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James Irvin’s Self-Awareness Is Refreshing, Kind of Sad

(Don’t worry, buddy. We’ll pick you up a pair of oversized sunglasses at the gas station on our way to the after-party, and no one will even notice that thing.)

In the past few years James Irvin has had about as difficult a time as you can experience while still being employed and above ground. His string of untimely injuries and unfortunate mishaps earned him the title of ‘Most Cursed Fighter in MMA History,’ and the last time he was actually healthy enough to limp into the cage he took a beatdown from Anderson Silva and then got suspended for using prescription painkillers. He’s the kind of guy you don’t want to walk down the street with because chances are good that a piano might fall on his head and you’ll end up getting hit with the resulting splinter shrapnel.

But in an interview with on the verge of his return to action at ‘UFC on Versus’ this weekend, Irvin offers a sober assessment of his career and abilities that is so honest and forthright that we don’t know whether to be impressed or really bummed out.

Though he’s recently dropped to middleweight, he freely acknowledges that guys like Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia would probably put a beating on him, calling them both, “way out of my league right now.” And Anderson Silva? Shiiiiieeet. Irvin already knows what he’s about. Going into the fight he says he knew he had “a one in a million chance of beating that guy,” and he isn’t angling for a rematch, either:

Honestly, I don’t think I would ever deserve a rematch with him unless I won ten fights in a row by vicious knockout! He might even be retired by then. I don’t want a rematch with Anderson Silva to be honest.

It’s sincerely refreshing to see this kind of honesty from a pro fighter. Irvin could fight Silva ten more times and all he’d have to show for it is a lot of scar tissue and a bad case of PTSD that acts up whenever people around him make sudden movements, so what’s the harm in admitting that which we already know?

On the other hand, can you be a fighter in the UFC and not have any real desire to fight the champ? How do you keep going through the motions in the gym every day if you realize you’ll only ever rise so high? Obviously not everyone can be the best, but can you still do this for a living if you don’t believe, at least on some level, that you could be the best some day?

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SiDeBuRnZ- March 18, 2010 at 8:44 am
How many people on this forum work for any one of the huge corporate companies knowing they're never going to be CEO?

I don't think you need to aim to rise to the top to take pride in the job you've chosen... Or put in the hours of hard work for that matter.
jizzninja- March 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm
@ armfarmer that was awesome! And irvin is one of my favorite fighters, well when he fights. That superman ko and that flying knee were two of the sickest kos I've ever seen. And I think he could ko nate easily
DazedNConfused- March 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm
Irvin has some real skills when it comes to Muay Thai. Nothing to be ashamed of. He lost me some good money when I bet on the shitty Houston Alexander way back when. That was one of the best knockouts I've ever seen. Goodluck to him in the future. I for one am very happy to see a great standup war with him and Sakara. I look forward to many more exciting fights with guys like Irvin, along with other warriors like Lytle, Wanderlei,etc
budsellers- March 17, 2010 at 3:20 pm
he may have a different attitude now, but he seemed pretty sure that he was going to beat anderson back in july 2008.

click on his tagged link at the bottom of the article and navigate to page 5 to find the embedded msnbc interview video archived here on cp. among other nuggets of pain muffled lunacy that was revealed in that interview, he said "i'm going to beat him in the clinch" "i'm not going to be the guy who gets steamrolled" and "i'm going to shock the world!"

if you click further to page 6 you will read more from him via interview reposted here on cp... "I’m gonna stand there and trade and I’ll take one to give one. In this case I might have to take two to give one." "There’s nothing he can do that I’m afraid of." "I want this guy to know there is a reason we have weight classes."
robthom- March 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm
I cant help but giggle at the prospect of paying 49.95 to watch James Irvin achieve his personal goal of just kinda hanging around.

Maybe he should get even more realistic and go the medium fish/small pond route instead.
Possibly a KOTC or ROTR championship.

Maybe work his way back up to Strikeforce if he really misses the big spotlights bad enough to fight for it.
rearnakedchickenchoke- March 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm
Yeah, I think that's bs. I'm pretty sure Rich Franklin knows he's never going to beat Anderson Silva, yet he puts on great fights against many other good fighters. There are plenty of people in this world with a realistic outlook who can maintain a passion about what they do without delusions of grandeur and it's refreshing to hear it from a fighter once in a while. Whether just self-promotional, mentally talking themselves up, or purely delusional, there are too many fighters who think they even have a shot when they don't, and a healthy outlook at how far they have to go and a path to that goal would be a whole lot more beneficial to them in the long run. So would getting an office job in most cases.
El Guapo- March 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm
Can never fault a guy for being honest. Or realistic. That being said, James "Buzzkill" Irvin does have a nice ring to it..

I kid, I kid. I'd rather have Buzzkill make me teary eyed than have Tito or Chuck make me wanna shoot myself by talking about getting a title shot. Now THAT's some depressing shit!
robthom- March 17, 2010 at 11:18 am
Irvin always seemed like a cool enough guy.
He never talked wild undue shit for no reason like some dudes.

But the flip side of his refreshing honesty as pointed out by the last paragraph is that he sounds like a mope without any ambition.

If he's not even interested in being great, then it seems the most he's hoping for is to slip in a win here and there to stiffle and monkey wrench others guys who might have higher goals.

I dont know, its kinda like with that attitude that watching an Irvin fight is pretty much lose/lose.

If he wins he keeps the gate and squashes somebody else. So we lose a prospect and we're still stuck with James Irvin. Or if he loses, it doesn't really prove much about the prospect except that they dont completely suck, so its kind of a waste of time anyway.

Although on the other hand, there are a few fights that would make sense and be kind of interesting like Irvin/Sakara.
But with all UFC's growth and success shouldn't gate keeper vs. gate keeper squash matches be be left for the minor leagues by now.
youngblood- March 17, 2010 at 11:11 am
"but can you still do this for a living if you don’t believe, at least on some level, that you could be the best some day?"

There are probably at least 30-40 fighters on the roster with the UFC that know, inside they will probably never be the champ. I mean no offense to these guys, but fighters like Lytle, Marcus Davis, Ben Saunders, Most of all of the cast members from TUF that still fight in the UFC. They do it because they love it, the rush of the competition, the emotions, win or lose, training to be the best they can be, not neccasarily (sp?) THE BEST.

Glad to see Irvin acting like a real person and not assuring us he is trying to get back to whatever he was. He must not want to be banned from the CP
cecils_pupils- March 17, 2010 at 10:52 am
Refreshing indeed... but not as refreshing as the smell of your own farts.
Catalyst8487- March 17, 2010 at 10:38 am
I'm with Phattousai. Some people know they will never be the best at what they do, but as long as they continue to get better they are happy with their results. I'll never bang a 10, but if I can go from banging 6s to banging 8s, then I've improved and I'd be happy with that.

I also let my dick do all the goal setting for my life.
DAN THE VIKING- March 17, 2010 at 10:21 am
oh and...
T_Durden- March 17, 2010 at 10:20 am
C'mon CP...I know you guys read the interview (right...?). Irvin's abillity to be so damn honest with where he's at, I think, is a combination of self deprecation which comes from not fighting for a while and more importantly the fact that in the interview he says he just had the best 6 months of his career and life. He clearly feels good about his training and his life so talking about getting handled by the p4p king isn't that big of a deal.

You questioned what his motivation would be if it wasn't to fight the best, and if anyone can successfully continue to fight without that goal, but in the interview Irvin says that his goal is to be top 10. That alone is enough to keep that fire lit, i think. Plus, i picked him in all my pools this time around so he better take care of Sakara
DAN THE VIKING- March 17, 2010 at 10:17 am
Like Bas Rutten says, if your not in this sport to be the best in the world, quit. Because without that drive and determination your only going to get hurt.
ArmFarmer- March 17, 2010 at 10:10 am
If I didn't have any other marketable skills or education I'd definitely be a mediocre fighter in the ufc for 10-20k a fight... it'd pay the bills and you could probably still bang plenty of chicks just on the fact that you're a ufc fighter. I doubt most chicks know the difference between James Irvin and BJ Penn anyway. As you can see when it comes to most of life's tough decisions I let my penis make the call.
Phattousai- March 17, 2010 at 10:01 am
I think that once you realize you can't be the best, there's no shame in continuing what you love as long as you continue the process of becoming better every day. Personal and spiritual fulfillment is not about being the best sometimes, it's about being the best you can be. I see Irvin becoming a gatekeeper for fighters attempting to make a name for themselves.
Viva Hate- March 17, 2010 at 9:28 am
Wow surprising and refreshing, I like Irvin a bit more after reading this maybe it is because he is like the Anti-Tito.