For the love of Pete, can someone grab 2016 a towel? It’s hemorrhaging crazy moments like blood in a Chris Weidman fight. It’s easy enough to think about how much we’ve gained and lost as a society this year, but in the MMA bubble, it’s almost like we’ve got a completely new, barely recognizable game.
Let’s go over some of thecraziness that erupted onto the scene, shall we? In no particular order, here are some of the crazier incidents of 2016, all rolled up into 1,000 words.
5) Free Agency Now Sits on the Edge of Being Commonplace
Everyone from a noted anti-grappling/punching bag “Meathead” to a legitimate welterweight contender have decided to test the waters of alternative MMA organizations recently, which, as of several years ago would have meant career suicide.
What we have here is the budding seed of a legitimate mainstream sport. Let’s all acknowledge here that the beautiful egg of MMA lives, breathes, and dies by the UFC- but it is nowhere near as fragile as it was circa 2000. From organizations (or, as some may call them: ‘Teams’) vying for individual competitors (See: Player/Athletes) with lucrative, multi-‘game’ contracts along with the emergence of a new fighters union, it really does sound like a league that’s just about to get ready to play on a Sunday night, doesn’t it?
4) Women’s Bantamweight went- uh, ‘Nuts’
I don’t know if any of you heard, but Ronda Rousey lost her belt in 2015 via what ‘Walking Dead’ and MMA crossover fans would call a ‘Neeganing’ (Spoilers!). She’s slated for an arrival this year which, provided no one break any mirrors, walk under ladders or cross paths with some dark-haired felines, should mark a return of any sense to the natural order at 135 pounds.
For better or for worse, in 2016 you’d have a better chance at predicting the women’s champion with a spinning wheel than through deep analysis. As a result it’s probably one of the more entertaining and competitive divisions to be watching at the moment. If it all goes according to plan (Pfft who even bothers anymore?) the belt should change hands three times this year, the equivalent to once every 120 days.
We are a far cry from the grip of world’s most dominant champion.
The fact that we’re now staring down the barrel of a bantamweight division that lacks Tate or Rousey in its ranks is an interesting, albeit slightly terrifying prospect. Where has the consistency gone? Is 2016’s hot-potato treatment of the belt to be the new normal? Are we potentially setting up for a trilogy fight between Tate/Rousey in 2040? The possibilities are now as wide open as the lacerations in a Weidman fight.
Sorry Chris. Big fan, really…We cool?
3) 2016 Was/Is the Return of ‘Freak Show’ Fights
Speaking of picking at the wounds of an aging generation, did anyone catch that Gracie/Shamrock fight? You know, the one that ended in controversy? Maybe you saw it? Royce Gracie was declared the winner and Ken Shamrock was salty about it. REALLY salty about it.
Wait a second… This isn’t 1993? We’re not watching the UFC on VHS anymore? When did all this happen?
Fast forwarding to today, and somehow the sideshow smackdowns are still relevant. 245 pound grappling beast Gabby Garcia setting up to lock horns with 52-year-old Japanese wrestling legend Shinobu Kandori. Despite the age difference between being enough to raise a consenting adult, it looks like this fight is about to happen later this year, regardless of what you’re gasping at right now. Did I mention 2016 also had the return of Brock ‘The (All-Natural) Beast’ Lesnar?
Oh, also pop songstress Demi Lovato recently tweeted about taking a break from the music industry, has been training, and is hunting for an opponent to get in the cage with. Seriously.
I’m fairly certain 2016 was the year us mere mortals unknowingly got the chance to wield some sort of mythical MMA god ‘Monkey Paw’ that gave the fans what they asked for, but twisted versions of we really wanted.
2) Obligatory Conor McGregor Name Drop
One can’t throw a rock at any MMA pundits without at least hearing whispers of this man, can one? Yadda yadda, dude became the first person in UFC history to hold two belts at the same time, yadda yadda, pay-per-view records, yadda yadda.
I’m sorry, it’s just, you know. He’s been covered to death. Allow me this one pass, please?
1) MMA Has Returned to New York
Somehow being segued in via the last paragraph, MMA has made a triumphant return to the mean streets of New York, a place not known for violence or combat sports at all.
Madison Square Garden looks to be the new home of MMA, and it’s been a long time coming. The fact that it’s a location that hugs the borders of Toronto means it’s probably going to be the hotspot for the UFC to hold large events without paying fees at the border in its home turf on the east coast. It’s easy enough to see why this market opening could be a nail in the coffin for Canadian events (We’ve always got Vancouver or Halifax, right?) but at its core New York will provide another great venue for anyone looking to watch adults engage in beautiful violence of the UFC. Oh, the places you’ll go.
Wow, can you believe it? 2016 isn’t even over yet and the landscape resembles nothing of its former self when compared to last year. To quote a semi-famous Keanu Reeves movie:
‘Buckle your seatbelt, Dorothy- ‘cause Kansas is going bye-bye’.
Didja get it? No? That was me trying to be cool by quoting the Matrix. Guess I’m not the only one to think that we’re all somehow still stuck in the 90’s.