The Death Of A Generation: The New Generation Of MMA approaches

After watching UFC 118 and talking to a few of my friends who watch MMA as much as I do, I’ve come to the conclusion that the current crop of MMA elite are finally dying out. I’m sure you’re all gobsmacked and you feel that this is MMA blasphemy, but bare with me as I explain my theory.

 The Untouchables

 

Anybody that watches MMA knows the original pound for pound bad boys of the sport. For the last 10 years, fighters such as Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva, Georges St Pierre and BJ Penn were the kings of their divisions – the untouchables.

 These fighters optimized everything amazing about MMA. The confidence, the training, the striking, the grappling, the lifestyle and the showmanship were all parts of these fighters. Some fighters have these aspects in abundance and some have these aspects in smaller proportions. However, what they all have in common is that they have taken the MMA world by storm and made themselves almost god like too many MMA fans.

For example, BJ Penn has been long touted as arguably the best lightweight fighter ever or even the best fighter in the world. He’s fought some of the greats, beaten some of the greats and even lost to some of the greats. Penn has built himself up to be one of the best and no one can deny that.

Another fantastic example of an untouchable would be Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor has been regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights to grace MMA. He’s known for some of the most fantastic knockouts in the history of MMA and has taken on some of the greatest fighters in the world today.

There are other fighters that have reached the dizzy heights of MMA and refused to ever to come down. However, it’s easier to get to the top than it is to stay there.

The decline of the Untouchables

 

In every sport there are eras in time where certain players dominate and stand head and shoulders above the rest. With Football there was Thierry Henry, George Best and Diego Maradona. In Boxing there was Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Muhammad Ali. However, like all great sportsmen, their performances declined and sooner or later they became a shadow of their former glory. Some of them realised that it was time to quit and let another person take over their mantle and become a great, whilst some decided to submerge themselves in their past glory and tarnish their careers.

Before the likes of Georges St Pierre, BJ Penn and Anderson Silva, there were other greats who held the mantle as the best in the world. Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture used to dominate their divisions.

 – Matt Hughes Tribute Video

– Randy Couture Tribute Video

Matt Hughes and Randy Couture still compete, but they no longer dominate their prospective divisions. This doesn’t mean that they’re not formidable opponents; I just feel that with age they have slowed down and are no longer able to evolve with athletes of today.

Jens Pulver also still competes, yet unlike Hughes and Couture, Pulver is a shadow of his former-self; losing matches to opponents that once upon a time ago he would’ve steam-rolled through. Mark Coleman is another subject where a fighter has fought to stay relevant in a sport where styles continuously evolve. Even though Randy Couture was the last person to beat Coleman, one could argue that Coleman beat Coleman.

What I mean by this was that he saw that he wasn’t on the same par as the fighters in his division and lost out simply because he was too stubborn to realise that it was time to put away the 4 ounce gloves.

This doesn’t stop the fact that these men helped create and popularize the sport that we know and love today. In fact I thank them from the bottom of my heart. However, they were part of a cycle of becoming great, being great and losing greatness.

 The fighters that took over from the aforementioned fighters took the foundation that those fighters laid and led MMA to new heights. However, I feel as if the dreaded cycle is coming for the fighters once again.

 

The difference between the present and the past

 

When the grim reaper comes, he isn’t bias or regretful – he just does what he needs to do and goes onto the next one. As the grim reaper of MMA comes close to taking some of our current crop of athletes away from us, I look at how the present generation of fighters can or have learnt from the past generation.

One could argue that the fighters of the past didn’t know how to let go, creating their own downfall. I don’t think the same will be said of the present crop of fighters in MMA.

Anybody that reads the site knows that two other writers and I do predictions for upcoming events. When I did my predictions for UFC 118, I put my money on Penn winning. I thought that we’d see a determined, vengeful BJ Penn who wanted to take his title back from Frankie Edgar.

 This is a man who was born to fight. His story is legendary; his fights are almost always spectacular and he’s a fan favourite. However, as I sat there on the couch and I watched Bruce Buffer introduce him to the rabid Boston crowd, I looked Penn in his eyes and I said to the people watching the fight with me that he’d lose.

Anybody that watched Penn fight Kenny Florian, Joe Stevenson or more recently Diego Sanchez could see the fire burning in Penn’s eyes. He wanted to fight, he wanted to perform for the fans and he wanted win. That wasn’t the Penn I saw at UFC 118.

I’d heard on a MMA podcast that his training consisted of 1/3 physical, 1/3 mental and 1/3 spiritual. However, he lacked the last 2/3rd’s of his training. He didn’t seem mentally or spiritually prepared – he just didn’t look as if he wanted to be there. Penn isn’t a fool who lost his mind and suddenly became a scared man. He has reached the top of mountain, looked down at those below them and waved and smiled. He simply lacked motivation to fight and I feel as if that’s going to be the case with many of the greats

Fighters such as Penn, GSP and Anderson Silva realise that fighting isn’t the end of their life and that one day, they’ll lose the will to be in this sport. They won’t all decide to bow out at the same time, but sooner rather than later they’ll decide that they can do something else rather than fighting.

Possibly open a gym, become a commentator, manage other fighters. It’s a case that the sport needs them more than they need the sport. One can forget that it takes a lot to be hit in the face for a living.

The future looks bright

It’ll take a few years for the present crop to truly decline and leave space for others to become the new stars in MMA. Fighters such as Jon Jones have already made a significant impact in the sport at such a young age. The sky is the limit for this young man.

– Jon “Bones” Jones Highlight Video

However, that’s just one weight class and one fighter who has been dominant. I’m looking at other fighters as well such as Rory Macdonald, who showed incredible amounts of potential against an ex-champion and quality opponent in Carlos Condit.

Other fighters such as Charles Oliveira, Ryan Bader, Cain Velasquez, Todd Duffee, Phil Davis, Shane Del Rosario and Jose Aldo look as if they’ll be the future of MMA. As one cycle of MMA stars ends and another begins we can only look to the future of the sport and see if these new and interesting fighters can bring the sport further than the present crop has.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m once again going to shout out my boys Chan Sung Jung and Don Hyun Kim! South Korean MMA is on the rise and it’s great to see.

  2. Cool post you call it like you see it and that’s how it is … I read an interview on Edgar before the fight with Penn and you could tell he is still climbing the mountain and is desperate to get there and stay there!
    Penn he has been so successful, huge business money coming in from all angles that now maybe his focus is elsewhere.
    Its like the law of the jungle .. Well feed animals don’t need to hunt .. the starving ones are the most dangerous!
    Raymond


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