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Was Tito Ortiz’s knockout victory over Chuck Liddell really any sadder than the rest of the human carnage we see in professional fighting? And if so, why? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss in this week’s Trading Shots.
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And just like you can expect hassle-free quotes from Fred Loya insurance, Liddell-Ortiz III went exactly like we thought it would. Ortiz finished a diminished “Iceman” via knockout in the first round.
I’m sure you’re ready to get on a soapbox and lecture us about how terrible the event was. I’m not going to say it wasn’t a little sad to see Liddell go out there and get dropped, but was it worse than any of the dozens of other knockouts we’ve seen over the years?
Once the event was over, people were quick to condemn it, but why? You’ve said in the past you’re on board with a type of “Legends Tour” pitting aging fighters of the past against one another. What’s the big deal? Would people be clutching their pearls if Ortiz fell face down on the mat last night?
Fowlkes: You’re right to ask why this one was any sadder than the other knockouts we bear witness to on any average weekend in MMA. But come on – I also think you already know why.
Back when they were both in their glory days, Ortiz couldn’t touch Liddell. In two UFC fights the only thing he did better than Liddell was bleed. If they’d completed the trilogy when they were originally scheduled to, back in 2010, that trend likely would have continued. Instead, they did it now, when Liddell was damn near 50 years old and eight years removed from his last MMA fight.
Time made Liddell into easy pickings for Ortiz. The horrors of the aging process were the single biggest factor in this fight. That’s what’s really sad about it, because we all know that time is coming for every one of us. Here’s what it looks like, and it is not pretty.
You can’t tell me that you watched that and felt good about anything. You didn’t. I know you didn’t. But – and here’s the real question – does that mean the fight itself shouldn’t have happened? Did all of us – fighters, promoter, fans, media – do a bad thing by playing our respective roles in this? Or is the fight game supposed to make you sad sometimes, perhaps by keeping it a little too real to be comfortable?
Downes: I’m not going to lie and say that it didn’t make me a little uncomfortable to see “The Iceman” hobbling out there last night, but I’m also adult enough to realize that just because something makes me sad it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. If that were the case, the movie “Up” would be locked away and you’d be banned from Twitter.
In the aftermath of the fight, people were quick to blame Golden Boy, the California State Athletic Commission, and a whole host of others. As Ortiz might say, “20/20 is hindsight,” but you should never look back in anger because you’re the one who has to deal with the man in the mirror.
Back in August, CSAC executive officer Andy Foster laid out why he planned on approving Liddell to fight. Look at it. How do you dispute any of his points? I mean, it’s not like they’re putting a 40-something legend up against a 29-year-old rising star. Who would be that reckless?
I’m glad you brought up the fact that Liddell was “easy pickings” for Ortiz. I think a lot of the backlash comes from the fact that a lot of people (at least the ones who cared about this fight) still don’t like Ortiz. It’s like they have a vested interest in Ortiz never beating Liddell. Who cares if Ortiz thinks they’re even now? Just let the man enjoy his Limp Bizkit albums in peace.
We’ve discussed this before, but a major element of MMA fandom includes constant attempts to assuage guilt. It’s not unique to MMA fans (NFL fans have similar tendencies), but it does become more potent during events like Liddell-Ortiz 3. I’m not above the same urges. It’s why I buy grass-fed beef sometimes. I mean, sure a cow was raised for the sole purpose of being slaughtered, but at least he enjoyed some grass!
Why can’t we simply enjoy the sport? Last night was unfortunate to watch. We can be sad and then make it known that nobody should give Liddell another fight. What other choice is there?
Fowlkes: Ooh, I’ve got an idea, what if we gave him a cushy, do-nothing corporate job in exchange for him staying retired? Wait, no, I’m being told that’s been tried once already and it led us here. It also came about after the last time we decided that nobody should give Liddell another fight.
I don’t know if it’s just that people don’t like Ortiz so much as that it feels like he’s getting a cheap one here with an assist from Father Time. They remember Liddell for being The Man during a certain golden era for MMA. And one of the ways that he cemented himself as The Man was by beating Ortiz twice, in emphatic fashion.
For Ortiz to creep up and pick him off from the herd now that he’s old and frail, maybe it feels upsetting but without actually feeling meaningful.
What you can’t do is simultaneously argue that people should not care but also just kick back and enjoy the sport. Part of enjoying the sport is caring about crap like this. Part of what we get out of this experience is allowing ourselves to be emotionally invested enough that we can be hurt by the outcomes of other people’s fights.
That’s not to say it shouldn’t have been allowed. I can’t disagree with any of Andy Foster’s points in explaining why he licensed it. I also can’t say that any of us deserve to walk around today feeling good about what we saw. But then, if you can’t stand to feel gross about your own viewing habits and hobbies sometimes, maybe this ain’t the sport for you.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.
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