Likely the biggest MMA fight of the year happens this weekend.
It’s already getting the hype, the ESPN advertising and the accolades for being the biggest fight of the year. Without George St. Pierre against Nate Diaz (another situation with a tremendously talented Champion against a uniquely charismatic challenger) there’s little chance anything else will reach this level, save some huge buildup of hype for the heavyweights.
There’s always the talk about heavyweights.
However, Chael Sonnen vs Anderson Silva II isn’t about big men. It isn’t about knocking them because of their weigh-in weight (Middleweights shoot for 185 pounds). It isn’t about ongoing comparisons with the all time greats, isn’t about the announcers belittling one of the most dominant Champions of his sport because he’s not tall enough, not heavy enough and not able to walk down the street and draw the attention of the casual fans.
This fight doesn’t need me talking about it. Chael Sonnen has handled that beyond the scope of scripted actors pretending to be professionals. Sonnen has battled adversity, the law, controversy, and himself (quite a few of those being his own self-created situations, and he sure knows how to talk things up to larger than life proportions) but he hasn’t been derailed by any of it.
You could say that this is bigger because of the delays, and bigger because of the time that Sonnen took to build it up.
And yet the dominant Championship is the point of contention.
Anderson Silva has nearly six years of defenses, six years of spectacular, controversial, unpredictable matches, but six years of proving himself to be one of the very best in the world. And seldom does anyone say …. “yeah, but he’s not even two bills”.
Sure, they say that Anderson Silva doesn’t market himself, and that peculiarity is amazing considering that his title reign, his highlight reel finishes and his spectacular talent keep him at the top of the charts despite his disinterest in playing the hype game.
But again, there’s no sense in the Mixed Martial Arts world that he’s great, but he’ll never be (insert name of favorite Heavyweight Champion here).
The most important part of the rise of Mixed Martial Arts is the establishment of weight classes on the professional, mainstream level. Sure, boxing is already there, but boxing never had the mentality of “big men or nothing” that runs rampant in professional wrestling.
One of the reasons I didn’t name a Heavyweight Champion was because there is so much controversy, and so little consensus about which MMA Heavyweight is considered the best of the best. Fedor Emelianenko lost a lot of luster, and he was never all that big to begin with (size wise, smart aleck). Randy Couture? Same thing – legendary, but not exactly a Heavyweight body. Let’s not even talk Brock, because we all know what happens there. Frank Mir? A half-dozen pretenders from Arlovski to Silvia?
Maybe we can dodge the Heavyweight references because there really hasn’t been a truly dominant figure in the sport.
Maybe Junior Dos Santos will rise, maybe Cain Velasquez has it in him…. But in the MMA world, it’s Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre and now Jon Jones that get the expectations and the reputations and none of that idiocy that demeans and cuts the legs off and prevents them from making money.
Or, making money for their promotion.
Sure, its wishful thinking to think that professional wrestling will follow suit.
Actually, wishful thinking is a pipe dream away from being anywhere near wishful thinking with the mentality that runs mainstream professional wrestling. Vince had already decided that having to claimants to “Best in the World” holding his Championships meant so little that he headlined the guy who lost WrestleMania instead of headlining his Champion, and we all know what happened to Daniel Bryan at that same show.
But TNA has had Kurt Angle, who is the most credentialed amateur known to the sport of professional wrestling, who is also not that much bigger than a UFC Light Heavyweight, and instead of building a division (uh, maybe call it the X Division?) around him, they’d rather obliterate any guy of that size and athleticism instead.
Part of the appeal of MMA to this fan (of both MMA and pro wrestling) is the inherent sportsmanship and the booking logic of keeping guys of the same size in a fight. Call me crazy, but the minute Rey Mysterio takes on the Big Show, there’s a credibility issue.
And even the indies pull off the same stuff, by putting Davey Richards in with Rhino, and thinking that it’s a great TV match, not realizing that no matter how good, how talented, how talkative the smaller guy is, he’s still the smaller guy in a brief match that most people flip by when watching TV.
This weekend, two of MMA’s biggest names of this year are battling it out. One guy has been Champion longer than any professional wrestling Champion in what, forty years, and the other guy channels the charisma of wrestling’s biggest heel of thirty five years ago.
They both are replicating legends of this other sport, the one that would completely disdain the both of them if they were in Florida Championship Wrestling, and if Brock Lesnar gets beat on his first PPV Main Event after signing, who wants to bet what happened to Low Ki would be the best possible option for either Silva or Sonnen if they signed with the WWE.
After five years in developmental.
Point is, the way to make money is clear from this match alone.
Point is, the way to make money is clear as mud to the people supposedly trying to make money in the professional wrestling world.
Which is why, in the end, I’d sooner pay to watch the UFC and weight class oriented fights most months of the year.