So… it would seem I picked a good week to be in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately — at least for the MMA fan in me, I was there for family matters.
Yes, I was “off the clock” when UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones and his next contender Daniel Cormier came to blows at the UFC 178 media event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas back on Monday.
But maybe I was fortunate after all, as I didn’t see this embarrassing debacle unfold until after the fact. Others weren’t so lucky.
I heard from Heidi Fang, who was covering the event for Fox Sports 670 AM — she was actually struck by a shoe thrown by Cormier in the melee.
So… that’s a real headache for Heidi, but really it’s an embarrassment for all of us.
As Chris Pagliuca reported, UFC commentator Joe Rogan would admit, “This can’t happen… this is really bad for the sport.”
Light Heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson, who took Jones to the limit last year (as a +700 underdog) described the scene as “childish.”
Jones and Cormier, of course, have since apologized (although not to one another) in their subsequent media appearances. Then, they went back to their trash talk.
Jones would remark, “There’s a big difference between a wrestler who has learned how to throw a few punches and kicks and a martial artist.”
Well, no argument there. (Maybe that has never been more obvious.) But then, Jones boasted:
“I embody the spirit of a martial artist, the heart of a martial artist.”
The always-smug Jones was, of course, referring to his always-improving arsenal of techniques. And yes, a martial artist is, indeed, always improving. Many would agree that Jones has developed the more versatile “game” for MMA than Cormier.
But, that’s not the whole story. Not by a long shot. Martial arts — to me anyway — isn’t just a matter of accumulating technique.
A few years ago, I asked a decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist — a black belt for more than 20 years who scored MMA wins in PRIDE’s heyday — if he felt he was learning something new every day. He smiled, “Yeah, I’m a white belt.”
There was the time I heard a fan ask another fighter about Rickson Gracie questioning the validity of his rank in jiu-jitsu. He replied, “That’s no problem. Sometimes I question my black belt.”
Another, a pioneer of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the US, once told me, “Anyone who thinks they’re already ‘there’ hasn’t figured it out yet.”
Each of those guys are actually confident in their abilities — but they stay humble because they never want to stop improving. Like any true martial artist, they know that the only worthwhile opponent is oneself. They live by Miyamoto Musashi’s maxim: “Be victorious over the yourself of yesterday.”
Maybe they don’t always live up to it, and maybe that fight never ends — but they’re trying.
I guess that’s the biggest reason I think Mr. Jones, as great of a fighter as he is, is full of it.
He’s the one saying he’s already “there.”
Sure, he’s a champion. But a martial artist? As we saw this week, he’s got a ways to go.