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Make It, Take It: Heart is Awesome

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.


Cagepotato Comments

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P2- June 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm
Well written, if a little superfluous. I agree. Heart is the inspirational part of the sport. Sometimes though, stupidity, inexperience and a stone chin can be mistaken for heart.
I hate watching two sloppy, out-of-shape heavyweights standing in the middle of the ring, sucking air and exchanging slow-motion punches, while the announcers scream "what is keeping these men up?!" What has more weight: the heart a guy shows by fighting through exhaustion and pain, or the insult of showing up out of shape and ill prepared. This is a rare occurrence at the top level, but it does happen. Just a thought.
Tai-Pan- June 17, 2011 at 10:40 am
ccman- June 17, 2011 at 10:08 am
I am somehow really happy i had a concert last night and missed all of this.
monkyspunk- June 17, 2011 at 9:54 am
Damn TR, you been schooled son.
jimbonics- June 17, 2011 at 9:34 am
ReX, you ignorant slut.
Casa de los pantelones- June 17, 2011 at 8:52 am
Heart is what you say about someone to be nice. About someone who is obviously outclassed, but still sticks out a fight or competition on any given level of willingness. When you say or hear, "My heart just isn't in it anymore..." That just means you've lost the interest and the desire is no longer there. To say the least, the expression of someone having heart is well over used. Two fighters of near equal size, skill and strength...there is no heart involved. Does roy nelson have heart because he stuck it out with JDS? Nope. He just didn't want to look like a big fat pussy and quit. Don't confuse heart with someone doing their job and getting paid for it to boot.

At the end of he day, 1985 called and wants there cheesy cliched line back. How bout we get a little more modern, and a little more realistic and just say what we really mean? Did Carwin have heart for continuing? No, did big country have balls for thinking he could actually challenge JDS? Yep.

Find someone who isn't getting paid, doing something out of sheer love or pure willingness in the face of difficulty and that person will have heart.
Fried Taco- June 17, 2011 at 8:48 am
Without heart there would be no Rocky movies.
mmacanada- June 17, 2011 at 8:46 am
@benjic- guida vs Sanchez not heart bro? If that's not I don't know what else is. Can't chalk that bitch up to pure talent. He got knocked off of his feet with a nasty fucking high kick and still ran around like a crazy gorilla and almost stole that fight. Losing 'admirably' for three rounds like Carwin did isn't heart. But what Guida showed, man that was epic.
BenjiC- June 17, 2011 at 8:33 am
Heart to me is the ability to raise your game whilst under immense pressure. In MMA to turn the fight in your favour when you're getting your ass kicked. Examples being Silva in the Sonnen fight, Scott Smith in the Pete Sell fight. In boxing the last (10th) round of the first Corrales / Castillo fight (if anyone hasn't seen that shame on you and search for it on youtube immediately)

When someone responds to getting badly beaten with a higher level of fighting in response - that to me is heart.

The examples given in the article above, and the other daft article earlier, are to me examples of toughness, not heart. So there.
intercept440- June 17, 2011 at 8:03 am
good article rex, fuck you TR ....and the horse that fucked you on the way in
slummy- June 17, 2011 at 7:53 am
I'm all for heart. It is a great attribute to go along with a quality skill set. My problem is seeing fighters take unnecessary damage due to their heart. Case in point, seeing Carwin get beat up for an extra 2 rounds last week. Now I know that's not the best example (there's been a lot more unnecessary damage than that in the past) but it's the most recent in anyones mind. For the last 2 rounds he just backed up and ate whatever jab and hooks JDS decided to throw at him, to the point that his eyebrow was nearly hanging in his eye. The doctor would have done him a favor stopping the fight when the ref called him in.
LOKI- June 17, 2011 at 7:07 am
.....let him ask, again.
Smackdaddiest1- June 17, 2011 at 6:59 am
@noname - You are a moron. Sonnen broke Marquart's will after the first round of taking him down and dominating him. Anderson hung in there for 4 and 3/4 rounds. Difference was Silva's heart and will to win.
Stak40- June 17, 2011 at 6:55 am
Fuck yeah Rex. You still a bitch! Your best yet! You ol captainsaveahoeass! At this rate you'll be hired by some bigger and better sellout MMA Website in not time! If i can get you to get over your mancrush on could have used a pic of the win! Kisses!
KarmaAteMyCat- June 17, 2011 at 6:47 am
TR- June 17, 2011 at 6:45 am
@Rex13 - No hard feelings from me
Dog Dicks Magoo- June 17, 2011 at 6:37 am
*Slow Clap*
ScarTissue- June 17, 2011 at 6:37 am
Thanks Rex, you are the Golden Child and seems the only thing keeping me coming back to CP.

"I ah-wa-ah-wah--waaannt da knife!"
k-onda- June 17, 2011 at 6:29 am
Has TR been banned?
ExpectJesusBro- June 17, 2011 at 6:05 am
I second those debates LOKI
ExpectJesusBro- June 17, 2011 at 6:03 am
Thank you Rex. You have saved CP.
LOKI- June 17, 2011 at 5:59 am
'Its not about how hard you can hit, its about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward!'
'Its not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, its the size of the fight in the dog.'
...other universally accepted axioms.
Solid article, if a little on the nose. Sometimes the self-evident still needs a voice and for that sir I say good-on-ya.
It makes me long for the days(no disrespect intended) of the Ben vs Ben point/counterpoint pseudo debates that used to transpire here. I myself am a contrarian by nature but if there are any MMA related topics ReX and Ben are diametrically apposed to I for one would enjoy a spirited debate now and again.
dirtbag62- June 17, 2011 at 5:45 am
I <3 juiced up, egotistical middle weights ?
ReX13- June 17, 2011 at 5:29 am
^^ Sorry fellas, and no hard feelings from TR, i hope. But FanboyRX13 read the other article last night and got all up in arms. Now he can't hear anything reasonable over the sound of how awesome Sakuraba is.
skeletortoise- June 17, 2011 at 5:20 am
Nut Puncher 9000 understands. There was never an attack on showing heart, there was just an attack on dickheads like me using the word.