You might not know this about the CagePotato writing staff, but not a one of us is a UFC-caliber fighter. Sure, Elias lays boots to asses every now and again and Goldstein once slapped Bas Rutten in public and lived to tell the tale, but none of us here at CP have ever had a situation arise where we forced to fight one of our fellow writers for the right to be called “King of the Mountain.” So maybe we’re not the correct sources to come to when discussing whether teammates in a given MMA camp should be more open to fighting one another or not. Then again, none of us (to my knowledge) have ever been busted for steroids before, yet we’re perfectly fine casting our respective opinions toward those who have, so here we go.
This whole “Fighter X won’t fight Teammate Y” nonsense is out of control. Rory MacDonald won’t fight GSP. Cain Velasquez won’t fight Daniel Cormier. Anderson Silva won’t fight anyone who doesn’t wear a kimono and firing range goggles 24/7. It’s getting ridiculous. Simply put, if you are unable to separate your personal life from your professional one in the fight game, then you probably shouldn’t be involved in the fight game. MMA is not a team sport, especially when a title shot and thousands of dollars are on the line.
Thankfully, guys like Dan Henderson are still around — old school, take-on-all-comers-even-if-that-means-fighting-at-heavyweight type guys who would fight their bedridden aunt for the last slice of pizza if she dared call dibs on it first. Ever since Hendo blew out his knee and was passed over for the next light heavyweight title shot by Chael Sonnen, things have been rather tense over at Team Quest, to the point that Hendo recently told FightersOnly that he would no doubt fight Sonnen now that he’s a LHW:
We’re friends, but above all we fight now in the same category and therefore have the same goal. We both compete for the same belt.
Our friendship is more than a title and we are professional enough to let the rivalry be just inside the Octagon. It would be a different situation, but our profession in this type of situation is quite possible to happen.
Hendo, you old dog, you. Only you can take a situation as (apparently) complex as this and simplify it down to a few sentences or less like the Zen master you truly are. Have you met our friend Donald Cerrone, by chance? You guys could probably share a story or two whilst splitting firewood and consuming copious amounts of beef jerky, but that’s beside the point.
And it turns out, Hendo isn’t the only man willing to throw down with his teammates when a title is on the line. We know, right? MMAFighting recently interviewed Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt and pressed him on the same issue in regards to his friend/occasional teammate, welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre. Marquardt was exceptionally candid when giving his response:
Of course, yeah (laughs). Honestly man, anyone of those welterweights on that card, that card is stacked and any one of the three that win, that’s who I want to fight. Obviously, I’d rather not fight Georges. He’s my friend and training partner for a long time now. But, like I said before, I’m not in the position to be turning down fights, so I’d rather not fight him, but I’m not going to turn down any fights.
At this point, it seems like more and more fighters are declaring who they wouldn’t want to fight as soon as they get in a position of power, rather than the other way around. And while it’s usually hilarious when Forrest Griffin does it, from both a fan’s perspective and a business perspective, it’s rather foolish for said fighters to turn down what could be lucrative paydays before the option is even on the table. So kudos to these two for going against the grain, although their performances against Tarec Saffiedine and Lyoto Machida will determine more than anything else whether or not they will have to face off against their teammates down the line.
But please, actual MMA fighters, please fall in line with guys like Hendo and Marquardt. There’s no reason to believe that you and your buddy can’t throw down for 15 to 25 minutes and not walk away friends after. Look at it like a video game if you have to: you sign in, insult each others mothers for a bit, and then storm off in a jealous rage should you lose. But the next day, you’re still willing to call each other friends over shots of Jager, even if one of you did piss on the other’s oriental rug on the way out.