With 2012 slowly coming to a close I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the biggest stories of this past year in MMA. Actually, I thought I would take it a step further, and instead of re-hashing the same old lists that you can probably find across 100,000 or so other websites, I would pick one story that I feel surpasses all others in terms of buzz, news coverage and overall impact on the sport.
2012 was one of the more eventful years in MMA that we’ve seen since the inception of the sport. The steroids controversy continued to rear its ugly head over-and-over, it was announced that we would see the female MMA event in the UFC in 2013, we saw the flyweight division enter the UFC at last, we saw Frankie Edgar finally become exposed for blowing chunks. With these stories, how could I choose just one? It’s actually quite easy when you think about it, and it starts and ends with one word: injuries.
The UFC brass set forth an aggressive fight schedule for 2012. With no less than 30 events in 2012 (averaging 2.5 events per month), there was a lot riding on a happy and healthy roster of fighters. Unfortunately, this did not happen. While many fights were substituted with different match-ups, it often came at the expense of quality.
When you look at some of the fights that should have happened but didn’t, it almost makes my MMA heart sink:
- Big Nog vs. Cheick Kongo: Minotauro was forced to pull out with injury, and we were rewarded with Kongo vs. Shawn Jordan. Boo-urns… boo-urns, indeed.
- Shogun vs. Thiago Silva: This one was destined for fireworks, as both fighters can stand-and-bang or roll on the ground at top levels. Unfortunately, Silva had to pull out. Months down the road, we saw a relatively uneven match-up in Shogun vs. Vera.
- Jose Aldo vs. Erik Koch: Anytime we get to watch Aldo fight we’re in for a treat, and against an aggressive guy like Koch – you knew this fight was going to be memorable. However, when Aldo was forced to pull-out and later Koch the fight was quietly swept under the carpet.
- BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald: While we would eventually be rewarded with a make-up match between these two, this was almost a fight that didn’t happen due to injury, which would have been a shame!
- Rampage vs. Glover Teixeira: This was supposed to be a coming out party to Teixeira and a retirement party for Rampage – in with the new out with the old. Rampage suffered injury unfortunately, and instead Teixeira would instead face Fabio Maldonado – woo hoo (note lack of enthusiasm).
- Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir: In what would have been a great cross-promotional match-up between two of the heavyweight divisions best. Mir unfortunately was forced out of the bout, and no re-match has been announced.
- Dan Henderson vs. Jon Jones: I’m not even going to talk about this one.
- Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo: Cancelled. Ugh. Who knows if it will actually ever happen.
That’s a pretty long list, and it’s not even a fraction of the entire lot. So, why was the injury plague so predominant this year? Will it happen next year? The answer is simple to both questions – and the answer is that this problem lies squarely in the UFC’s court.
Were more fighters injured this year than previous years? Maybe, maybe not – no one can say definitively because it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. With so many events this year (more than any other year previous), the exposure of a weak “quality” fighter roster infrastructure was exposed. In the past, when a big-name fighter has gone down another big-name fighter has easily been able to step in. However, since every big-name fighter was already sitting on the roster for a future card, or had VERY recently just fought, finding a suitable replacement was not as easy or successful.
As a result, we were treated to many a crappy card. When all is said and done, trimming back on the number of events would likely cause for this to be less of an issue in 2013. The sport is fighting – it’s close contact, it’s hard training. Guys are going to get hurt. You can plan without having suitable contingencies in place – especially when a multi-million dollar event could be resting on the shoulders of one man (or woman).
So, that’s where I leave it. I would honestly challenge anyone to disagree that there was a bigger story than this one in 2012. Hopefully, my “Biggest Story of 2013 in MMA” will be at worst – “Jon Jones Approved for Sexual Re-Assignment”.
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