There are many instances when a fight fan will tell you that they don’t care about who wins or loses a particular fight. For example, during one of the UFC’s “Saturday Night Specials,” Dana White said, “If I don’t like the way one of these fights is going, I’ll tell you. But until then, I’m not interested in having the guy’s name out there as a winner.”
Now, while it’s perfectly acceptable to not actually care about the outcome of a fight, it’s important to at least understand why the fans do. For example, White’s comments refer to his distaste for one-sided fights. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that people like him make up a fairly small percentage of the entire fan base. Overall, the majority of UFC fans are more than happy to see the competitors go at it until there’s only one man standing at the end. In fact, research has shown that this is one of the key motivating factors behind a fan’s enjoyment of fights—they want to see the competitors push each other until there’s only one left standing.
It’s About the Competition
It’s important to note that for the most part, White isn’t wrong about his observations. In nearly every case where he’s accused of being “too emotional” or “too attached to the outcome,” he’s almost always speaking the truth. At least 90% of the time, it’s easy to prove that White’s comments are accurate. Take the case of Jon Jones vs. BJJ standout Rashad Evans for example. Evans is a fantastic grappler with numerous submission wins over the years, and he’s a scary and talented competitor. But, for the majority of the fight, Jones was simply outclassing his opponent. At one point, Evans was forced to submit due to pain (which subsequently led to a doctor’s visit and some time off the competition), and it wasn’t until well after the fight that Jones began to assert himself as a serious threat.
There are countless examples just like this one. Take the case of Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin, for example. Lesnar is a former UFC heavyweight champion and one of the biggest stars in the company. He went on to become the CEO of famed wrestling company, WWE, where he’s still actively involved in professional wrestling. Carwin is a former NCAA Division I wrestling champion and one of the greatest competitors ever. He still trains at age 47 and is always a threat whenever he competes.
In the case of these fights, there’s no question that the majority of fans would’ve loved to see an intense rivalry develop between these two. What’s important to note is that despite this, neither man truly cared about each other as competitors. They had simply accepted the fact that they would have to beat each other to become the number one contender in their weight class.
It’s About the Story
There’s also the question of whether or not White’s comments are only directed at casual fans. One would assume that professional fighters, who have to train harder and are more experienced, would care more about the outcome of a fight. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Take the case of Michael Bisparmelio, for example. Bisparmelio is a talented middleweight kickboxer who recently signed with the UFC. He’s fought all over the world, including multiple times in the UFC. He also holds victories over the likes of Yoel Romero and Michael McDonald.
In the opening round of his UFC debut, Bisparmelio faced fellow debutant, Alan Jouban. It was a close fight, and in the end, the fight was stopped due to an accidental eye poke from Bisparmelio. After the fight, both men expressed regret for what happened. But, even still, Bisparmelio didn’t seem too upset about it. In fact, he said, “I didn’t really care who won that fight. I just care about getting better.”
While it would’ve been great to see Bisparmelio continue his winning streak and become a fan favorite, it’s also important to understand why he didn’t. The majority of his fights are competitive (at least, that’s what he claims), but for the most part, they end in a draw. In almost every case where he faces a more experienced fighter, he tends to get the short end of the stick. For whatever reason, Bisparmelio just doesn’t seem to be able to capture the interest of the casual fans, and that’s a tragedy, because he’s really talented.
The UFC’s History
The reason that White’s comments are so interesting is that they shed light on the UFC’s history. Every era of the company is represented by a different voice, and sometimes, these voices aren’t as supportive of fighting as you’d think. Take the case of Matt Hughes, a three-time UFC champion and one of the greatest to ever lace up the gloves. In 2009, Hughes was asked about his thoughts on MMA fighting, and he had this to say:
“I feel that it’s a waste of time. If I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t waste my time training to fight. I’d just go for a run or do some weight training. If I didn’t think I was capable of beating somebody, there’d be no use in me training.”
It’s easy to see how Hughes might’ve had a negative view of the sport. At the time, he was the oldest active competitor in UFC history, and he’d gone 0-2 in his last two fights. Plus, the man just had a taste of his own medicine. Back in 2001, the UFC’s CEO, Ken Norton said:
“I think that in the next few years, the UFC will be looking to retire some of its older fighters. Matt Hughes and Randy Couture are both 33 years old, and I don’t see them competing three or four more times. After that, we’ll have to start looking at younger, more athletic fighters.”
Overall, it’s important to realize that it’s not always easy to gauge the thoughts of the average UFC fan. In many ways, they’re similar to the fans of other major sports leagues—they love their teams, but at the same time, they don’t always like the opposition. In the end, it’s all about perspective, and maybe, one day, White will realize how much he loves to fight and change his tune. Until then, though, his opinion won’t mean much, and that’s a bummer because he’s usually right about a lot of things.