Is the principal of sportsmanship fading in this new generation of fighters? The co-main event had a rather questionable response from the crowd when Ronda Rousey refused to shake Miesha Tate’s hand after she extended it upon losing the fight to yet another unbeatable arm bar from the Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
There’s certainly no question that these two athletes have had their fair share of smack talk and obvious distaste for one another leading up to the fight, but when it’s all said and done, regardless of the outcome, there is something to be said for the way in which someone wins a fight and yet even more importantly how someone accepts the victory.
Where is the grace and humility in this new generation of fighters? When did it no longer become necessary or expected that a martial artist exhibit sportsmanship among their colleagues and competitors? When Rousey was asked by Joe Rogan if the immense booing from the audience bothered her, she retorted with a simple “no, I’m used to it…”. Even if there were bitter sentiments for the lack of enthusiasm over her win from the audience a bit of acknowledgement that the fans are what make the sport possible would certainly go a long way towards gaining favor with them.
While these are fighters, as much as it may be denied by many, they are also entertainers. People are entertained by their performances during the fight and even their behavior leading up to and after it. But when does the behavior begin to work against a fighter? We’ve seen how behavior outside of the octagon can erode reputations and even impact training or health. So where should the lines be drawn?
If the sport wishes to become truly mainstream, it is likely important that fighters be considered true athletes and even role models to both aspiring athletes and other young people. While many may say there’s no place for sportsmanship in MMA, there are many who would also say the ability to inspire others is paramount when appearing before tens of millions of fans across the world. One fighter who has always exemplified sportsmanship in the ring and the Octagon is Lyoto Machida. An excellent mixed martial artist in his own right, he has, on a number of occasions, gone so far as expressing compassion for his fellow fighters. Even rushing to their side to see if they were alright after a fight.
Rousey seems to display not only apathy for the reactions of the crowd and her fellow fighters but even a bit of bitter spite that really makes it challenging for some to truly get behind this champion.
By all means, Rousey owes no one any explanation but it might be in her best, long term, interest to shed some light on where all this apparent attitude and negativity comes from. Besides that, perhaps learning to win with grace will propel her from a mere champion, to a veritable hero in the eyes of fans everywhere. She has so much potential to bring in positive change to the sport, it would be a shame if that were squandered on petty rivalries.
Rousey is no doubt an expert martial artist and a damn good fighter. She exemplifies the concept the Bruce Lee described when he famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Even if that arm bar remains her only weapon, so long as it remains better than anything anyone else has to throw at her, she will always be one of the most formidable forces in mixed martial arts.
Now all that remains is a bit of work on the attitude in and outside of the ring. We congratulate you Ronda, we simply ask that you also pay some respect to your opponents as well.
What do you think? Is there a lack of sportsmanship or is this just what is to be expected in the sport of MMA?