Fighting is like sex. Everyone thinks they’re experts when 99% don’t have a clue.
I don’t have many pet peeves, but this has got to be one of them.
It really grinds my gears when people who’ve never fought comment on fighting, a subject they know little to nothing about. Particularly when said unsolicited comments are dished out in a patronizing, even disrespectful way.
Stephen A. Smith just did both.
No Bad-Blood Spilled
Conor McGregor vs Cowboy Cerrone (UFC 246) went down last week.
I wrote an article about the fight, predicting that Cowboy would do better against McGregor than anticipated, especially if the fight gets past the second round.
Well, the fight didn’t get past the first minute.
This fight could go one of three ways.
What the fans and UFC brass wishes for comes true. Conor catches the infamously slow-starting Cowboy flush with a left and knocks him out in the first 1 or 2 rounds. Queue the Khabib megafight.
Conor pressured Cowboy from the get-go, hurting him with shoulder strikes in the clinch before stunning the veteran with a left high kick and closing the show with brutal ground and pound.
The Notorious One is back, baby, and it only took 40 seconds.
Conor refrained from pre-fight trash-talking for once, and quipped “there will be blood spilt tomorrow night, but it will not be bad blood.”
After the knockout, Conor complimented his adversary. He then hugged Cowboy’s grandmother, telling her “you raised a great guy.”
It was as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot summer afternoon.
A beautiful knockout, a brand new, less bombastic and more professional Conor McGregor.
I really enjoyed myself— until Smith opened his mouth.
Smith, Please Shut Up
Smith painted Cowboy as a quitter during the post-fight analysis.
His remarks were widely panned by the MMA community.
Chief among them were long-time UFC commentator Joe Rogan and even Conor himself.
Instead of realizing that he was out of his depth, Smith doubled down on his convictions, making an Instagram video saying:
“‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, in his first pay-per-view match, folded. I respect him, but he folded like a cheap tent. Period. Bad night for him. Bad night. That’s all. And I stand by that. And I’m going to still stand by that.”
Now, I understand where Smith is coming from.
He is an ESPN “personality”, whatever that means. His job is to provide drama, to give his two cents, to stir the pot and spark debate among fans.
He is very good at what he does, and the numbers speak for themselves. He has a million-dollar contract, routinely pulls big numbers for ESPN, and has been covering sports like basketball for decades.
And therein lies the issue — fighting is not a traditional sport.
MMA is unarmed, one-on-one combat, with severe ramifications.
And it should be treated as such.
Fighting Is Not A Game
“You’re a reporter of boxing who never fought! You’ve never been a champion, you don’t know our pain, our sweat. You don’t know it’s so fucking lonely…this is the loneliest sport in the world!”
— excerpt from Mike Tyson’s rant at a reporter.
The great boxer Floyd Mayweather once said that he should be considered the greatest athlete in all sports because “if Lebron James has a bad night, he can come back next week and still be Lebron James. If I have a bad night I get knocked out.”
He has a point. Ball sport athletes get the luxury of playing every weekend. If they mess up, they get to try again next week.
Combat sport athletes, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury.
They spend months preparing for their big moment, and if they mess up there are no hi-5’s and exclamations of “tough luck buddy, see you again next week!”
If a fighter messes up, it’s lights out in seconds.
Secondly, a fighter puts so much more on the line compared to, say, a basketball player.
“Losing a fight is so much different than losing a game [in another sport],” Rogan said. “It’s not the same…you’re talking about unbelievable physical consequences.”
— Joe Rogan criticizing Smith
Stephen A. Smith says Cowboy gave up, but the X-rays tell a different story.
Cowboy broke both his nose and his orbital bone in the fight. Conor smashed him, literally broke his face in front of his family and son.
He showed him love and respect afterwards.
That’s because Conor knows whats up. He knows the name of the game is respect, that fighters put their physical and mental health on the line every time they step in the squared circle.
Smith should apologize. The criticism he’s used to spouting commentating other sports will not fly when he’s talking about MMA — and rightfully so.
People who are in the game for decades, people like Rogan, Conor, and many, many more fighters have been steadfast in their criticism of Smith.
I’m adding my name on that list.
Despite his 25 years of sports commentary, Smith has never fought. Never competed. It’s easy to criticize, but it’s hard to create.
Smith needs to keep in mind that his career is built on the backs of the very athletes he’s criticizing. The least he could do is be civil.
Or does the A in Stephen A. Smith mean what I think it means?
Remember, the credit always goes to the man in the arena.
Thanks for reading my story :)