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CagePotato Ban: Bringing Back Your Old Self

(If you see the old Wandy, please call our missing-legend hotline at 1-888-AX-MURDR.) 

“I’ve rededicated myself, I’m completely remotivated. I just need to get back the old Clay — getting them to the ground, going from my strikes to putting them on their back and making them panic in there.”Clay Guida

"This fight you’ll see the old Wanderlei, he never steps back, always forward, forward. This is the real Wanderlei." — Rafael Cordeiro on Wanderlei Silva

"I’m not really worried about who I’m fighting. I’m fighting me right now. I’m fighting against myself, trying to be the old me."Jens Pulver 

"I’m putting [Forrest Griffin] on his back. Back to the old Tito Ortiz, man, my ground and pound where it’s lethal…they’ll be carrying him out on a stretcher."Tito Ortiz


For as long as there have been losing streaks in combat sports, we’ve had to suffer through the creaky cliché of fighters promising to return to their "old" selves. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one gladiator in ancient Rome shuffled off to an epic poet after a loss and said, "Yeah, I might have gotten run through with a javelin in my last fight, but I’ve been training hard and you’re all going to see a return to the old Heropoulos, giving the fans at the Colosseum what they paid to see — me disemboweling Christians with a trident." And for some reason, the sound-bite is being employed more and more these days (see above), which is why we’d like to send it on a one-way ferry ride to Ban Island, where it will hopefully never be heard from again. The reasons are quite simple, really…

It’s a regression. Look, as much as we’d like to see Wanderlei Silva recapture his past glory of soccer-kicking undersized Japanese grapplers to death, returning to a previous version of yourself is not the most effective goal for a professional fighter to pursue. Whenever a veteran fighter starts to encounter some losses, his first reaction is often, "I’d better refocus on doing what used to work so well for me; at the very least, the crowd will appreciate it." The truth seems to be counter-intuitive. Guys like Silva, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, and Mirko Cro Cop would be better served by expanding their games and becoming more complete, modern fighters. (Particularly because they’ve been around so long that their opponents have their "old" versions completely figured out by now.) Remaining competitive in this sport requires constant evolution. Regress, and you might as well retire.

It’s desperate and basically meaningless. When you’re winning, you feel like you’re doing everything right. When you’re losing, everything you do feels wrong. I’m reminded of what Nick Thompson wrote after he lost to Dan Hornbuckle at Sengoku 10 last year: "[I] just felt like I had no idea what I was doing…it was a feeling of helplessness…I am dumbstruck. I don’t know what I could have done differently." Thompson, like many fighters after a loss, seemed to credit the result to his own poor performance, rather than Hornbuckle’s brilliant one. When fighters promise to bring back their old selves after strings of losses, what they’re really looking to resurrect is the old feeling of winning, when everything they did in a fight clicked. It’s a lot easier to say "I just have to bring back the old me" than "I’m getting older, I’m losing a step, and these other guys are getting better as I get worse."

It’s annoying. How many fighters have promised to return to prime form and actually succeeded in doing it? (Vitor Belfort doesn’t count; for all the talk about "the old Vitor," that phrase was never uttered by the Phenom himself.) In the end, it’s an empty promise delivered by rattled fighters who aren’t quite sure how to win anymore. And besides, is the old Tito Ortiz more exciting to you than the new Jon Jones? Is the old Cro Cop more relevant than the new Cain Velasquez? The only way fighters remain interesting to fans is if their current versions win fights right now. Doing a cheap imitation of your younger self usually won’t bring you much more than an ass-kicking.


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Cagepotato Comments

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Thomas- March 6, 2010 at 6:56 am
Well, you'll always hear athletes in any sport, but especially the combat sports, talking about getting back to their winning ways when they're maybe in a bit of a slump. Just the way we're wired. Doesn't necessarily mean they're stuck in the past, stuck being the same fighter, etc... These fighters know what it takes to survive in an adapting game...

But sure, I can see how some might get tired of hearing it from people every once in a while...

As an aside, I think the Jens Pulver quote might've been misused for the purposes of this article. Just my judgment from the quote, but it doesn't look like he was talking about getting back to his old self, rather that he was fighting against old habits?

Anyway, carry on. Love your site.

Thomas @ MMA.BS
mma samurai- March 2, 2010 at 1:54 am
"This fight you’ll see the old Wanderlei, he never steps back, always forward, forward. This is the real Wanderlei." — Rafael Cordeiro on Wanderlei Silva

Last time I checked Wanderlei has always fought like that. The problem is as the article says, every one has figured that out already. Still love watching him fight, I'm just saying...
2phresh- March 2, 2010 at 12:22 am
i'd like to see the old Anderson Silva the one that use to be human....2004 i think
Yeti Stomp- March 1, 2010 at 9:08 pm
CagePotato ban - Tito Ortiz, or anything remotely connected to Tito Ortiz*

*Unless the reference to captain big-head relates to someone else kicking his ass, nobody and I mean NOBODY ever wants to hear about this loser again.

If I wanted to hear about Ortiz, I'd go watch The Wrestler. Which is a movie about the story of Ortiz's miserable life and the way it's going to end.
Yeti Stomp- March 1, 2010 at 9:07 pm
CagePotato ban - Tito Ortiz, or anything remotely connected to Tito Ortiz*

*Unless the reference to captain big-head relates to someone else kicking his ass, nobody and I mean NOBODY ever wants to hear about this 3-time loser again.

If I wanted to hear about Ortiz, I'd go watch The Wrestler. Which is a movie about the story of Ortiz's miserable life and the way it's going to end.
Randy Pan- March 1, 2010 at 6:14 pm
I liked the article a lot. "And besides, is the old Tito Ortiz more exciting to you than the new Jon Jones? Is the old Cro Cop more relevant than the new Cain Velasquez?" That drove the point home well.
Harry Nips- March 1, 2010 at 5:26 pm
Agreed, "get back to the old me" is almost as annoying as "impose my will".
robthom- March 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm
Great article.
Agreed with every word.

And its additionally interesting to me that you've touched on something so basically true but that has never been pointed out by every MMA writer on the scene all these years. In fact most of them usually feed into the old self myth to my recollection.


I'd also like to add that this is not only applicable to MMA but also a life lesson. It can apply to anyone attempting to clone an old glory day.
Bare Grylls- March 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm
man I'm so tired of sh*t articles like this. I want the old cagepotato back, like in the day when it was nonstop laughter funny.
Lysol- March 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm
@ El Guapo:

Randy Couture is an excellent counter-argument to the whole "Getting back to my old self" thing. Modern day Randy, although physically well past his prime, is a much better fighter than the one dimensional Randy we grew up with. It's not that Randy needs to "rediscover his old self", it's that a.) the sport has evolved a lot and b.) he's in his late 40s so what the hell can you expect.
honkey_kong- March 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm
Lysol- March 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm
^^ It was. I think it was implemented specifically when he was running his mouth about starting "Punishment Fight League" and having Strikeforce as a sponsor (Let's ignore the obvious logical fallacy: Why would Strikeforce sponsor a regional rival promotion?).

When Coker denied the rumor, the ban was put into effect "Until Tito did something relevant". Now that he's signed a contract with a promotion and had a fight, he's fair game again.
El Guapo- March 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm
Isn't the new(but way older) Randy Couture better than the old(but younger and prime)Randy Couture??

"Ahhh, grasshoppa, fochune cookie say old mind betta than fresh.." Okay, I'll stop now.
Birdman- March 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm
@ vyapaar

I think the ban on talking about Tito was only until he actually did anything worth mentioning. The ban was put into effect back when Tito was running off at the mouth about signing with virtually everybody. Now that he's settled back in the UFC I think he's fair game for endless ridicule now.
Birdman- March 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm
I often wondered why fighters say this. It would seem that a promise of a new and improved version of ones self would be more fitting.
vyapaar- March 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm
CP --- You did not mention the ban you put on mentioning anything about Tito Ortiz until and unless it was validated or confirmed.
Phattousai- March 1, 2010 at 2:22 pm
Just read the Kimbo - Tyson article for the first time.

"We live in a time that values the cult of celebrity over actual accomplishment, and that we have become so obsessed with fame that we have lost the ability to make qualitative value judgments."

Well said, Ben. Quote of the Millenium.
k-onda- March 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm
I agree with the article, I personally never listen to fighters talk, it's pointless, I watch them fight. This is a sport, not a damn debate. It's nice now and then to get the scoop from the trainers or the team mates, but to hear a fighter try to hype himself up in the midst of a personal crisis, whatever, this aint Dr. whats-his-name.
Get Off Me- March 1, 2010 at 2:10 pm
The old me routine is tired. I vote in favour of the BAN.

Clay Guida has to get old first to get back to his old self......

Tito Ortiz needs to come back to earth from Doucheryville and realize that he has lost all cred since leaving the UFC with a vintage Tito performance against Lyoto Machida(right down to the crying at the end of the fight).

Wanderlai, it's not back to the old wanderlai, it's just an old wanderlai, but I will still pay to watch that guy fight, even if he is begining to ride off into the sunset.

The remedy is what we see the UFC do with Randy Couture, carefully pick opponents that won't expose a fighter and avoid the whole "I need to get back to my old self" thing. Do you think Dana would let Chuck fight anyone other than Tito Ortiz? I mean the old Tito, the super entertaining juggernaut who got ko'd by Chuck twice already.

@mthomas and Richard Tucker
My Fav is Brandon Vera recently saying he has to get back to his old self......
jrout- March 1, 2010 at 2:10 pm
I can see Chuck performing the Bloodsport drunken monkey style.
TheArtof8Limbs- March 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm
Agreed. Nice post BG. It still baffles me why some strikers still know very little about the ground game and vice-versa. But the majority of those fighters will be in Strikeforce in a year or two anyways.
GEE-yuh-TEEN- March 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm
Chuck Liddell should work on a flying armbar with Shinya Aoki for his fight with Tito.
Richard Tucker- March 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Totally. Real champions are only concerned with their future selves.

Also, some of these older fighters seem to miss the fact that their old selves would still get chewed up by the younger guys who are currently on top. Like, a prime Jens Pulver would still get his shit pushed in by Jose Aldo.
Murdock- March 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm
CagePotato Ban: Strikeforce Commentary
mthomas- March 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm
I agree: In a sport where evolution is necessary and essential to sustained success, it seems silly to constantly be chasing your past victories/form/glory. There is a reason you never hear GSP talking about "going back to the old Georges St. Pierre" or Penn wanting to "get back to the old BJ".

That said, I'm sure I'm not the only one here who misses the "old" CagePotato....