Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 336 of 365: The End of Legends

(Warning: this is an MMA post.)

Last night capped off Fight Week for the UFC. BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar fought for the third time after coaching "The Ultimate Fighter". BJ Penn, for those playing the home game, is a legend in the sport. He's fought in five weight classes, won belts in two, and built the sport when it was still this misunderstood fighting thing. But, in this fight, BJ Penn got knocked around for three rounds before getting a TKO (the first in his career).

About a month ago, Renan Barao -- who should be a legend, given that he was undefeated in 30 fights/10 years -- lost his belt to a relative rookie. And lost it without any doubt in anyone's mind.

Last year, Anderson Silva (and if I feel like explaining Silva to the internet is like explaining Oscar de la Hoya or Floyd Mayweather) lost twice to Chris Weidman -- and the second fight ended when Silva shattered his shin against Weidman's knee. George St. Pierre (who was "that French villain" in Captain America: The Winter Soldier but, more importantly, the embodiment of technical perfection) stepped down from his title after getting whooped (but was able to score enough points to win the match). And then there's Dan Henderson -- another fighter who is on the level of BJ Penn in terms of multiple championships and weight classes and building the sport -- who got thrown around like a ragdoll by Daniel Cormier.

Jon Jones -- who was hands down my favorite fighter for a good stretch of time -- has lost a lot of credibility after downright refusing to have a rematch with Alexander Gustaffson (a fighter who showed that Jones might actually be mortal). It's to the point that I don't even know who I'm rooting for when the fight does come (and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way).

And then there's Chael Sonnen, who isn't really a legend in the traditional sense, aside from his ability with words/ability to get into the good graces of the UFC, who went from essentially brand ambassador to fired from the UFC and FOX after testing positive for EPO and HGH (aka the Lance Armstrong cocktail) -- his third failed drug test. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not naive: Sonnen has proven to be such a great politician that he could slash your tires and, by the end of the conversation, you'd be apologizing to him for dulling the blade. I see the "firing" getting overturned within a year. But it doesn't change the fact that Sonnen's already questionable image has been seriously marred and all those ambiguous situations suddenly become a lot more black-and-white.

There is a change in the world of MMA right now. The legends of yesteryear (forget that: the legends of last year) are falling by the wayside left and right. You're already seeing these incredible new-generation fighters absolutely destroying the competition (Ronda Rousey defended her title within 16 seconds of the first round. The first round!). It's just weird to see the fighters who blew my mind when I first got into the sport back in my college days (back when my brother-in-law would mute the fight and put on slow jams when the fighters were doing a whole lot of lay-n-pray) now petering out.

I mean, that's just how sports work. Brett Favre went from icon to that old guy who just couldn't keep up with the youngin's (and let's not forget when news broke of his *cough* extracurricular activities. Speaking of people who marred up their image...), but it's still an uneasy feeling when you just watch the absolute great systematically get picked off. It's enough to give you an existential crisis.

And hey, maybe that explains that weird, almost ethereal feeling I've been having in light of everything that has been going on. Maybe everything that's coming to a close is just a catalyst for an existential moment. Well, better that than nihilism.

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