Sunday 18 February 2018

Fergus Ryan: We shouldn’t blame Sage Northcutt or the UFC, we should blame ourselves

Sage Northcutt
Sage Northcutt
Fergus Ryan

Fergus Ryan

Fergus Ryan casts his eye over everything Mixed Martial Arts.

Close your eyes and imagine…

Just for a second… pretend you work in sales in a big company. One day the boss calls you and the rest of the sales team in for a meeting. He introduces the new guy and says he’s a really good seller and is going blow all the targets out of the water.

New Guy looks the part, talks a good game but there’s something about him. He’s really young and when you talk to him you just can’t find any evidence that he has done anything impressive in his career to date.

The worst part is the folks in accounts are saying he’s getting paid a pretty penny. Much more than some of the more seasoned pro’s on the sales team. That’s just not fair. Everyone agrees he’s a nice guy but they’re pretty annoyed he’s walked into the company with no real achievements and he’s getting everything handed to him on a plate. Why?

He gets some small accounts and does OK. It’s more a case of not messing things up rather than setting the world on fire.

The boss then gives him a medium size account to look after but makes it out that he’s minding the crown jewels. In New Guy’s very first sales pitch a technical question comes up early in the pitch and he’s flummoxed.

He tries some of his limited skills to address the issue but gets blown out of the water.

Everybody is talking about it back in the office. The next morning at the sales meeting when you walk into the room you find New Guy is spinning a basketball on his finger while riding a hoverboard telling anyone who’ll listen that ‘the next time will be better’.

That type of scenario doesn’t happen too often in corporate life, but I’m sure it has happened before. It might not always end with a hoverboard and a basketball but I’m sure we know or have heard about the time the boss brought in his son/daughter/nephew/niece/neighbour’s kid and gave him a job above his station.

Martial Arts imitates Life

Sage Northcutt was drafted into the UFC via the ‘Lookin for a Fight’ show and slingshot into the spotlight straight away.

He had a room full of trophies for karate and wrestling he’d won as a kid. He had a meaningless undefeated MMA record and was handed some sacrificial lambs in his first two UFC fights.

There was an outpouring of vitriol on social media when he lost his third fight last weekend.

In the last few days we have seen a rise in the Sage Sympathisers asking us not to blame Northcutt but the UFC for putting him in that position.

I never got on board the Northcutt or Paige VanZant hype trains. Their output simply didn’t match their standing in the UFC. We can now say, with the benefit of hindsight, how they looked had more to do with their standing than how they fought.

I too blamed the UFC after Northcutt crumbled inside Bryan Barberana’s half guard for putting someone so young and so under qualified on a main card so soon.

Having taken the few extra days to reflect… why do we need to blame anybody? Wasn’t everyone just doing their jobs?

Fighters fight. Promoters promote.

Why would Northcutt turn down the offer to make $40,000 just to show up and fight. He would have got another $40,000 had he pulled off the win. A year ago he was fighting for buttons on the regional circuit. No doubt his goal was to get all the way to the UFC. He made it.

Ordinarily fighters know not to say ‘no’ to the UFC. If you say ‘no’ to a UFC fight you may not get asked again.

Time and time again, fighters take short notice fights a long haul flight away and endure a severe weight cut just to the get their shot with the world’s biggest MMA promotion.

Northcutt was offered a fight and a marketing push and more money… Who says ‘no’ to that?

I think we sometimes forget that the UFC is a fight promotion company – key word being ‘promotion’. Even UFC president Dana White has commented that he feels the UFC is more a media company rather than a sporting entity.

We would prefer if everything was handled in an equitable manner but all fighters aren’t created equally. For every Chael Sonnen who put on a fantastic show and talked a great game but never won a championship belt there is a Demetrious Johnson who is a phenomenal champion but not so keen on the marketing side of things.

The UFC have been extremely successful at repackaging MMA into a mainstream sport. It has created stars and story lines to help its case down through the years. Most of the time they work out but sometimes they fall flat.

The promotional weight they put behind Conor McGregor, with the benefit of hindsight makes total sense. We are very familiar with Conor McGregor’s pre-UFC achievements on this side of the Atlantic. However, up to last July before McGregor fought Chad Mendes there was a sizeable portion of US fans and media that believed he was more hype than substance and questioned loudly why the UFC was force feeding us a diet of ‘The Notorious’. Even now after his 13 second blitz of Jose Aldo there a still a few who think Frankie Edgar is going to be the guy to burst the McGregor bubble.

McGregor is a good example of one that worked. The ballad of Sage and Paige didn’t go so well.

Or did it?

We’re still talking about them. Whether they warranted the attention or not we paid attention.

They may even climb back up the totem pole to where they were. Or maybe they won’t. At this stage we’re invested and we’ll be looking out for their fights. Some us will want them to win and some of us will hope that they lose. Regardless, we’re watching.

At the end of the day fighters are going to fight, promoters are going to promote but it’s up to us as fans to be more discerning about what we get invested in.

Don’t blame Northcutt for taking his shot. Don’t blame the UFC for trying to create a story and a star. Maybe we should blame ourselves for getting lost at the circus on the way to the MMA show.

Online Editors

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