Pressure Too Great For UFC Champs?
Has it simply become too physically and emotionally draining to reign for an extended period of time as a UFC champion? I ask this question because the competition in all weight divisions has gotten increasingly more difficult, particularly at the top. Thus, the champions must pit themselves against destroyers each and every time they defend their title. There are no easy fights at this level and the beatings they sustain, even in victory, are hellacious.
And though the sweet science is not for the faint of heart, no boxer ever felt the nauseous sensation of an expertly delivered skull splitting elbow or the sudden collapse of an ACL courtesy of a stinging Muay Thai kick. Each punch arrives special delivery, protected by only four ounces of leather versus eight ounces for boxers. Factor in body slams, armbars, chokes and an assortment of martial mayhem from the most deadly hand-to-hand combatants in the world and you have a recipe for confusion during the day and nightmares at night.
GSP Walks Away
I submit into evidence the recent abdication of George St. Pierre. He had been the reigning UFC Middleweight champion for well over five years and defended the title nine times. In recent years GSP has had extended stretches of inactivity due to injuries but rumors swirled that he needed more time to recover between title defenses (those same rumors are being whispered about Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz). His legions of fans revered his ability as a master tactician while the naysayers decried the champion as a cover and smother artist. Can you imagine having never lost in over five years against the best in the world and still being vilified?
After his most recent fight against Johny Hendricks, in which he emerged as the victor by a controversial split decision where he was installed as a -200 favorite in UFC odds, St. Pierre looked like he just exited a war zone at his post fight press conference. It was not just the usual black eye or swollen face. The devastation appeared to emanate from his broken nose and battered forehead all the way to the depths of his psyche. After suffering such a vicious beating imagine his reaction when UFC head honcho Dana White publically questioned the decision. Is it any wonder GSP decided to hang up the gloves in the midst of his prime?
The young guns eager to ascend the rankings while garnering the fame and fortune that goes with it have no such reservations. They are on a quest to reach the top and getting paid to do what they were born to do sure beats making minimum wage forging molten metal at the steel mill or moving furniture up the stairs of a triple-decker.
But once they reach the apex of their craft and are required to stand toe-to-toe with the very best combatants in the world, it becomes a test not only of martial mastery but true intestinal fortitude and resolve that they will be a willing participant in a violent car wreck at least twice a year that does not permit the use of a seat belt. In a sport this violent, being able to walk out on top is far better than inevitably being carried out on your shield. Well played George St. Pierre.