It has been the annoyance of Dana White – and fans – for quite some time: friends refusing to fight each other. Whether it’s Rory McDonald balking at taking on GSP (for now) or Renan Barão staying at bantamweight while his teammate Jose Aldo is champ at featherweight, friendships potentially keep some great fights on the back burner.
Notable exceptions have occurred, though; Randy Couture’s five-round beating of Tim Sylvia at UFC 68 or Mark Muñoz against Aaron Simpson come to mind. Bellator 89 just saw Eduardo Dantas defend his 135lb title at against Nova União teammate Marcos Galvão, breaking down in the cage after a dramatic second round KO. Friendships, however, can be more damaged than the fighters’ bodies, as seems the case with Dantas/Galvão and the more well-known case of Jon Jones’ fallout with Rashad Evans.
Wrestlers seem to have a better emotional grasp on where sport and life depart from each other. Whether it’s Couture, Sonnen or Henderson, they all have said they’ll fight anyone put in front of them, and as Briggs Seekins said last year at the Bleacher Report:
“Being able to beat the crap out of somebody without being mad enough to take it personally is a skill all by itself. Being able to beat up a guy you are friends with just because that is what you are doing today takes a certain mindset. Beyond the obvious skills that a wrestling background provides an MMA competitor, these intangibles are crucial.”
Of course, there are always cases on the other side you can point to, like Fitch and Koscheck. With the popularity of MMA growing all over the world, the influx of more fighters is only going to grow this issue. In order to get the best fighting the best at the peak of their careers, fighters are going to have to add “fight professionalism” to their list of skills to acquire.