Fitch cut: Are you not entertained?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Are you not entertained? Shock as Fitch heads list of UFC roster cuts

Who’d be a fighter?

All the pain and sacrifice, the hours spent pushing your body to the very limit, the continual nag of self-doubt asking if you’re doing enough to get where you want to be.

Where do you want to be?

You want to be in the spotlight. The big show. You want to be on that pedestal, recognised as the most supreme fighter that walks this very earth.

You also want money. Lots of money. This isn’t a cosy office job we’re talking about here. There’s no guaranteed paycheck every month. You step into a cage and you fight for every single cent that’s coming your way.

You want to pay the rent? Fight for it.

You want to pay medical bills? Fight for it.

You want to put your kids through college? Fight for it.

You chose this path. Or maybe fate chose it for you. Maybe fighting for money is the only thing you’re good at. Maybe it’s the single best chance you have of building the life you want for you and your loved ones.

You know the risks. You know that one mistake could put your entire career in jeopardy. One tired, dropped glove could let in a knockout blow. One slip on your own blood could leave you on the verge of tapping out.

You can’t afford to make a mistake.

You can’t afford to be anything less than the most perfect version of yourself when you step into that cage and fight for your future.

So you keep pushing. Three sessions a day.  Day in, day out you hone your craft – trying to find that marginal gain that will give you the advantage on fight night.

You may even look in places you shouldn’t for that marginal gain. You hear on the grapevine that your opponent is training hard. They’re in great shape. But you’re tired. So tired. There’s this thing someone’s taking that gives them this little extra edge. Their doctor prescribed it. You should at least think about it.

Whether you succumb to temptation or not, you WILL abuse your body. You ignore the constant dull ache of your muscles, the thudding pain in your joints, the plea for some momentary respite. You starve your body of nutrition; drain it of every little drop of moisture to make sure the scales show in your favour.

You want this.

And when the cage door closes, and the fight begins you will do anything, anything to make sure that the man or woman in front of you doesn’t get in the way of your dreams.

You block out the noise of the crowd and you focus. Time slows down. Fractions of a second seem like hours. You see everything: every twitch, every flicker of movement. You wait for your opportunity – and you take it.

You leave nothing to chance. You want it to be over quickly. But if it’s not, you keep going. You will not let them breathe. You will suffocate them, grind them into the dirt for fifteen long minutes if you have to.

You want this.

You want to get your hand raised. You want to be a winner, because every win brings you closer to the spotlight.

Or does it?

Today the UFC announced some sixteen fighters were released from the roster. At first glance there few surprises. It was the usual mixture of young hopefuls who failed their first attempt at glory, and older veterans whose best days may be behind them.

Then there was Jon Fitch. With a record of 14-3-1 on octagon duty his name didn’t sit easily in either camp. In 2008 Fitch stood head and shoulders above his peers as the outstanding contender to welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Though unsuccessful, his subsequent record of 6-2-1 didn’t suggest a career in terminal decline.

Admittedly he’d just come off a three-round asphyxiation at the hands of Demian Maia. Yet in his previous outing, Fitch had returned from a long lay-off to deliver a career-best performance against Erick Silva. Afterwards, Fitch admitted candidly that the $70,000 bonus check he received that night helped to keep the financial wolves at bay.

So why release a man ranked ninth in the official UFC rankings?

With no official word from the UFC at the time of writing, the common consensus is that Fitch paid the price for a fighting style that didn’t make great television. His relentless grappling rarely moved people closer to the edges of their seats.

But Jon Fitch did what he had to do. He wasn’t blessed with the grace and poise of Anderson Silva, or the speed and power of Jose Aldo. He suffocated and smothered his opponents; he ground them into the dirt.

He wanted this.

He found a way to pay the bills. He found a way to win ugly.

Perhaps his release tells us that winning is no longer enough. Perhaps entertainment is the primary goal of anyone seeking a future in prizefighting.

Should we be entirely comfortable with that? Judging by the avalanche of angry responses to Fitch’s release on Twitter yesterday, many fans find this difficult to accept.

Welcome to the harsh reality of the fight business.

Away from the spotlight, this is still a dark trade.

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