The Inexcusable “E” Word

“Mendes fought Conor on two weeks notice.  He went for the ill-timed submission because his gas tank was empty so in his mind the risk/reward ratio called for such action.”

“Weidman’s foot was fractured in two places, therefore he couldn’t build his cardio up which affected his gameplan and confidence.”

Two high profile examples of real circumstances a champion and a contender were dealing with.  Mendes taking the fight on short notice vs McGregor is undeniable.   By taking the fight he saved the main event and due to his ranking gave the contest enough credibility to declare the winner an interim champion.

The foot injury former champion Chris Weidman fought with at UFC 194 wasn’t disclosed until his coach Ray Longo spilled the beans recently.  Something seemed to be off with the champion.  He didn’t seem to possess the ‘eye of the tiger’ or the pace that he always carried with him into the cage.  Despite this physical obstacle the champ chose to put it all on the line and defend his title against an extremely dangerous challenger, and current champion Luke Rockhold.

These are two high profile examples of fight outcomes which were potentially affected by combatants trying to power through less than ideal conditions.  Part of being a fan of free-form fighting is discussing the matches with other fans and sharing your observations and opinions.

One of the more frustrating aspects of these dialogues is mentioning a factor which gets labeled and summarily dismissed as an ‘excuse’.

The main resistance to mentioning a non-martial art’s related factor is most likely that fans of the winning fighter don’t want to have their fighter’s win discredited in any way.  Many fans prefer to embrace  the delusion of their fighter’s infallibility.  The Mendes/MacGregor case is a prime example.  Fighters put themselves through hell for 6 to 12 weeks typically in a fight camp designed to hone their skills, strategy, body and mind into a razor’s edge of destruction, to mold themselves into a human Hattori Honzo sword.  A little over two weeks before headlining the most promoted event in UFC history Chad Mendes was on a fishing boat enjoying his off time.   The short prep time allowed for him to develope a fraction of the cardio and body hardening he’d normally achieve.  This would obviously affect most fighter’s confidence also.

Try bringing any of this up in a conversation about that bout and you’ll receive major blowback.  You’ll hear about what Conor had to deal with, how it was a late replacement fighter etc.

That’s all well and good, but there are degrees of obstacles.  At least Conor was preparing to fight on that day in July for 25 minutes.  

The point isn’t who’s road was the hardest to hoe, but that it’s not even open to debate in many fan’s eyes.  Mention a fighter had a late notice or was dealing with an injury or illness in camp and you’ll be hammered with the scarlet letter ‘E’, labeled an excuse maker, the fight-forum equivalent to ‘conspiracy theorist’.  A term to categorize you and your point as dismissable, likely because you’re bringing up a truth fans of the winning fighter don’t want to speak to.

This seems to be a phenomena unique to MMA.  Football player’s injuries are monitored and updated throughout the week and fans often know when players are taking the field at less than 100%, which is often.  If a cornerback who’s been dealing with a sore hamstring guts it out and plays on Sunday, resulting in the opposing team’s receiver having a big statistical day,  no one argues that the receiver saw the corner’s peak game.  It’s recognized that a guy did what he could under the circumstances and things played out accordingly.  In fact, the guy playing through the injury is usually painted as a bit of a hero for playing through adversity regardless of the outcome.

Conversely fighters are cut no slack by the masses, and are expected to perform regardless of the realities of their current physical shortcomings.

Every professional opponent is dangerous.  A fighter gets in the cage only a handful of times each year, and no matter the opponent’s condition each win should be celebrated and admired (Unless you eye-poked your way to a TKO maybe…).   The losers should be valued as well, and dismissing the hardships some overcome to make the walk is borderline disrespectful and intellectually lazy.


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Tim Meehan on EmailTim Meehan on Twitter
Tim Meehan
A fight fan who's very appreciative to be alive in the era of MMA's mainstream genesis. We live in the Youtube era where all fight styles and techniques are available for fighters and trainers to study and digest, creating an unprecedented rate of martial art's evolution, thus creating the baddest unarmed combatants our world has ever known. How fkn cool is that? Hit me up for any fight related chat or insights @shodo_khan or Respect

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