By Rich Plunkett 10/07/2018
Many of the question marks surrounding International Fight Week in the UFC over the weekend were answered in emphatic fashion. Young guns Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa showed us why they have been touted as future title contenders in the middleweight division, Gokhan Saki may have left his run at the UFC too late in his career, Francis Ngannou is not MMA’s answer to Mike Tyson and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier surprised many when he starched heavyweight king Stipe Miocic in the first round on the way to becoming a two division champ. One question which had been asked countless times over the course of the week, and quite frequently over the past year or so, still remains – who has earned the title as the greatest of all time?
For me, “the GOAT” is quickly becoming the most irritating expression of recent memory. It’s totes up there with “YOLO” and “amazeballs”, just saying. Not only does it sound silly, but the concept is flawed on so many levels that it just cannot possibly be taken seriously. I know it has been used in the context of basketball and other sports, but let’s look at it from an MMA perspective, purely.
How can a man, at 265 pounds, who knocks out men of the same size for a living, be compared to a guy that fights at half that weight and submits every fighter who enters the cage with him? How can you compare a UFC Hall of Famer with a guy that has only fought professionally for the last half a dozen years, and would possibly have never fought at all if that said Hall of Famer hadn’t paved the way for him in the first place? How can you compare a fighter from one organisation to another when they fought with completely different rules? With women’s MMA now on the rise, how do the females stack up against the males?
Remember when people were saying that Ronda Rousey could beat up Floyd Mayweather, and some of the guys on the UFC roster? Sounds silly doesn’t it? But had she retired before her fight against Holly Holm, who knows how she would have been remembered.
Leading up to the fight between Miocic and Cormier, the two of them both said the same thing, at the same time – win on Saturday night and become the self proclaimed GOAT. To me, that’s a little cringey. First of all, anybody can call themselves the greatest, it’s when your fellow fighters and the fans give you this accolade that it holds any substance. Secondly, how can an honour which covers the beginning of time up until the present moment be judged in one split second? The UFC alone has been running for 25 years and the greatest of all time is going to be decided by one fight? And after all this time there are only two candidates to choose from?
Cormier won. He flat-lined the most successful heavyweight, on paper, the UFC has ever seen. He became a two division champ. But let’s not beat around the bush. He has refused to fight Cain Velasquez, who many believe to be the best heavyweight of the modern era. How can you call yourself the greatest of all time when you won’t even fight the greatest of your era? He has also lost twice to the same man. Jon Jones outwrestled him at his own game in their first encounter and nearly kicked his head out of the arena in the rematch. Jones is no saint, and the jury is still out on whether he should be considered one of the greats, or one of the greatest frauds in MMA. But without Jones’ out of competition misdemeanors, in particular the hit-and-run incident, Cormier would never have been granted the title shot(s) that he received from Jones’ inactivity.
My favourite fighter of all time is Anderson Silva. The way that guy moved and the ease in which he put his opponents away was on a level that was both bewildering and beautiful to watch. Had he retired when he broke his leg or just before that fight, he would have been remembered as Brazil’s answer to Bruce Lee. Unfortunately, upon returning, he never looked the same and after being banished on multiple accounts for his involvement with PEDs, his legacy has been sadly tarnished. Was he cheating the whole time or only on the road to recovery from that horrific injury?
A fight between Silva and George St-Pierre would’ve potentially dispatched any argument of who was the better fighter between the two of them. Silva has fought at light heavyweight though and St-Pierre has spoken of moving down to lightweight. Again, how do you compare a guy that fights the way Silva does at 205 pounds, to St-Pierre at 175? There are no excuses for Demetrious Johnson though. He has been dominating the weakest division in the UFC for several years and doing it in style, but when he was given a legitimate contender, in TJ Dillashaw, to add to his legacy, he turned down the matchup and chose to fight someone he’d already beaten once before.
Don’t even get me started on Conor McGregor. His fighting aspirations seem to revolve around money and not legacy. Although he did absolutely destroy the UFC’s greatest featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, in just 13 seconds. Even a 14 year old virgin matched up with Jennifer Lawrence would last longer than that.
When I first started watching the UFC, Tito Ortiz was smashing everyone put in front of him. He was an entertainer. He had the look, he was super confident in his abilities and he had the game to back it up. I thought he was unbreakable. Little did I know that Tito was actually avoiding a fight with his “friend” Chuck Liddell the whole time and when the two finally met, Liddell made Tito look like a guy who couldn’t win a game of Uno, let alone a UFC fight. He didn’t just embarrass him once but he did it twice. Tito was never the same after the second loss. Unfortunately Chuck’s own career was tarnished in the end, as he refused to retire with his record in tact and suffered several brutal losses before closing out his UFC contract.
Comparing fighters is like comparing apples and oranges. Apples are a great snack on the go and oranges have many health benefits. Both are delicious and readily available. Whichever one you think is better is based purely on what you prefer. The same goes with the argument surrounding the greatest of all time. It is an argument that holds no right or wrong answer and no structural integrity. It is a matter of opinion and not a state of universal unmistakeable certainty. Personally, I think Artem Lobov is the GOAT.