Ken Griffey, Jr. was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week by a landslide, garnering all but 3 possible votes. It was deserving. In the era of steroids of which the game’s brass was as guilty as the players accused by turning a blind eye to the obvious, there was the sparkling clean Griffey just playing as well as anybody and better than most everyone. He carried himself with dignity and class not given to boastful nonsense or finger pointing, he was a superb player and that was it, and that was enough. It obviously resonated with the voters as it had with the fans. An appreciation for a special athlete, judge that only.
The appeal for many of us during an introduction to MMA in the past decade, was that the fighters focused on what had to be done. There was respect for the sport, themselves and their opponent. Of course there were exceptions, trash talking wasn’t invented by mixed martial artists, but by and large champions like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre set a tone of sportsmanship true to the spirit of MMA.
Two men stepped into the octagon last weekend that embody the essence of what it once was and through them continues. UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler defended his crown with a split decision victory over Carlos Condit. It was a remarkable display of guts and heart and skill played out over 25 excruciatingly, thrilling and mesmerizing minutes. An ebb and flow that flooded the emotions of all who watched culminated by the fifth and final round, one of the greatest in history. The fight of the Night also setting the bar for Fight of the Year candidates the rest of the season.
That they battled so hard for so long was not surprising. They have never left anything outside the cage, it’s in their DNA, both with a history for outstanding performances regardless the competition. Lawler’s power as good as any and Condit’s tactical approach with few peers, matching and countering in an instant classic.
Leading up to it there were no threatening tweets, calloused remarks, inane babbling or edgy inferences. They had respect for each other, knowing not only the talent but the dedication required to gain this level of attention. Afterwards there was no taunting or degradation of the man or his family. Even with what could be considered a controversial decision with the third round the biggest question mark, there wasn’t whining from Condit, there wasn’t bragging from Lawler.
The respect they brought to the stage, remained. That too, not surpassing for two men who are a throwback in the best possible way. While some of the hype from others can be entertaining it can also walk to the rim of the good taste canyon and leap. Frankly it can all run together to the point of boredom. Oh yeah they said that; Oh wow can you believe they did that?; Oh who cares?
No, Lawler and Condit don’t need a PR person. They don’t need an image, they have one, the only one that matters. Just as Griffey simply and wonderfully accomplished his statement on the field, Lawler and Condit do the same in the octagon. It’s basic to the point of brilliance–incredible fighters who respect themselves and each other. So old that it’s new to a generation inundated by screaming and posturing. It is what MMA should be about.
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