Forrest Griffin was recently interviewed about his loss to Anderson Silva and his subsequent jog out of the Octagon. Rather than apologize or admit that he had made a mistake, Forrest Griffin said that he felt no reason to stay in the Octagon after the fight. In fact, Forrest said that he would now do that again if and when he loses another fight. Is this the end of sportsmanship in Mixed Martial Arts?
UFC commentator Mike Goldberg often says that one of the things that he loves about MMA is the sportsmanship shown by the fighters after a fight is over. There are some notable exceptions, but for the most part, MMA combatants show a lot of respect for their opponents after the fight, often by embracing their opponents and then crediting them in post-fight interviews.
Think back for a moment to UFC 83 when Georges St. Pierre beat Matt Serra in their rematch. After the fight, Serra was quick to congratulate St. Pierre. Following that, in the post-fight interview, St. Pierre told everyone in the crowd to treat Serra well as they are buddies and might have a drink later.
That moment is just an example of the class and respect shown by MMA fighters. This kind of display has become the standard for MMA competitors. However, not everyone has been so gracious in victory or defeat.
Look back to fights like Mark Coleman’s first bout against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and you’ll see a post-fight pushing contest that nearly resulted in a brawl.
Brock Lesnar’s post-fight antics following his win at UFC 100 are perhaps the most notorious example of a fighter ignoring the standard MMA etiquette . Unfortunately, UFC 100 was a hugely publicized event, and the post-fight antics of Brock Lesnar soured the opinions of many first-time viewers and popular media persons in regards to MMA. Most MMA fans won’t be so turned off by Brock Lesnar’s actions that they will turn away from MMA, but some first-time watchers saw Lesnar’s interview and were instantly turned off by a display that would be much more expected in professional wrestling.
Despite the amount of anger that was created by Lesnar’s antics, they won’t ultimately be harmful to the sport. Some people will be turned off, but there are also a lot of people who enjoyed Lesnar’s antics and took them to be showmanship. Lesnar knows that by playing the role of a villain or heel, he’ll sell tickets. If you’re in MMA or boxing, or pro wrestling, if you can’t be a hero, you better be a villain, because getting any reaction is better than getting know reaction.
Forrest Griffin’s actions, though, are a little bit different. Running out of the Octagon, and acting like an apparent “sore loser” won’t sell any tickets for the UFC.
Technically, the traditional post-fight rituals he broke were only part of an unwritten code of traditions, not something contractually oblicated by the UFC. He wasn’t legally obligated to stand there any wait for the decision to be read.
Despite no written rule forbidding poor sportsmanship, Forrest should know better. He’s stated that he does not want to be a role model, but as a public figure, he is one whether he wants to be one or not. Actually, that’s not completely true. He could choose to step out of the public eye, and then he won’t need to be a role model any more.
As it stands, public figures have a responsibility to set a good example, just like private citizens have a responsibility to act according to the unwritten codes of society. Forrest should know this as a reader of philosophy.
Is sportsmanship in MMA dead? I think not. Rather, just like in any other sport, there will be people who are good sports, and there are people who are bad sports. Think back to when Lebron James said that “shaking hands is for losers.”
Another change in MMA fighters is that they are now starting to be less accessible. BJ Penn and Brock Lesnar are two fighters who have become known for being difficult to reach for comments or interviews. This is in stark contrast to the old image of the UFC with Dana White proclaiming that unlike in baseball or basketball, at UFC fights, fans get a chance to meet and talk with the athletes.
In his recent interview, Forrest refused to be a good interviewee, and answered few of the interviewer’s questions.
In some ways this is a negative, but if MMA stars are starting to act like basketball stars, maybe this is just a sign that MMA is finally hitting the mainstream. MMA athletes are becoming just like the stars of other professional sports.
By Darren Wong for FightMania.com