(It’s funny the way a moment can haunt a man. Really funny.)
After the last time we saw Kalib Starnes in the Octagon, running in circles even as Nate Quarry mocked him, I naturally assumed that was it for him. The UFC dropped him almost immediately, as expected, and in my imagination he changed his name and went off to work at a public library somewhere, living in a studio apartment above a pawn shop and eating his microwaved dinners alone each night. Occasionally someone might come into the library and recognize him, asking, ‘Hey, aren’t you that long distance runner guy from the UFC?’ Then Starnes would shake his head and tell them they have him confused for someone else before disappearing to cry in the reference section.
Turns out I’m totally wrong. Starnes is still a pro fighter and he’s even got a fight coming up, against the very respectable “Kolohe” Hose in Hawaii’s Destiny organization. It seems like no matter what he does, though, Starnes will always be remembered for the performance that got him dismissed from the UFC. As he told Sherdog recently, there are still plenty of people who haven’t forgotten:
“People like to be on the side that’s winning, said Starnes. “They’re supportive when you’re winning and critical when you’re losing. I still get some sweet hate mails pretty regularly. There are some gyms with guys who begged me to come in there and train and do seminars before that fight and who wouldn’t return my calls or talk to me afterwards.”
That’s just plain sad. Starnes is right about one thing: people do like to be on the side that’s winning. But even he has got to know that the backlash wasn’t about winning or losing, it was about how he chose to lose and the justification he offered for it afterwards. In case you forgot, he broke his foot early on against Quarry and then opted to avoid fighting for the rest of the bout, explaining that he wasn’t getting paid enough to risk a knockout or more severe injury.
And that’s a perfectly logical argument. For anyone other than a pro fighter, who has agreed in writing to assume exactly that risk for exactly that compensation.
But hearing Starnes talk about being an MMA pariah now makes it hard not to feel at least a little sympathy for him. One bad night and now he’s branded for life. It makes you wonder how it will affect the rest of his career, whatever there will be of it. If he doesn’t come charging out like a bull on crystal meth against Hose, he can probably expect a shower of boos. It’s almost enough to make that fight seem genuinely worth watching.