an interim belt that Arlovski won and later had the interim title removed when Mir was still unable to compete because of the injuries.
It is no wonder each man speaks in respectful terms of the other for the up-and-down runs they both have experienced over the past decade. Arlovski has one of the UFC’s best comeback stories after returning to the organization and fighting back into the top 10 rankings. As with everyone who has felt the stinging hand of fate, Mir who holds the heavyweight division record with 13 finishes could probably wonder what might have been even more without that huge injury. But what endears Mir to fans is he doesn’t dwell on the “what might’ve beens”, same with Arlovski.
Their fight is Saturday, but more appropriate would be in this age of “throwbacks” to have it Thursday. These are two men who helped shape the UFC to where it is today with their toughness and style and an overall class in the way they approach fights. That they have more than endured, they have rejuvenated their careers riding winning streaks and are smack in the middle of closing in on another title try, is the best revenge on previously dealt hands of fate.
Last Friday former UFC interim welterweight champ Condit learned he would have to wait again on a title shot when champion Robbie Lawler announced he had injured his thumb training for the showdown. Déjà’ vu of the hardest kind for Condit. His title chance against Georges St. Pierre in 2011 was put on hold when the champ injured his knee. It lead to a soap opera of almost fights and fighters for almost a year before Condit finally took on GSP at UFC 154 and lost, though he was praised by the champ. In 2013 Condit was supposed to have a rematch with Rory MacDonald, whom he had beaten earlier, but MacDonald’s training injury pitted him against Johny Hendricks in an elimination bout which he lost.
Of course for Lawler too, a brief setback after an incredible roll since his UFC return, right there or better than Arlovski’s comeback among fighters with significant time between UFC bouts.
Not that time is crucial at this stage for Condit, himself off for over a year with a torn ACL before returning with a win this spring, but he knows, as do all fighters and athletes, the window starts closing as time passes not discriminate of injuries, no regard for bad breaks. As he told us on Inside MMA just over an hour after learning of being put on hold once more, “I’ll keep training and wait and see what happens.”
It’s all any fighter can do. Sometimes it eventually pays off even with a decade in between as with the much awaited match of Mir versus Arlovski.
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