At UFC 236, skill sold without any help from manufactured malice

Did you notice anything strange about those two amazing fights that co-headlined UFC 236? Anything, you know, unusual for the current UFC climate?

Think hard. Think back to before, but also after.

Here’s a hint: It’s as much about what didn’t happen as what actually did. And it was successful and refreshing enough that maybe we should be re-examining some of our current assumptions.

I refer now, of course, to the animosity between the fighters in the dueling UFC 236 interim title bouts. I refer mainly to the fact that there wasn’t any. Not really. In an era of Twitter trash talk and buffet melees, here were four guys who just showed up and fought hard, then went right back to respecting and appreciating one another afterward.

And the craziest part? It actually worked. The event produced a lot of buzz. The fights themselves were incredible. Fans felt like they got their money’s worth, and fellow fighters literally stood up and cheered. It was an unqualified success, and all without the pro wrestling-style extracurriculars that have become part of the MMA scenery lately.

Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? Maybe we don’t need all that cheap, manufactured hype as much as we thought we did. At least, not when we can gorge on beautiful displays of genuine, violent competition instead.

In that sense, we were very lucky this weekend. In both the middleweight and lightweight interim title bouts, we had fighters with plenty of skill and style. First Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum took turns battering each other to the brink of unconsciousness. Then Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway took over to kick things into another gear.

The end result was the kind of fight night that ought to come with a manufacturer’s warning: Be sure to ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to view these fights.

It was brutal and fiercely contested. There were moments, especially in the lightweight battle, where the fighters nearly reached an unspoken agreement to continue on after the end of the round.

But when the scorecards had been tallied and the jewelry handed out, the prevailing sentiment was one of exhausted mutual respect. All four of these fighters understood that you don’t have an incredible fight without a very special partner.

And nobody needed to work themselves or the other guy into an ungovernable rage in order to make their case. Almost as if they’re all professionals or something.

The lesson here is as much for the media and the fans as it is for the fighters and the promoter. The whole constant blood feud thing? It’s really not necessary when you have a good, meaningful fight between skilled competitors. The only time it becomes a necessary crutch to lean on is when you don’t have that, when you need something else to fill the gaps.

And, as all four fighters here showed, you can be an interesting personality in this sport without being a relentless jerk about it.

With Gastelum, Adesanya, Holloway, and Poirier, we have four distinct individuals, each with his own character and story and approach, and yet none of them are selling us anything that feels the least bit fake or manufactured. That has the added benefit of making it a lot easier to feel good about watching and rooting for them.

Isn’t that a good feeling, especially since it feels like such a change from what we’ve grown accustomed to? It reminds you what’s so great about this bizarre sport where two people consent to lock themselves in a cage together for the purpose of mutual unarmed combat. If you need more than that to get excited about it, maybe it’s because somewhere, in either them or us, there’s something important missing.

For complete coverage of UFC 236, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

Read the full article here: At UFC 236, skill sold without any help from manufactured malice