By Julie Buehler
Imagine getting to the top of Mt. Everest and seeing another peak.
Imagine walking on the moon, only to see another on the distant horizon.
Ronda Rousey quoted George St. Pierre when she said, “There’s simplicity in the struggle and complexity in success,” and MMA fighters know all too well the rigorous struggle to not only climb the mountains in front of them, but to do so with fists flying in their faces.
For Rousey, she admittedly added to her struggles by filming movies while training for her UFC 168 co-main event fight against Miesha Tate
“I wanted to put people in a position to doubt me.” She said in her pre-fight press conference when asked why she timed her parlay into Hollywood the same time she should have been preparing to defend her bantamweight title.
So what if you scaled Everest in order to find that other mountain, and what if you only walked on the moon to prepare yourself for the next?
It’s a mindset that few individuals ever attain and it’s the reason the current MMA scene, and specifically UFC, is thriving on an international level like never before.
Because no matter how big a fight is, no matter how unbeatable a fighter, there’s always a bigger fight, a more formidable challenge and always a struggle to be found.
And even though UFC 168 showcased a co-main event made up of fights we’d already seen, it will go down as perhaps one of the most talked-about fights of all time. And mainly because of the fight we didn’t see finished.
No one wants to watch a legend fall to the frailty of the human body. But when Anderson Silva, one of the greatest MMA fighters to step in the cage, snapped his ankle on the inside of middleweight champion, Chris Weidman’s leg, the MMA world not only recoiled in pain for Silva, but also the realization that a great athlete may have unwillingly reached his career’s finish line.
But this isn’t a column about Silva’s greatness, that would take a novel, this is about recognizing how UFC has changed from a fighter’s sport to mainstream entertainment, so much so that on the morning of Week 17 of the NFL season, with 12 games with playoff implications, UFC 168 was STILL trending worldwide on Twitter.
Silva breaking his leg demonstrated the stark reality of the brutal sport, but it also created more theater around newcomer and still undefeated champion Weidman. And unlike baseball’s slow percolating season or football’s chess match of mammoth men, MMA is a sport in which much of the drama and intrigue happens outside the ring.
Coming into 168, Weidman was the first and only man to have beaten Silva, EVER, and while that generally comes with fanfare, for Weidman it came with questions and critics. They doubted he legitimately beat Silva, they concluded Weidman just got lucky. The rematch would lay to rest all those doubts and critics. Or so we thought. But as the UFC always does, it reaches the peak of Everest and kept climbing.
It’s heartbreaking in a very real way to see an athlete lose because his body fails him, but in an industry that thrives on breaking people, Silva’s ankle is all part of the narrative that will add to the drama surrounding Weidman’s next bout.
Rousey openly spoke about creating drama around women’s MMA to get people to pay attention. She said in pre-fight press conferences, “A spectacle had to be created at first,” when asked about her rivalry with Miesha Tate. But make no mistake, the rivalry is only outside the cage. Rousey is building a case to become one of the most dominant female athletes of this generation. She’s undefeated. Has won every fight by submission and Tate was the first opponent to challenge her beyond the first round.
And she’s right about creating a “spectacle at first,” now that she is on the map, the flood of women and girls that will take up MMA will be incredible to watch and as someone who has a great deal of respect for the sport (although I do enjoy my nose where it is) I think that will have a great impact on women in general.
So back in the 90’s when it was Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie leading the way and UFC was a niche sport, because its always looking for the newest moon to land on and the tallest peak to climb, it will continue to amaze and entertain.
Here’s to a speedy recovery for Silva, another badass gal to challenge Rousey and Weidman to continue to shock the industry.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 3-6 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 3-6 pst at www.team1010.com or watch the show on Ustream.