(The over/under on how long it will take Chuck to remind Tito of the two times he mercilesssly kicked his ass? Twelve seconds.)
There are a lot of similarities between how I felt when I heard that Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell would coach the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” and how I felt when I found out there was no Santa Claus. In both cases, I was initially flooded with overwhelming grief. How could this be, I wondered. What kind of world are we living in? Just when I thought there was something to believe in – be it the promise that Liddell would bow out gracefully at Dana White’s insistence, or the promise that a fat, seemingly immortal man would invade my home in order to give me a Nintendo for getting good grades – it gets snatched away from me.
Those were dark days. Both times I responded by masking my pain with hard drug use and shoplifting, the latter of which, if you haven’t tried it, is a total rush and much easier to get away with when you’re eight years old. But after I got out of rehab and got my life back together, I came to see the positives in each situation. I started seeing them for what they were, instead of what they weren’t. And you know what I found? There’s ample reason to be grateful for this turn of events.
With the Santa situation, I eventually realized that I didn’t have to be good all the time to get presents from some omniscient being; I just had to not get caught by my parents or other authority figures. That really freed up my social life. With the TUF 11 situation, there are also some silver linings worth taking note of…
No Title Gets Taken Out of Circulation, No Important Rivalry Put on Hold
The worst part about the UFC taking a champion and a challenger – or even just a top contender and his sworn enemy (see: Rashad and “Rampage”) – and thrusting them into opposite coaching roles is that it guarantees that the fight won’t happen for several months. If a champ is involved, the whole top tier of the division basically comes to a halt. Even if there’s no title on the line, there is such a thing as too much build-up. We love to see a little heat to make a fight more interesting, but too much and we drift into pro wrestling territory. Plus, the more time elapses, the greater the chance that something will derail the fight (see again: Rashad and “Rampage”).
The Best Enemies Are Old Enemies
True, Ortiz-Liddell is a rivalry, but not in the same sense as Evans and Jackson. For one thing, they both know how to push one another’s buttons at this point. For another, we’ve already seen them fight twice, so no one is dying to see it a third time. That’s both good and bad. Good because we’re not really missing anything by letting them spend a couple of months building the hate between one another, and bad because the end result will be yet another fight between them. However, with Liddell getting older and slower, Tito might actually have a chance this time.
This Time, More Talking Than Fighting Is Actually a Good Thing
Liddell and Ortiz have both reached the point in their careers where their skills have begun to atrophy and they just aren’t as exciting once that first horn sounds. Before it, however, they still have all the same abilities. Tito can still talk a good/slightly incomprehensible game, and Liddell can still play the role of the laconic bad-ass. In fact, if there’s anyone who can stimulate “The Iceman’s” trash talk muscles, it’s Tito. The fight itself may not turn out to be a barn-burner, but so what? The season can’t be less entertaining than TUF 10, and the coaches can’t be more boring than Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
In other words, it’s something to do that comes at the expense of nothing else we might have wanted to see done. Maybe you can still complain about that, but I’m going to kick back and enjoy it. And probably also complain a little bit.