MMA fans like to complain. We are perpetually dissatisfied with the product we so frequently consume, it would seem. Whether a card is cancelled or salvaged, we will always find cause for complaint.
This slightly obnoxious trait was on full display when the UFC announced that Stephan Bonnar would take on Anderson Silva at UFC 153, replacing the much-anticipated bout between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar.
Some fans made the baffling suggestion that the card should have simply been cancelled, despite many of those same fans criticising Zuffa’s decision to scrap UFC 151. Dana White and Co. are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, apparently.
More perplexing still is the notion that a fan of mixed martial arts could be disappointed at the prospect of getting a chance to witness its greatest exponent, Anderson Silva, do what he does best—in what is essentially a bonus fight for the pound-for-pound king.
At 37-years-old, the Brazillian is coming to the end of his celebrated career. Opportunities to see him in action are, thus, very much limited. If we’re lucky, he may compete four or five more times before calling it quits.
By stepping in on short notice, “The Spider” is giving us one more opportunity watch him than would otherwise have been the case. As compelling as Aldo vs. Edgar is, how could anyone be disappointed at the prospect of watching the pound-for-pound king put his talents on display?
Granted, Stephan Bonnar would not have been the opponent that most of us would have chosen for Silva. However, we must recognise that the UFC is in a tough spot currently. The Fox deal has forced them to increase the number of events, despite boasting a roster that has been depleted by injuries. Who else could they have offered to Anderson? In reality, Bonnar made as much sense as anyone else.
We all love to watch fights when there is something at stake; we want to see people contend for titles, or fight to bolster their claim to a shot at a title. I feel exactly the same way. I want bouts to have implications that are far-reaching. However, something in me also enjoys a standalone fight that exists purely for the purposes of entertainment.
We each have fond memories of Pride FC and their penchant for booking fights that made absolutely no sense, yet remained fun. I got a kick out of watching Fedor take on Hong-Man Choi or Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp. And let’s not kid ourselves, the UFC have put on the occasional “freakshow”, too. I’m sure you all remember James Toney doing his best Art Jimmerson impression against Randy Couture.
Silva vs. Bonnar is by no means a “freakshow”, but it is a bout that exists purely to entertain. It doesn’t fit into any storylines, nor does it have implications for the middleweight or light heavyweight rankings. It’s like a “very special episode” of a television show that doesn’t fit into the timeline or the show’s story arc. Its existence is independent of everything else.
That is how we should view the main event of UFC 153: a fun fight starring the greatest fighter the sport has ever seen. And you know what? Sometimes that’s OK.