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Examining Fight! Magazine’s Inaugural Hall of Fame Class

The July issue of Fight! Magazine (featuring a cover story by a dashing young writer who shall remain nameless) introduces the first four members of the magazine’s newly-created Hall of Fame.  This is great to see, since it gives us an honest, legitimate MMA Hall of Fame instead of the incredibly limited and necessarily biased UFC Hall of Fame.  It’s also voted on by MMA journalists and not event promoters.  You know, like the real Hall of Fames do it.  Also like the real Hall of Fames for baseball and football and sports mascots, you can’t help but look at some of the inductees and wonder whether they could really compete with the talent of today.

For instance, in addition to Kazushi Sakuraba and Bas Rutten, both Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock made the first class of inductees, and for obvious reasons.  Both were pioneers of the sport and helped shape our early concept of what MMA was all about.  

But when you look at someone like Royce Gracie you can’t escape the fact that he mostly earned his spot by submitting a bunch of guys who didn’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch.  That’s not necessarily his fault.  He beat the guys who were around at the time, and that included dudes like Shamrock and Dan Severn, but it also included guys like Art Jimmerson and “The Black Dragon” Ron van Clief.  

Looking at Gracie now is a little like looking at the guys who were the kings of pro baseball back when it was a small, insular world of white guys in floppy caps.  Could they compete against today’s athletes?  Probably not (except maybe Ty Cobb, although he would certainly be locked up for life these days).  Does that mean they don’t deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame?  No.  They still belong, because even if it was a different sport back then, they were still the best at it and that’s all you can really ask for.

Then there’s Shamrock, who’s gone out of his way in recent years to tarnish his own image.  Between positive steroid tests (okay, Royce rode that train as well) and sad, freakish fights that served no purpose at all, and even to his somewhat suspicious exit from the Kimbo Slice fight, it’s hard to defend Shamrock’s reputation.  It brings up the same question other sports Hall of Fames have been battling for years: does character count?

The answer most of them come up with is, only sometimes.  Pete Rose, who is banned for betting on baseball while coaching the Cincinnati Reds, still can’t get into the Hall of Fame.  Other players who were drug addicts and wife beaters and just generally bad people?  Yeah, they’re there.  

So do we give Shamrock a pass on the last four years just because of the first twelve?  Kind of seems like we have to.  Even if a guy insists on embarrassing himself in the twilight of his career by refusing to let go, it doesn’t erase what he did in his prime.  Just ask Brett Favre.  And Rickey Henderson.  And Willie Mays.  And…you get the point.      

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Jay Smith- June 23, 2009 at 6:00 pm
Damn B&B, you know you've made it to the big times when you got men protecting your honor against other men that have something not so positive to say about you. Did they use their teeth???
Best_Blank_Ever- June 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm
A. Truth2Pwr: Who cares how much you make? Throwing that around is the sign of a man with a small penis.
B. So "sportswriters" vote on HOFs in other sports. What makes these HOFs more credible? People like Peter Gammons, Jay Mariotti, and Bob Ryan equal credibility? Give me a break. Just because a newspaper has hired someone to write doesn't mean that they should be deciding who are the greats in a sport. The fact that McGwire has been kept out even though no positive 'roids test of him exists. Joe Jackson has been kept out despite overwhelming evidence he did not cheat.

Sportswriter play favorites and take hollow "moral" stances despite their own questionable behaviors. I'll take B&B any day.
Truth2Pwr- June 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm
Sorry Necrophyte, but witty two-paragraph banter does not equal "credible journalism", and since I make a six-figure income as a professional moto-journalist whose words are read by millions worldwide each month and even translated into foreign languages, I'd say that if I "don't know what the fuck I'm yapping about" as you say, that I've been doing a pretty damn good job of faking it so far.

Again, no disrespect intended (well, actually I guess it sort of is)
AntonG420- June 23, 2009 at 11:42 am
The gi gave Royce some advantage and he actually gi choked a couple guys, but Kimo and some other guys held him by the gi. so its a double edge sword. I mean being able to do a gi choke is not that much of an advantage compared to guys twice his size yankin on his lapel and completely controlling him at times. Look at that Kimo fight, Royce got shit kicked out of him by a much much bigger man and was still able to armbar in the end. That's what constitutes a legend in any sport, like a 4th quarter comeback to win the game, except you are getting hit with big ass bare knuckles. Didnt you guys make a tshirt with your hall of fame with Royce on it?? The family introduced the sport of jiujitsu to US and Rickson basically put together the first UFC. I cant believe someone would even doubt Royce's place in any mma hall of fame.
NECROPHYTE- June 23, 2009 at 11:32 am
@ truth2pwr
Fuck off.
B&B are very credible journalists.
You don't know what the fuck you're yapping about!
Keep your Baloney flaps shut til then jerkoff.
Truth2Pwr- June 23, 2009 at 11:26 am
No disrespect intended B&B (well, actually I guess it sort of is) but maybe when there are actually some true MMA journalists out there, they might consider the viability of annointing themselves as the gatekeepers of a HOF. But right now all I see is bloggers and re-purposed "McSportswriters" with no real knowledge of what the hell they're talking about. You don't need to be a former UFC vet to be legit, but props to Joe should at minimum be out on a mat rolling and sparring on a regular basis. If not, there just isn't any way you could possibly have anything meaningful to share with the class.

The next great MMA sportswriter will be the first one.
Nut Puncher 9000- June 23, 2009 at 11:04 am
I would just like to remind everyone that when Gracie was dominating he was fighting with virtually no restrictions/rules/weight classes. KH's nut pummeling of Jo San anyone?

Also, he was allowed a Gi/dobok, which changes the ability to submit people quite a bit. I think just the addition of wearing a Gi would change the level of success of many modern MMA fighters

And what about weight classes? I have a hard time naming even one of todays fighters fighting at Gracie's weight that I would put into fights against the heavys and still consider them a favorite. Who even stands a chance against Frank Mir/Brock at 170? Anyone? A betting favorite going in? It seems obsurd to even consider.

Bottom Line - Royce Gracie is a legend in MMA that will never again be seen or duplicated. Period.

Kazi- June 23, 2009 at 11:03 am
@ Swedish

UFC isn't a league, it's a promotions company. So the NFL/CFL/XFL comparison doesn't really work. It's like talking about a Don King Hall of Fame vs. a Boxing Hall of Fame.
Swedish- June 23, 2009 at 10:49 am
CP... why don't you go blow YAMMA Titles horn some more??

It's such a great fucking idea and non limited!

Lets go and tell NFL that they their hall of fame is shit as we aren't including CFL or XFL players.
NateGetsIrate- June 23, 2009 at 10:47 am
I think Joe Son should be inducted for the following reasons:
1. If not for his fight with Hackney, the UFC wouldn't have been able to realize why rules are a good thing.
2. Say what you want about Clay Guida's granite chin, but he has nothing on Joe Son's balls of steel.
3. So what if he's in prison for rape... that was something that happened outside the cage. Right? Uh, hello?
Meohfumado- June 23, 2009 at 10:23 am
Can only judge guys based on what they did on the field/court/ice or in the cage. This isn't the Suzy Homemaker Good Citizenship Hall of Fame....its a sports Hall of Fame. What they did in the sport is all that matters. They could have been the biggest douchebags in history in their personal life....that doesn't change the impact they had upon the sport.

C.B.- June 23, 2009 at 10:13 am
The point of a "Hall of Fame" is that you honor the pioneers of the sport, the best of their time. Would MMA be what it is today with Gracie, not by a fucking long shot. Shamrock helped build this sport at a time when there was barely any money to be made. You're damn right he belongs. The old UFC experiment of style clashes made fighters adopt the best of every art and combine them to be the best fighter possible in every situation (Shit, you still see the spinning backfist a lot). That's why it's MMA. Anyone who contributed significantly to that deserves their props, regardless of how far they have fallen. If the pioneers of MMA could beat the atheletes of today, they would not really be pioneers, would they? Nope. Today's fighters train they way they train and fight the way they fight because they had a path laid for them to become better than what already existed. And, hopefully, they'll be doing the same thing for tomorrows fighters. RESPECT.
mayhem- June 23, 2009 at 10:09 am
I am a beliver that you if someone is inlcuded in any sports hall of fame you should not use off the matt, field, court (whatever) issues they might have had. Only judge them by on the (see above) achievments. Since a hall is based on what you did for that sport and not what you did outside of said sport.
MyFightWiffaCheeto- June 23, 2009 at 9:44 am
As for Character, no, it shouldn't. If you went on that, like you said, Ty Cobb would have never been in or Babe Ruth for that matter. The guy was a overindulgent drunk and womanizer... also known as my dream.
Old_Bald_and_Irish- June 23, 2009 at 9:43 am
Based on his pioneering past history, you have to Shammy in the hall of Fame.

It's nice to see Sakuraba and Rutten get some much deserved attention. Both certainly belong in a MMA Hall of Fame.

And Gracie? Come's Royce Gracie! I understand the argument about van Clief and Jimmerson. But Royce came onto the scene and changed the face of combat sports forever.
Titos Head- June 23, 2009 at 9:43 am
Ha HA!
MyFightWiffaCheeto- June 23, 2009 at 9:42 am
Bah... Gracie still fought guys like Saku, Hughes, and Takada... He may have lost some of those, but he still fought some modern day guys.