Rant: Pay Attention!

There’s something that’s been bothering me for awhile now. It really came up during the Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort post-fight commentary and it’s this: When a fighter tells you during the post-fight interview that he was injured, you have to take that into consideration during your analysis.

Vitor Belfort fought a strange fight against Jon Jones, right? He was tentative, he pulled guard a lot… there were things that couldn’t be explained. Until he explained them in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.

Watching that interview, you could tell he couldn’t catch his breath and was probably uncomfortable, if not in a significant amount of pain. And then he told Rogan that he was injured in training and thought he cracked a rib during the fight, more or less. Which totally explained the way he fought.

(Let’s set aside the fact that Jones went from one fighter who injured himself in training camp to another… for now)

If you were to watch the post-fight show and hadn’t seen the fight or the interview, you would think that Belfort was like a cobra, charmed by Jones’ unorthodox movement and unable to do anything offensively. You would wonder why he kept pulling guard when he could’ve been striking. Dominick Cruz sure was.

I don’t know if the pressure to get a broadcast together, hearing people shouting instructions into their earpieces, looking into the bright stage lights meant that they weren’t watching the post-fight interview, so maybe that was it, but watching the Fuel TV analysts break down the fight without this key piece of information made it seem like they were just in another plane of existence: one in which Belfort hadn’t suffered injuries that totally explained his meekness. And, Belfort even explained it again during his post-fight show interview!

It wasn’t just that fight, either. The same thing happened when MMA analysts broke down the Urijah Faber vs. Renan Barao fight. And the Daniel Cormier vs. Josh Barnett fight. And the Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch fight. And the Rampage Jackson vs. Ryan Bader fight. (although it was to a lessor extent during the Jackson-Bader fight. Because Rampage made such a big deal of it, at least they acknowledged that his knee may have had something to do with the loss)

Look, these are all tough guys. You don’t get to the level they’ve achieved without being tough, and fighting through adversity. Training is hard, and injuries happen. But while the fighters themselves hate acknowledging they are injured for fear that they are seen as using it as an excuse for a loss, the truth is, it often explains the reason they took the strategy they did. Without that missing piece, the puzzle doesn’t make sense.

I’ve seen it happen in MMA websites as well, especially with the Jones-Belfort tilt. You can’t say the authors of the post hadn’t had access to the post-fight interview because they were too busy. Or that they just wrote the first thing off the top of their head and couldn’t go back and edit. Look, if you wrote an article saying Belfort pulled guard like the act of pulling guard itself would win him the fight, you simply weren’t paying attention to the entire event.

There was a reason Belfort didn’t attack well when he got inside Jones’ reach. There’s a reason he pulled guard and attempted to use BJJ instead of stand-up. Belfort’s got very fast hands and excellent strikes. He was acting totally out of character by pulling guard. Didn’t that make you question his actions, or are you so sold on the idea of Jones as snake-charmer that it never occurred to you to listen to what Belfort had to say after the fight because you instinctively knew the reason he fought that way?

Maybe it hurts the brand of the UFC to acknowledge that a fight was lopsided because one of the fighters came into The Octagon™ with an injury that prevented him from performing his best, or that he was injured during the fight and that’s a worse story than the other guy was that much better. But that’s reality. It’s what really happened, in many cases, and to ignore it does everyone involved a disservice, eventually.

If I wanted cooked-up storylines I’d watch professional wrestling entertainment.