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No Silva lining for Jones; Reem’s Dutch courage; Kong in the UFC; farewell Tito
No Silva Lining for Jones
It’s the nature of Mixed Martial Arts that no sooner have you reached the top of a mountain, you’re being asked to climb another one.
The luxury of reflection on your achievements is afforded to no one, let alone the man who is, by common consent, the greatest martial artist to ever walk the earth.
An emotional Anderson Silva had just defeated arch-nemesis Chael Sonnen via second round stoppage in the biggest fight of 2012. It was the culmination of a rivalry that had lasted two long years, punctuated by Sonnen’s own outrageous brand of self-promotion that goaded the champion into an uncharacteristic outburst of pre-fight aggression.
Anderson Silva could be forgiven for wanting to enjoy the moment.
If he did, it was a fleeting one. No sooner had Sonnen, noticeably dignified and humble in defeat, been vanquished than talk turned to who would replace the outspoken Oregonian in the number one contender spot.
Michael Bisping, himself no stranger to villainous verbosity, wasted no time in talking up his own title credentials in a post-fight interview with Ariel Helwani. One suspects that messrs Stann, Lombard and Belfort will all have their own say in the coming months.
However, one man who definitely won’t be stepping into the Octagon with the Brazilian maestro is Jon “Bones” Jones. The light-heavyweight strapholder, who has swept all before him in record time, was mooted as a possible opponent in a “superfight” that would surely be big business. However, lucrative though it may have been, Silva dismissed the notion immediately at his post-fight press conference and Jones duly agreed via Twitter moments later. For now, at least, the two will continue to rule the roost of their respective weight classes.
So it will be left to one of those afore-mentioned names in the middleweight ranks to separate himself from the pack and prove a worthy foe.
Yet at 37 years old, having stated his supposed intention to fight into his forties, Silva’s greatest opponent may be the ravages of advancing age. Logic tells us that the thousands of hours of conditioning, sparring and fighting during a 15-year career will inevitably take their toll on the rapid reflexes of the champion.
But then Anderson Silva defies all logic.
Right now even Old Father Time can’t beat “The Spider”.
Overeem shows Dutch Courage
It’s been two months since decorated heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem was declared persona non grata in the vicinity of UFC President Dana White.
The Dutchman, a former K-1 and Strikeforce champion, infamously failed a drug test due to elevated testosterone levels ahead of his eagerly-anticipated title tilt with Junior Dos Santos. Testosterone is currently the drug of choice for those who rely on chemical support to enhance their career prospects and Overeem’s measures were way outside those deemed acceptable by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC).
Rumours of a long-term friendship with pharmaceuticals have dogged Overeem throughout his career, despite his persistent protestations to the contrary. His positive test was an embarrassment to himself as well as his employers.
Time is a great healer. And so is money.
Though Overeem’s reputation has been tarnished by the suspect urine sample, his market value remains strong. A belated fight with Dos Santos, who dictates his division with the same impunity as Jon Jones and Anderson Silva do theirs, would generate big revenue and provide a pay-per-view boost in early 2013.
So whilst serving his time on the Nevada Naughty Step until he is free to re-apply for a licence in December, it was a smart move by Overeem to make peace with the UFC brass. Dana White revealed that the heavy-handed striker had mustered up the courage to apologize in person this week at UFC headquarters; a gesture that was appreciated and accepted.
Now the hard work can begin. The UFC can revisit their schedule and decide how best to use a valuable asset.
Meanwhile, Overeem needs to convince not only the judiciary of Nevada State, but the millions of MMA fans around the world, that when they next see him in the Octagon they’re looking at a clean athlete.
Kong comes to the UFC
There was a major shot in the arm for Mixed Martial Arts in the UK when it was announced that middleweight Tom “Kong” Watson had signed on with the UFC to debut on home soil at UFC on Fuel TV 5 in Nottingham.
It is belated recognition for a man who has been a loyal servant to the sport, taking on the best names outside of the Zuffa payroll and always looking to hone his chosen craft.
Watson (15-4), a kickboxer by trade, took the brave and not inexpensive step of relocating his training camp to join Greg Jackson’s team in New Mexico. The englishman’s commitment to broadening his horizons has been key to his ongoing success.
For those who don’t know “Kong”, he lives up to his moniker by wearing a gorilla mask as he dances his way cageside. But don’t expect too much monkey business. Tom Watson is finally mixing with the elite of the elite. And he’s ready for it.
So we bid farewell to Tito Ortiz. Fittingly, his final match was a microcosm of a career characterised by tough fights and near-constant controversy.
The bizarre spectacle of Forrest Griffin commandeering the microphone after his hard-fought decision victory was slightly unsatisfactory, though not unsurprising given Ortiz’s own reputation for antics after the buzzer (his grave digger celebration remains one of the most infamous we’ve seen in the Octagon).
Alongside the controversy, there was the genuine commitment to developing MMA and pushing it towards mainstream acceptance. Tito was marketable and media friendly. He knew how to hype the sport and most importantly, he knew how to hype a fight.
His intense rivalry with Chuck Liddell, built on Ortiz’s penchant for provocation, came at a crucial moment for MMA. Their now-legendary bouts drew big pay-per-view numbers at a time when it was rumoured the Fertitta’s, the UFC’s financial saviours, were becoming disheartened with their return on investment. Ortiz-Liddell became a blueprint for a business model that has now accrued them many millions of dollars.
Ortiz’s powers may have lessened with age but back then, when he was at his verbal and physical peak, there was no more crucial character in the incredible story of the UFC.
He may no longer be digging graves in the Octagon, but whether you love him or loathe him, Tito Ortiz has cemented his place in UFC history.