Two issues recently have arisen concerning the MMA world. Both interesting but neither realistic. Both having good intentions, but both more driven by heart, mind, and necessity rather than actual or practical.
These things pop up in sports when no one knows exactly what to do. Oklahoma State’s All American Marcus Smart is sitting out three games for going into the stands at Texas Tech and shoving a fan. A fan, he claims, had crossed the accepted lines of heckling that comes from the intimate settings of a basketball arena. As of yet, it is a “he-said-and-he-said,” but it has raised the question of how much can and should be tolerated at a sports event? It takes something like this to fuel conversations, even though it seems impossible to correct. It just happens sometimes, and sometimes it is uglier than usual.
Something that has lingered as long as there have been combative sports has drawn national attention, if for no other reason, it might be the one thing that Senators John McCain and Harry Reid can agree on. Even MMA and boxing have found common ground. The UFC, Glory, Bellator, Golden Boy, and Top Rank all had reps there along with the politicos to announce $600,000 was going to the Cleveland Clinic Professional Fighters Brain Health study. The study is in its third year chronicling some 400 current fighters’ brains through regular MRIs and check ups. The purpose, and a magnificent one it is, is to see the cause and effect of today’s fighter as it could pertain to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases later in life.
There is no argument whatsoever that this is a just and welcomed study, especially with the Defense Department’s shared interest into a correlation of what might be similar trauma injuries in returning service men and women. If a few fighters can be convinced they have had enough, that the next blow to the head might be the one doing irreparable damage, this program will be a success.
However watching all the posturing with powerful men in government and the fight game, there was one question that was unanswered and probably will remain that way, he human nature aspect. How and who can control it? Will any fight promoter be willing to tell the fighter he’s in danger? That it’s over and he can’t fight for them any longer? The big money can scramble the brains of many even without taking a punch. Can a doctor really convince the inherent tough attitude required of a fighter to change because the MRI is showing a rapid decline in the brain function?
If it happens with the elite few who have already become financially comfortable, perhaps they would walk away without even a glance backward. But for every one of them there are a dozen who have little or no recourse than to keep taking the risk to provide for themselves and their family. Will the government give them aid? Will a fight promoter guarantee retirement benefits?
There are some jobs that are simply dangerous. Coal miners, factory workers, policemen, firemen all know the hazards of the occupation. No amount of government regulations can drastically change that, though there have been degrees of safety improvements, none has eliminated the risk factor. Football players in the overly Politically Correct world are going through this now with studies and hints of political intervention.
Players are bigger and faster than ever. Basic physics says they will hit harder than ever and concussions are more likely than ever. Again who can tell a player to stop; the Family, the friends, the player? Maybe some combination, but like fighters there is that button in their head different from the rest of us that has compelled them over the years to face adversity literally head on.
Fighters always take a huge chance entering the ring or cage. It isn’t always as much their decision, as it is their need, and no amount of good intentions can change the dynamic of the sport.
The heart played out much more than deeper thought as the discussion of a “Super Fight” again surfaced. UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo, coming off a sixth straight successful title defense, said he wanted a showdown with the relatively newly crowned UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Pettis told us on “Inside MMA” he’s for it, and why wouldn’t he, or any other top fighter say something like that? It’s the nature of the top-shelf guys to want to take on any challenge.
But is this a challenge needed, or more a glaring reminder there are only so many stars even in the UFC’s vast universe of talent? Aldo has dominated his division in the fashion reminiscent of another Brazil great ,Anderson Silva. Who is really left to challenge him is the biggest question? Enter Pettis though, himself a major talent, but because of injury hasn’t even been able to defend the belt of his own yet. This redefines the “super” proceeding fight. It was once held in esteem that a “super fight” was for two well-proven champions who had nothing left to do but take on each other. Georges St. Pierre versus Silva never materialized, but that would’ve been indeed “super.”
Aldo versus Pettis is more a cry about “the lack of anyone else to deal with,” than “they’ve done so much, what’s left?” Both are still far too young in their careers to take an unnecessary blemish on their record, be it at catchweight or whatever they could agree on. Pettis has to get healthy first, and then maybe a couple of defenses before it would serve him to keep entertaining talk.
They are super talents still building a career and that doesn’t mean a rush to settle anything. Emotions need to step aside for probing thought because as of now, it appears to be a case of necessity more than a larger view of all the options.
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