The thin line between tough and dumb

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

After he accepted a fight in a division that he hasn’t competed in for years, and against a champion who he’ll have less than a month to prepare for, Vitor Belfort took to Twitter to mention that he thought a lot of other fighters were acting like “divas.”

Whether he meant Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who had turned down the same opportunity he embraced, or whether he meant Jon Jones, who had already declined one fight with far-reaching implications, seemed unclear. What remained perfectly clear was that Belfort, the 35-year-old “Phenom,” was anything but a diva, since he had stepped up to take what oddsmakers regard as an almost unwinnable fight.

But that’s not what seems important right now. What’s important is that he answered the call and took the fight. He said yes when others said no, thus proving to fans and to UFC President Dana White that he really does want to be a [expletive] fighter. Even the people who don’t like his chances of staying conscious against Jones can’t wait to tell you how much they respect that, as if Belfort is throwing himself into a volcano as a human sacrifice intended to save the village. It all makes me wonder if we aren’t idolizing some of the wrong things in MMA, or at least celebrating the right ideas in a pretty weird way.

For instance, when Chael Sonnen was on his impromptu media tour last week, he told me that he’d been brought up to believe that a fighter was someone who’d throw down with “anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

“Some guys love to put that on t-shirts and walk around like tough guys, but some of us actually live by that rule,” he added.

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