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3/23/10 4:51 PM - Genius

Wikipedia says a Genius is a person of surpassing excellence. More than just originality, creativity, or intelligence, genius is associated with achievement of insight which has transformational power. A work of genius fundamentally alters the expectations of its audience. Although difficult to quantify, genius is to a level of aptitude, capability, or achievement which exceeds even that of most other exceptional contemporaries in the same field. The normal distribution suggests that the term might be applied to phenomena ranked in the top 0.1%, i.e. three standard deviations or greater, among peers.

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I read that FRAT twice and still don’t know what it all means - I am not a genius. But to me, a genius is someone who does what no one else can, so exceedingly well that you can’t even tell how they do it. Our sport has two geniuses.

George St-Pierre is as close to a perfect Mixed Martial Artist as exists. But when I watch him, I know what he is doing. He took the blueprint set by Pat Miletich (having skills in BJJ, in wrestling, and in kickboxing good enough to hang with say national level guys) and then he perfected it, notably defining wrestling as the most important skill, determining as it does where the game happens. But GSP is not a genius.

I asked Renzo once was Rickson as good as everyone says? He thought for a moment and then replied solemnly “He’s perfect.” Rickson famously never lost a match in BJJ, tapping out everyone he faced. That record will never be equaled, but I don’t think even perfect is genius.

BJ Penn amazes, with a record unequalled across BJJ and MMA  – won the Mundials at white, blue, purple, and brown, before becoming the first American to win at Black Belt. Then he tore through the UFC, where he stands with no credible opponent. He even gave the current champ a run, the current champ three divisions up. That is the equivalent in boxing across six divisions, at the same fighting weight. Muhammad Ali was a genius, but it took Joe Frazier to cement it. Maybe BJ is a genius, but he doesn’t have the Smokin’ Joe that would let the world know it.

Fedor never lost a fight. In this sport, where anything can happen, that is almost inhuman. I was a couple of feet from him as he was walking out to face Rogers in December. He was so intensely focused and coiled I was startled – he looked like a predator in the bush, about to eat. Then I saw a human again. Occasionally he has a hit a throw on world class fighters that looked like it was out of a Steven Segal movie (one of the good ones, either of them) but mostly, as fearsome and fearless as he is, you can see what Fedor is doing, mostly.

I don’t know what Anderson Silva is doing. When he had Rich Franklin in what looked like a loose plumm and kneed his nose West, I didn’t know what he was doing. When he tapped out Dan Henderson, who would give God a run, I don’t know what he was doing. When he did that Stop-Time thing with Forrest Griffin and then knocked him down, and then gently helped him up, I didn’t know what he was doing.

Does Anderson Silva sprinkle magic sleepy dust in their cornflakes? Can he bench 1000 pounds and run the 100 meters in 6 seconds?  I don’t know. All I know is that Anderson Silva is a genius, the only fighter genius in our sport.

If you disagree with my choice, that is kind of why I wrote this. I am a donkey, not a genius, and am interested in what you think. And if you think the Anderson Silva choice is wrong, get ready to pile on, as the only other living genius in our sport is Dana Fuckin’ White.

How do I know? Well, for one thing, he said it: “I’m a fuckin’ genius at this.”

I had breakfast with DFW months after he acquired the UFC from SEG, beating out several  competitors, at least one of whom would have resulted in something out of Back to the Future, where the guy everyone hates the most is having sex with your beloved mother.

Dana laid out in the time it takes to have a coffee what was going to happen. I thought he was completely sincere, thought he had  a winning smile, I thought it would be really nice. But I thought that the sport would have to build from the ground up, from the gyms and little shows, maybe get it into the punlic school system,and that it would take 30-50 years, if all went well. I was game for that. But then it all happened, just like Dana said it would.

If you had told me that last Friday I would land at McCarran airport and there would be a TapouT store in the airport, I would have thought you were that type of hapless, dreamy person who spends laundry money on lottery tickets, who doesn’t have a career because one world tour - just one- and you can become a millionaire. Mixed Martial Arts has arrived to a level I never imagined.

I have been involved in Mixed Martial Arts on a professional basis every day of my life since 1994 or so. And I don’t know how it got there.

Other promotions put on colorful, exciting fights with colorful, exciting fighters. But it isn’t the same. For one thing, the other big shows lose tens of millions of dollars, and then go under. Meantime the UFC grows from a two million dollar investment to a two billion dollar company spearheading the world’s fastest growing sport.

And the growth has barely scratched the surface.

Dana often attributes the rise of the UFC to human fascination with fighting. He says if you take four street corners, where on one they are playing baseball, on another they are playing basketball, on the third street hockey, and on the fourth corner a fight breaks out, where does the crowd go? They all go to the fight. Dana is wrong though.  I have been to dozens of UFCs live, and if a fight breaks out in the stands, a fight at the fights, everyone looks.

The reason the UFC is so successful is Dana White, at the look and feel that he created over months and years. What is that look and feel? I don’t know.

Dana says he is going to make the UFC bigger than the NFL. He will. How? I don’t know. And that is what makes him a genius.