MMA Manifesto – When The Music’s Over

If you are looking for my normal basketball musings (or if blood makes you queasy) scroll down to yesterday’s post about Brandon Jennings and Ricky Rubio. For it is once again time for another edition of the MMA Manifesto.

MMA is a brutal sport. The physical side of the brutality goes without saying – it is on full display in the ring or cage for all the world to see. The behind the scenes brutality – having to negotiate with the George Steinbrenner/Vince McMahon of the MMA world, Dana White, in order to be able to fight in the top promotion must be equally as tough. But another brutal aspect, which has been coming more and more to light recently, is deciding when a fighter’s career is over.

Deciding when to retire is normally a problem for most athletes, especially the great ones. At least in team sports it can be a gradual process – a former star can extend his career by a few years by taking on a lesser role with a team. Still, the danger exists to overstay your welcome and stay in the game longer than you should.

Easing yourself out of the sport isn’t an option for MMA fighters – you’re not able to call time out during a fight and substitute in a younger fighter to take your place for a few minutes. All the cliches actually hold true in the cage – kill or be killed, only the strong survive, etc. If your skills, stamina, strength or reaction time declines at all you’ll find yourself seeing stars instead of being one. There really isn’t any margin for error in the win/loss department either – lose a couple of fights in a row and you may not get another shot at righting the ship. Which is the position four former titans of the sport, all on the wrong side of 30-years-old, currently find themselves – Chuck Liddell, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and, as of last night, Wanderlei Silva.

Silva’s slump has spanned three years and two different fighting promotions. After getting knocked out in his last two Pride fights, Silva has gone 1-3 in the UFC. Not exactly a good position to be in for a soon-to-be 33-year-old. Surprisingly you aren’t hearing too many calls for Silva to hang up the gloves, like you did for Liddell after his last loss. Which is good news for the Brazilian – where else is a guy named The Axe Murderer (the greatest nickname in sports) who has a giant tattoo on his skull going to find a job? Silva fought very hard during Saturday’s bout against Rich Franklin, and, despite Franklin winning a unanimous decision, the win very easily could have been given to Silva. Which goes to show how precarious a job in MMA is – if the judges had awarded the fight to Silva we’d be talking about whether or not Franklin should hang up the gloves.

Here’s hoping The Axe Murderer gets back on the winning track in the middleweight division, especially with the bad blood brewing between him and former training partner Anderson Silva. Or, if worse comes to worse, maybe the UFC can steal an idea from the world of pro wrestling – Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell in a “Loser Leave Town Retirement Match” (because a hair vs. hair match would pretty much be pointless).

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