Carlos Condit and Kenny Florian are cerebral fighters that strike creatively, finished fights, and have heart. I’ll often describe them as who I would want to be if I had a fighter’s disposition along with their mental and physical toughness. It’s hard to be a thoughtful person and do what they did/do, so I personally find it doubly impressive, especially given that they were at the highest levels of the sport, and not some local smoker just to stoke their ego. Plus, they’re respectful.
Fortunately Kenny moved on to commentating, being a general voice in the sport. He also manages to have an effective media campaign without being inflammatory, *ahem McGregor* (who I also learn things from).
I was looking forward to a win for Condit at UFC 195 because I was hoping people would be more interested in his approach to striking, which seems to be in line with what I value and enjoy out of martial arts. Honestly, I can see how he lost the decision, especially given the crowd at the bar rambling on about how Lawler was landing the big shots and didn’t seem to understand what Condit was doing, “he keeps on missing.” Uh, I’ve never sparred with Robbie Lawler, but I imagine I’d have a hard time hitting him too, much less hurting him, which Carlos ultimately did.
There’s something so tantalizingly #2 or “second in command” about technical fighters. While they both have no shortage of fans, something about our philistine masses seems to prefer a bruiser to land that puncher’s chance and shut them up (not calling Lawler anything like that, but in relative terms I’d say it’s fair to say Condit was the artist and Lawler the brawler in that fight) Like our national relationship to science, something in us wants to see it humbled because it makes us feel inferior.
Promote their values in the machine
You don’t have to be champion to spread your values and message, but it needs help from the machine, and hence the fans, to make it effective. Many great fighters who are great people don’t talk much, but unfortunately that vacuum gets filled with garbage. I would put forth that in modern life part of being that sports role model that I believe is part of your pay should be is active communication and media, amplified by those with whom it resonates.
Hopefully Condit will continue fighting, but either way, I hope he and fighters like him hopefully can influence to put more art into the fight game. This is a conscious effort to get out of their comfort zone, and the channels and fans can encourage and amplify it.
BTW the media master, Conor McGregor, does have interesting things to say both about training and life floating among the flotsam, and I look forward to hearing his message develop once he passes his target growth and his message can be tempered with fewer antics and analytics, (is he like, the Lady Gaga of MMA?). I genuinely enjoy video of him just having fun and being silly, so I wonder if he can push the positive–he has the belt and I don’t think anyone doubts his will or courage, so besides a rather cynical view of pushing the gate take, I don’t know what more he has to gain from it.
I still cling to an old-fashioned belief that something rooted in what we call ‘martial arts’ should promote its core values, and not automatically bias towards the latest metric that a crushed beer can balanced on a model’s ass by a Vegas pool will trend higher than something meaningful or interesting. We should be pushing the ravenous mob of the Colosseum to the fringe, not embracing it as core.
The advantage of having the strongest brand is you can make these decisions and win. Just take a look at Howard Shultz at Starbucks. I’m sure he loves money, but taking certain stands has only brought him more money. It takes courage, and what more appropriate business than the fight game?
Otherwise, let’s just break out the swords and call it a day.