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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A GOAT For All Seasons

“A few years ago, I wrote a series called “Under the Microscope,” where I analyzed the Greatest of All-Time arguments for fighters across several weight classes. I only did this for the five legacy divisions — lightweight through heavyweight — since the sub-lightweight weight classes were too young; there simply weren’t enough fighters who could be legitimately defended as the G.O.A.T. Every weight class had its own distinct gray areas and there were definitely fighters that were harder to make a case for than others, but there were at least enough contenders for the crown.

I debated doing a shortened version for featherweight but ultimately didn’t because there was really only one option: Jose Aldo. He was the only Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight titleholder at the time, and he had dominated two of the three previous World Extreme Cagefighting champions along the way. I could have made half-hearted cases for Urijah Faber and Mike Thomas Brown — and an even less-convincing one for Norifumi Yamamoto — but those would have been tremendous stretches. There was Aldo, an unfathomably wide gulf, then everybody else.

That was 2015, though. In the post-UFC 218 world, the discussion surrounding the greatest featherweight of all-time is now a lot more interesting. Following Max Holloway’s 12th straight win and second consecutive TKO victory over Aldo on Saturday in Detroit, the G-Word was floated around the 26 year-old. “Blessed” himself declined the G.O.A.T. mantle, chiefly citing a lack of title defenses compared to the all-time great he had just thoroughly smashed for the second time in six months. If anything, Holloway has made his case for the humblest featherweight G.O.A.T. contender.

There is, however, a case to be made for Holloway, as there continues to be one for Aldo. Of course, there is also a case to be made for Conor McGregor. It’s worth inspecting these cases, as they provide different looks at the criteria we use for assessing greatness and the various ways in which a fighter can be great…”

 

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Let’s Not Overthink This

“Very little in life is truly surprising. We are creatures of habit, fenced off by routines that are more or less predictable for months on end, if not longer. This only magnifies with age, as the openness and possibility of the future continues to funnel into a single, specific direction. It isn’t always a bad thing — it makes our lives much more stable and easier to manage — but the realization of it is often crushing and existentially deflating.

It’s no small wonder then that sports are such a common escape. They frequently provide a real outlet for genuine surprise to occur. Aside from maybe March Madness, fighting by nature lends itself more regularly to upsets than anything else in sports. It is perhaps the most redeeming and alluring quality of violence; anyone can get knocked out at any moment. Unlike a series of offensive drives in football or an elongated scoring spree in basketball, a comeback in boxing, kickboxing or MMA is instantaneous.

This was the underpinning logic behind much of the otherwise irrational belief that Conor McGregor had a legitimate chance to beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday in Las Vegas. In a world where Leicester City won the English Premier League, the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to beat the winningest team of all-time and Donald Trump won Pennsylvania and Michigan, who’s to say someone with no professional boxing experience can’t beat one of the most gifted boxers ever? Surely stranger things have happened.

Yes, sometimes shocking and improbable things happen. What “The Money Fight” reminded us, however, is that likely and probable things happen much more often…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Simple Complexities of The Money Fight

“As “The Money Fight” inexorably becomes reality and the odds inexplicably become closer, the cynicism of it all has grown tiresome. You, dear readers, may recall that I haven’t been particularly enthused by the match, but that isn’t because I don’t understand its appeal. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about it. The optics alone of seeing Conor McGregor in the ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be interesting. Plus, for all the criticism McGregor gets for his goofy-looking training methods, there is an undeniable itch of curiosity to see if maybe he’s on to something. That’s to say nothing of the ultimate appeal of Mayweather’s career in the last decade: the desire to see him lose. To lose to a boxing debutante would be the most hilariously embarrassing schadenfreude imaginable, unlikely as it may be.

Both actors are fascinating in their own ways. Mayweather is unquestionably The Best Ever, though not in the way he sells himself. No, Mayweather is not anywhere near the top of the all-time pound for pound list, and he is hardly in contention as the greatest welterweight or lightweight, either. Imagine Mayweather against a prime Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns or Roberto Duran, and it is hard to picture him winning any of those fights. He is a gifted, beautiful fighter, no doubt, but the zero in his loss column has masked his flaws and granted him undue credit…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Dueling Insecurities of Boxing and MMA

“Few conflicts are as inevitable or as stupid as generational ones.

Without exception, every generation has bemoaned the one that follows. Kids these days are addicted to their phones; the kids before them had their egos overstuffed by participation trophies; the kids before them were rotting their brains with TV and video games; with the kids before them, it was all that darned rock and roll music; the kids before them … you get it. Yet somehow, despite all these oh-so-serious problems with the youth and the even more serious fist shaking, the cranky folks yelling at generational passersby to get off their lawn have only ever been addressing the next group to take their spot on the porch.

There’s a flipside to that, of course. Older generations are not the only guilty parties when it comes to broad dumb accusations. Young people are frequently guilty of dismissing the wisdom of life experience, eagerly substituting it for Google voyages and Netflix documentaries. The abundance of information available to people and the 24/7 access to it make it easy for anyone to feign expertise about anything and everything, and unlike true expertise, the fake kind is often immune to listening.

These aren’t terribly difficult challenges to overcome — all you really need to do is attempt to understand where the other is coming from — but these differences and generalizations are so deeply entrenched that it’s hard to uproot them and give genuine empathy a chance to occur. The upcoming Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor boxing match has unearthed a similar mindset, much of it stemming from similar generational disparities…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Dumb, Dizzying Depths of The Money Fight

“…At this point, everyone knows the match is a shameless spectacle. The winner is all but decided, the narratives already written, while we all just sit back and watch and enjoy. It is a lot closer to professional wrestling than either boxing or MMA, which explains why the MMA crowd has been eating it up with more fervor than the boxing folk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; everyone has their shallow indulgences in life. Some can detail all the regional differences in the “Real Housewives” series, while others can detail all the storylines from Monday Night Raw. Tomato, tomotto.

Yet at the same time, the appeal of “The Money Fight” is undeniable: boxing’s biggest star vs. MMA’s biggest star. It has all the glitz of celebrity boxing, only with better technique and higher stakes. It’s gossipy nonsense, but the kind of gossipy nonsense that feels big and important, not unlike the 45th president’s Twitter feed. In a world where a reality TV star can become the most powerful man on the planet, it is perfectly congruous for a type of reality TV show to become the biggest sporting event on the planet…”

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