Friday, January 15, 2010

Sportsmanship in MMA

Sportsmanship can be one of the most important facets of an athlete’s image; it can help gain and lose fans in one instant. Recently there have been a slew of fighters that have been less than sportsmanly after their fights. Everyone recalls Brock Lesnar after his UFC 100 fight with Frank Mir setting of a string of controversy with his post-fight antics. DREAM’s New Year’s Eve event, DYNAMITE 2009!!, saw Shinya Aoki break opponent Mizuto Hirota’s arm and then proceeded to flip not only Hirota but also the crowd off in Japan. The hammerlock that broke Hirota’s arm was in so tightly that when the two fighters rolled, before Hirota could tap, his arm snapped; the referee quickly jumped in to stop the fight. Aoki’s performance shocked many observers and turned the stomachs of even the most seasoned veterans.

At Sunday’s WEC show in Sacramento, CA Jamie Varner fought Ben Henderson for the light weight title unification. After being out of the cage for a year due to a broken hand, Varner entered the event with little visible ring rust. The two men battled back and forth for the majority of three rounds until Henderson sunk in a deep standing guillotine that forced Varner to tap. While Henderson gave Varner his dues and complimented on what a great opponent and athlete he was, Varner took his post-fight interview opportunity to make excuses and try and defend why, though he tapped, he still should have won.

“I was winning that fight,” said Varner. “All he was doing was throwing body kicks. I got the takedowns, had the control. He didn’t want to box – go ahead, boo- but I came to fight, Ben came to grapple; two different things.”

Many argue that these testosterone driven outbursts are all from the adrenaline one faces from a hard fought fight. However, there are a number of hard, fight-of-the-year-candidate fights that take place all the time when the victor (or loser) restrains themselves and graciously leaves the cage without incident. To stoop to a level where you are blatantly disrespecting your opponent and/or the crowd is something every athlete should strive to avoid. When all the excuses are over, there is no reason for one to flip off an opponent, disrespect a sponsor, or any other antic that we have witnessed.

Brock Lesnar’s UFC 100 performance sent the forums and chat rooms a flurry with the “is he good or bad for MMA” topic. Aoki and Varner’s performances have been less publicized; though have still earned some recognition. Any time an athlete is disgracing the sport, an opponent, a patron or any other member of MMA it’s out right bad for the sport. With MMA still being an underground sport that is not completely understood by the general public there is no room for error; in these cases, the error being the classless behavior that, unfortunately, gave reason to write this article.

MMA is still illegal in some states, not everywhere recognizes it as a legitimate sport and not everywhere has sanctioning. No athlete has the right to jeopardize the chance of gaining legalization by childish antics and adrenaline driven speeches. Some argue that “any press is bad press” however, when MMA is still less than a decade removed of being called “human cockfighting” any bad press can simply fuel the oppositions’ fire.

It might be such a simple fix as each athlete counting to three before speaking, but I hope, for the sake of the future of our sport, our athletes are above that and can learn to restrain themselves without instilling a tactic used for kindergartners.


  1. i think the 99% of fighter that show great sportsmanship discredit this article. stop being a dick sxjohnson

  2. Yes most fighters have class and are good sportsman but all it takes is one that us bad to tarnish an sport that those who do not understand it thinks should be gone. The point of this article was to point that out - should everyone pretend the problems don't exist because it is not the majority?

  3. There is a back story to the Aoki-Hirota fight - apparently Hirota had been talking a lot of shit about Aoki, saying something to the effect of 'I will never tap out to a crybaby!' in reference to his post fight antics - and that his grappling style was like his pants; homosexual.