Last Saturday, Georges St-Pierre returned from an eighteen month hiatus to show Carlos Condit and the rest of the world that he hadn't lost a step and to put to rest any notions we might have that he wasn't the best fighter at 170 pounds. Seeing him back to old form, even with a brief moment where it looked like Condit might have landed a fight-ending head kick, gave me a feeling of contentment and familiarity that I hadn't felt in quite some time. With all the chaos that we've endured the last six to eight months, with all the fight and card cancellations, finally, we had something reliable: the greatness of Georges St-Pierre.
Then talk turned to speculation over his next opponent. Would it be a title defense against Johny Hendricks, who earlier that evening had scored yet another impressive knockout win, or would we finally see that long anticipated dream match of GSP against Anderson Silva at a catchweight?
Then I thought "what does it matter? The fight probably won't happen anyway."
That sort of negative thinking gets me into trouble. Really, it isn't healthy. But with the injury trend (why it's not an 'epidemic') cancelling one main event after another, I don't feel comfortable working up anything resembling anticipation for a fight.
It's a real bummer. For this article, and given the upcoming holiday, I sincerely wanted to write a list of things we should be thankful for as MMA fans. Yet even saying something as passive as "well, there's more fights than ever before" rings hollow and insincere given that it's part of the problem. It creates problems for the fighters, who overtrain and injure themselves and continue the cycle of card shuffling and fight postponements. But even as fans, we're exhausted. We're given cards almost every week or so from the biggest promotion in the world, but little reason to care. This isn't like football where we can just follow one team. And for all the NFL's faults, they don't ask us to drop sixty dollars a week on a game.
So what are we thankful for? More mainstream acceptance? I live in New York, where the stuff still isn't legal, although the State's Attorney General was forced to acknowledge that a loophole in Athletic Commission by-laws did allow for it on the amateur level. We still have legislators who think that three or four people at a time get in a cage and fight like that scene in "Virtuosity."
Yes, I just made a reference to "Virtuosity." That's how maddening the situation has become.
On the other hand, that loophole does allow me to go to the amateur fights held on a semi-monthly basis in Albany. I attended one a few weeks ago that had me itching to get back into shape and giving it one more go (I previously fought in a modified kickboxing bout where I failed miserably).
The night was full of good fights – not just exciting but technically sound, good fights – and competitors who had legitimate passion for what they did. The evening ended on a strange and disappointing note with a DQ finish, but then the victor earnestly tried to give his title belt away, feeling that he hadn't done enough in the fight to deserve a win.
That's the sort of thing I go for in this sport. If you're a fighter, you don't get into MMA to make money or for the accolades (with a some minor exceptions). There isn't much money to be made unless you're in the upper echelon of the sport, which most won't attain and even with the amount of work that goes into it still involves no small measure of luck and circumstance. It requires people to sacrifice everything for a small chance of a shot at the big time. They put their bodies and potentially their minds through the wringer.
Seeing that on display among a couple hundred other fans in the Armory in Albany, courtesy of the Cage Wars promotion reminded me why I love - and what I love about – Mixed Martial Arts.
So, what are we thankful for?
This damn sport, warts and all.
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