So”heart of a champion” is just a meaningless phrase? PicProps: Esther Lin
Heart is awesome. Guts are more important to cage fighting than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Balls sell more tickets than Olympic medals. Heart is an intangible, an ethereal quality that fighters seem to either have in abundance, or sorely lack. And while intangibles may offend the sensibilities of those who would analyze fights like they’re backward engineering a damn nuclear centrifuge, it’s that very quality that motivates fans to buy tickets, buy shirts, buy pay per views, buy hotel rooms. It isn’t simply some writer’s trope that we use to fill space; this is an attribute that, however hard to pin down, has a demonstrable effect.
There is something about competition in sports that speaks directly to primal emotions in all of us. Ok, apparently not all of us, but still. Fans tend to be emotional people, and not always rational. So a non-tangible quality like “heart” is important, if for nothing but a fighter’s popularity.
Guys like Ox Wheeler or Leonard Garcia or Scott Smith that seem to just go out there and wing it, wind up getting in a war with some guy and they beat the piss out of one another and everybody in the crowd goes bonkers and throws their hotdogs in the air and the collective cry is a noise like the damn building is yelling–that’s why that happens. And everyone goes home horny and it’s generally a good time had by all. It’s a purely emotional response, and base, and uneducated…and it’s totally valid.
Keep in mind, without those newbs and meatheads who come in droves and fall in love with “sloppy” fights and “gutsy” fighters, there is no growth to the sport. Yes, new fans can be can be annoying, so you’d do well to help them learn, rather than piss on their parade about what a shitty fight that was that they just enjoyed so much.
Note to MMA hipsters: yes, your knowledge of obscure brazilian fight leagues and Russian grappling tourneys is impressive. But it’s not wise to demand that a fan have a certain level of knowledge before they’re allowed to enjoy the sport alongside you. Just sayin’.
If you’ve seen Jared Hess fight, you’ve probably gotten a pretty good look at what heart looks like. Like Shane Carwin, Hess took a pretty nasty beat down, a seventeen-minute session from Hector Lombard in the first Bellator middleweight finals, almost exactly two years ago. Doctors stopped the fight, but Hess never quit. Did he, like Carwin, have very little chance of winning that fight? Yes, very small chance indeed. And heart is what carries a fighter through, holding on to that very small chance.
Heart is what made Hess sign on for another tournament, and another potential shot at the man who had beaten him so thoroughly. Foolhardy? Perhaps, but his resolve is admirable. Hess won his way back to the finals the next season, and faced the Russian hurricane, Alexander Shlemenko. Hess dominated the fight for two rounds. In the third, he continued to dominate, until he landed awkwardly and a everloving cataclysm happened inside his knee. He dislocated pretty much everything from the knee down — and he continued to dominate the fight. It was two minutes later, with Hess close to taking an easy decision win, that the ref noticed that Hess couldn’t stand on his leg because it was no longer functional and called the fight. And Hess had the balls to argue with him. He showed heart.
Heart makes you do awesome things, it just doesn‘t always go the fighter‘s way. Diego Sanchez’s Traveling Slam of Positivity? That came from heart. Anyone can pick a guy up and slam him on his back with enough training. It takes guts to hoist a grown man on your shoulders and jog him back to your corner while you roar like a silverback gorilla. I guess ‘roids could do it, too.
But it didn’t feel like steroids. It felt like Sanchez charged up, communed with some spirits or something, and then carried Paulo Thiago an unnecessary distance before planting him. (See? More of that emotion crap.) Then Sanchez looked like this after BJ Penn got done with him, but he never quit. He never caught too much to just roll over and tap. He took his beating like a man, if you don’t mind that possibly-chauvinistic piece of color. He showed heart.
No, heart is something that you can’t quantify, or test for, or even train for. Statisticians and odds-makers be damned, but fighters will continue to show heart, and hoards of fans will continue to love them for it. Everyone loves an underdog, and fans will still love him when he loses, because he went down swinging. No one is denying the loss, or masking some truth: sometimes fighters are outgunned and overmatched, but he gutted it out anyway. He showed heart.
Heart is awesome. And hating on heart? That’s just some cynical bullshit. Screw that. I’m going to go watch Huerta-Garcia.
PS: Sam Sheridan would like a word with you.