I was reminded of something on Sunday night. Not only that I haven’t been to church in decades, but also that it can really hurt to be a fan of a specific fighter. I felt a sense of anger, sadness, and frustration when Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was knocked out by Dan Henderson. I haven’t felt that in years, not since June 26th, 2010, when Fedor Emelianenko suffered his real first loss. That night, I realized it may be better to be a fan of the sport of MMA, and not of individuals. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my favorites, but I try to look at every fight objectively and analytically.
It’s difficult not to put feelings and emotions into a fighter’s performance, because fighting is such an emotional sport. Fighters can’t always win, and don’t compete often. If seeing your favorite guy or gal win makes you happy, and watching them lose makes you sad, you could be in for one hell of a roller-coaster ride.
Being a fan of a fighter is not like being a hockey fan. The Red Wings can lose 15 games in a row and they could still go on a winning streak and make it to the playoffs. No big deal, they have a chance one or two times every week to start over. Not so much in this sport.
If a fighter loses a few in a row, he may have to find a new promotion to fight for, or a new career altogether. So if you place any kind of emotional stake in your favorite fighters winning every time they stare down an opponent, you will be let down quite often. To me, it just doesn’t seem like a wise emotional investment to make. I thought that I had that behind me, but I guess not.
I expected Shogun to win his rematch with Henderson on Sunday, despite the closely contested slugfest they had over two years ago. Dan was coming off of three losses in a row, and I felt Mauricio had the upper hand. He is over a decade younger, is coming off of a knockout win and is a technically superior striker. For two rounds, he nearly proved me right, but seeing him lose the way he did, and in a fight I felt he should have won was devastating.
I suppose I should completely detach myself emotionally from all fights, undeterred by any opinions or preferences I may have. That, or I can let myself enjoy the emotional roller-coaster that goes along with being a fan — let it lift my spirits on the way up, and crash to the bottom as it always does. Ultimately, MMA still has the ability to make me feel, even if those feelings aren’t always pleasant. And that’s not a bad thing, is it?