MMA is full of fantastic moments, jaw-dropping action, intriguing background stories, and amazing highlights. But it is far from a sport without controversy, or the finished article. It is a relatively new sport, but one of the fastest growing. But it is not all peaches and cream. In fact, there are many more things that annoy me in MMA than just five, but here are my top 5 things that grind my gears about this crazy sport.
5. Appalling Commentary
Okay, first of all let me get this one out of the way, and I will go into it in more detail in a separate article, but MMA commentary is almost universally terrible. Joe Rogan, whom I am a fan of, is stepping back from doing as many shows as he has many other projects going on. However, even Joe Rogan has been susceptible to some awful commentary from time to time. He certainly has favorites and cannot control himself when his favorite fighter does something that many other fighters do. His over-the-top commentary of Ronda Rousey was almost shameful, especially the interview in the Octagon when she knocked out Bethe Correia.
That all said, he is the best. How he puts up with Mike Goldberg I do not understand. He is the worst commentator I have heard in anything, ever. Whether it is a “Leg Kick to the Mid Section,” which in fact was an arm punch to the face or his catchphrase of “It’s all over” when in fact it is not all over at all, his career is littered with mistakes, and it is time that he moved on because someone out there can do a better job. Believe me.
Jon Anik and Kenny Florian, who are both good commentators, have also fallen under the spell that people such as Brian Stann and analysts such as Jay Glazer and Daniel Cormier have all succumbed to. The spell is that every fighter who has ever stepped into the Octagon is potentially the World’s Best Fighter. Oh, and of course, every UFC fight card is the most amazing, most anticipated, and most exciting card ever so we must watch them all. They’d make a big stride by just treating the audiences like adults and being a bit more honest. Not every Irish fighter is Conor McGregor, not every Brazilian is going to be Anderson Silva.
As for the others, Bas Rutten commentates in a style of an excitable child, which is funny, but not relevant; Todd Harris gets his facts all wrong; Jimmy Smith and Sean Grande do an okay job in Bellator, but little more than that. How I long for the halcyon days of Jeff Blatnick. Someone genuine who cared about the sport and the fighters, who knew his stuff.
Judging in MMA uses a 10 Point Must System, where the winner of the round must be scored ten point and the loser of the round must be awarded nine points or fewer. In the rare event of an even round, that is meant to be scored 10-10. This almost never comes into play, though. To evaluate each round, judges take into account effective striking, effective grappling, control, and aggression.
That leaves everything open to interpretation. If, for example, Fighter A throws a spinning elbow in the first 30 seconds of a fight and it does not hurt the opponent but opens a cut over an eye due to scar tissue, then Fighter B takes his opponent down and controls him for four of the five minutes, who wins the round? If the cut is bleeding profusely, then the damage more often than not looks overwhelming, but Fighter B had been in control. It is far from a forgone conclusion that judges get it right. Over the course of UFC in particular, there have been some blatant and ridiculous decisions.
Here are just a few. Lyoto Machida losing against Phil Davis at UFC 163, Evan Dunham losing to Sean Sherk at UFC 119, Nam Pham losing to Leonard Garcia at “The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, and – the most extreme – Ross Pearson losing against Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 42, which was a new level of robbery. If you have not seen it, find it, watch it, and please tweet me if you think it is not the worst.
3. Bad cornering
As a fighter, your corner team is meant to consist of the people you can depend on. They have been there for you throughout the tough training camp, they have prepared a game plan for you, they are very likely your friends. If you are down a round or two, they are meant to give you technical advice so you can turn the fight around. They are also there to call the fight off for you if you are a danger to yourself, if you are being beaten soundly through every minute of the fight.
So when I hear a fighter, who has gone back to their corner – exhausted, battered – and you hear their corner team yelling phrases like “How much do you want this?” or “You have to finish him/her!” and my all-time most hated phrase “He/She is tired now, so now you can start!”
He or she is not tired, he or she has enjoyed punching you in the head for 10 minutes and will do it for another five minutes. Your corner has given you no strategy, they are not protecting you, and you are risking serious long-term health issues if you continue. B.J. Penn’s corner threw the towel in against George St Pierre, Nick Diaz threw the towel in when his brother was being blasted on the ground against Stephen Thompson, and Nate Marquardt’s corner decided to stop the fight against Kelvin Gatelum.
There is no shame in this. Your fighter can learn, live to fight another day, hell, he will live! I understand a fighter having too much pride, but if a corner team is sending a fighter back out when they know deep down their fighter is done, then they should be publicly shamed if not banned.
2. Fighters who don’t know how to promote themselves
Being a professional fighter is tough. You are a product, and you have a limited window in which to sell yourself. You are one advert in an omnibus of adverts. So if you do not promote yourself properly, you will not get the recognition you will deserve for all the hard work and effort you put in.
If you are not the main event or co-main event, chances are that in a pre- and post-fight press conference you will be asked one question only. Make it count. You may have had Joe Rogan or Jon Anik come in and ask you who you want to fight next. If you say things like “I will let Joe Silva or Sean Selby decide,” what do you think will happen?
If you spend your two minutes with the cameras pointed at you, with reporters poised to write what you say, and all you can say is “Thanks to God” and “I just want to thank my team, family, friends and everyone,” what do you think will happen?
Nothing will happen. You will get a similar ranked opponent, you will stay in a holding pattern of mediocrity, and nobody will remember you, especially if you won via decision. You have wasted a golden opportunity.
So please, to all fighters, have someone in mind to call out, create a rivalry, choose someone who is higher in the rankings but not so high they are obviously out of reach. Look at what McGregor has done. His mic skills are the same as his fighting skills and that is the reason he is the biggest star in the sport today.
1. Bad Pay
If you are a middle to low tier fighter in the UFC, then you better have another job. On average, fighters actually fight three times a year. During their camp, they have to pay gym fees, class tuition, pay household bills, and give up a vast amount of time to train. Fighters do not get paid to train, they get paid to fight, and above all they get paid to win.
At UFC 201, of the four prelim fighters, Michael Graves was paid $12K, Bojan Velickovic $14K, Cesar Arzamendia $10K, and Damien Brown $10K plus another $10k in a win bonus. This is all before they pay taxes. A pretty poor payout for a PPV in the biggest MMA corporation in the world. Their pay is worse if their fight is not a PPV and for a smaller company like WSOF, BAMMA, etc.
Fighter pay has long been a source of ire for fighters and fans alike. The UFC was just sold for $4 BILLION. It is time to start giving a minimum appearance fee of $25K just to show for the biggest MMA company in the world, and that is not even being generous.
(Chris Hunt of Arundel, England is a new MMATorch contributor. He got hooked on MMA after watching UFC 114 featuring “Rampage” Jackson vs. Rashad Evans and from there, he says, “I spent a ridiculous amount of money and time watching every event from UFC 1 up to the present so I could understand the history of the sport, the fighters, the weight divisions and everything else in between. It was the style of fighting that drew me in, in order to see what martial art was the most effective, and from there, the fighters themselves, their story, their training and the sacrifices that they go through.” Follow him on Twitter – @ChristofKing)