WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 4

“All I guarantee is violence.” Wanderlei Silva

"I once caught a fish this big."

“I once caught a fish this big.” Photo via TeamRKS

Wanderlei Silva is/was one of the most beloved fighters in MMA with one of the most dedicated fan bases.  And then he fell victim to the bad guy.  After years of waiting for a showdown with Chael Sonnen (and vice versa), Silva decided he couldn’t wait any longer and jumped the gun… and Chael Sonnen.

It’s not too shocking to imagine that this would happen given Silva’s roots in luta livre and bare-knuckled fighting in Brazil. The guy is a vet who has been fighting before there were rules.  So, when a fighter with the nickname the Axe Murderer says the only thing fans and opponents can count on is violence, it comes off like Jules Winfield quoting the gospel.  It should be no shock then that Wanderlei Silva threw down in an on-set brawl with Chael Sonnen during the taping of Ultimate fighter: Brazil. What ended up surprising everyone was the reaction to the brawl. Fans, Brazilian fans in particular, began to disavow Wanderlei.

Silva blames the reaction on the editing of the TV show for the public’s negative perception of him; however, Silva’s actions, much like his words, speak for themselves. Despite the events of the last few months and the goings-on in the Ultimate Fighter set, Wandy is still a fan favorite among die-hard MMA fans.

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What the impromptu fight showed fans more than anything is that the dichotomy between Silva and Sonnen is so tiny, if you squint hard enough, something comes into clear focus: Silva and Sonnen may as well be brothers from another mother.  For Silva, there may be honor in defending his country’s reputation against the “mean words” used by Sonnen, but his valor is doing double duty and helping to sell their fight.  As for Sonnen, he’s never been shy about the fact that what he does is take advantage of opportunities, and in the case of the on-set tussle, he gets the chance to re-brand himself as the fan-favorite and sell the fight and himself.  It’s no different a tactic than when Wanderlei says things like “All I guarantee is violence.” It sounds “like some coldblooded sh*t to say” to an opponent that sells one’s self and the fight.

Wanderlei may be offended to hear it, and Sonnen will never admit it, but Wanderlei Silva is the original Chael Sonnen.

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WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 3

“Jon Jones! Go Check on Lyoto! Get Some Fans!” —Greg Jackson

Jon Jones is the subject of much criticism here at The Donnybrook Report.  He isn’t very vocal about his opponents to the same degree other fighters who can sell a fight are.  But he doesn’t need to either.  Jon Jones wins. Period.  If only he would allow the wins to speak for themselves.

It’s what he says and does outside of cage that leaves some fans putting their hands on their collective heads.  He espouses his faith, going so far as to wear it on his chest, yet he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. His Instagram account was linked to several homophobic remarks, and he attributed that to his phone being hacked.  And then lost.  He’s arrogant and cocky and quick to taunt fans who may criticize what he says and how he says it.  And then he walks back those taunts.  He’s all at once brilliant and maddening, making him hard to ignore.

It’s also why Jones’s connection to fans is taut and fraught with tension.

Enter Fightmaster Greg Jackson, Jones’ s longtime coach and mentor.

During a fight with fan-favorite Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 in 2011, Jones viciously choked Machida unconscious. Upon releasing the choke, Machida fell to the floor violently, his eyes and mouth wide open as if something deep inside of Machida was escaping his body in the creepiest of ways.  It was like something out of a Hammer Horror film. And as Machida lie on the mat being attended to by John McCarthy, Jones walked away quietly to the opposite corner, brimming with the most silent of confidence.  He didn’t cartwheel or crow.  He simply walked away. It was cold-blooded and classy all at once.

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It was then, that Greg Jackson reached out to Jones, not knowing the mics near the cage were still running hot.  “Jon Jones” he said, “Go check on Lyoto!  Get some fans!

From the outside it was a clear indication that Jon’s own camp is aware of what MMA fans think of the champ.  Or at the least, it was a confirmation that it’s all about appearance for Jones.  Don’t check on Machida because you actually are worried about him.  Check on Machida because the very act could garner some goodwill and you need all the goodwill you can get. Of course it’ a very cynical way to look at things, but given the complexity of Jones’s public persona, it’s not a stretch either.

Jackson later explained that the instructions to the champ were merely shorthand.  And to this day, Jackson and Jones have said nothing critical about Machida, so it’s safe to say that Jackson’s concern was legitimate if not pragmatic.

What makes the quote significant is that it’s clear Jones’s camp is keenly aware of his image. But that’s the problem.  Asking Jones to go get fans is impossible.  You can’t rally them with a cattle prod or with the promise of candy.  The fans have to come to him.  Let Jon Jones be Jon Jones, and in due time, they’ll come in droves.

WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 2

“We’re throwing spinning shit now?”—Nick Diaz

Photo by Esther Lin via SBnation.com

The conclusion of the battle between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit at UFC 143 for the interim welterweight championship drew a line in the sand between both camps’ vocal fan bases.  It was cat people versus dog people, original Star Wars trilogy fans versus prequel Star Wars fans, democrats and republicans. On one side, fight pundits who believed that Diaz’s chasing after Condit and trash talking wasn’t enough for him to earn the win. On the other side, Stockton diehards who decried Condit’s failure to engage in a dog fight was enough to warrant a loss.

Diaz is a goldmine for quotes. He says what he means and (in his mind) he means what he says. However, when Diaz barked at Condit in mid-fight for attempting a spinning back-fist, he added a taunt for the ages.  Hear Condit talk about the taunting here.

Diaz walked through Condit’s spinning back-fist and continued to bait Condit into fighting his fight. The taunt, however, fell on deaf ears within the cage as Condit refused to be trapped. Condit’s attack was calculated and measured, and when he found himself against the cage, he circled back out and took the center, forcing Diaz to engage on Condit’s terms.  Frustrated by Condit’s gameplan and the judges’ decision to award the interim championship to Condit, Diaz announced his retirement in the cage in a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan (luckily for fight fans, he was later coaxed out of retirement).

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For Diaz, the pre-fight trash talk isn’t trash talk. It’s his opinion. It just happens to be a juicy enough molehill of opinion for writers to jump all over and build mountains. Even during the fight, Diaz isn’t trash talking as much as he’s just voicing his own internal narrative.  There is something refreshing about that kind of honesty and non-canned response.  It’s driven by passion, and while you can argue about the timing of taking a verbal jab at one’s opponent in the middle of a fight, Diaz is one of the few competitors who can pull it off.

 

ADDENDUM: This was supposed to have been posted for tomorrow; however, the mighty Mike Chiapetta over on the Fox Sports site used this same example in a wonderful piece over the art of trash-talking. The timing seemed apropos. Go read it now.

MMA Accolades: The Face-Palm D’or Award – Week of May 2nd 2014

When MMA athletes, managers, promoters, journalists, and fans assemble online, inevitably, they all say or do something ridiculous. When they do, we at The Donnybrook Report prefer to poke the bear and not leave well enough alone.  To that end, every Friday, we honor the best of the worst offenders that, consciously or unconsciously, make average MMA fans rub their heads in frustration and exhaustion.  It is the weekly Face-Palm D’or Award. And, without further ado, the best of the worst this week:

2nd Runner Up – Ali Abdel -Aziz

He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore! Maybe.

Earlier this week, World Series of Fighting matchmaker Abdel-Aziz reached out to Ariel Helwani to vent about being taken advantage of by the fighters in his organization.

After having to scrap plans for a Rousimar Palhares vs. Jon Fitch match in July because of Palhares having to pull out of the fight, Abdel -Aziz was on the warpath, saying, “I have to put WSOF first and everyone else second. No more Mr. Nice Guy.” Abdel-Aziz then went to Twitter to further the airing of grievances and mimic a scorned teenager with the most passive of aggressive tweets:

Of course when it later came out that Palhares withdrew from his fight with Fitch to care for his ailing mother, Abdel-Aziz walked back his earlier tweet to clarify he wasn’t really talking about Palhares.  He even tried to sound magnanimous in his well wishes to Palhares and his mother.

This isn’t the first time that Abdel-Aziz has taken to twitter to fight for the virtues of the promotion he represents.  Earlier this year, he engaged a disgruntled Josh Burkman and Vinny Magalhaes online when Burkman asked to be released from his WSOF contract. While Abdel-Aziz’s heart is in the right place, he’s going to continue to lose these fights online until the WSOF gets its communication and PR team to issue a standards and practices guide about dealing with the media and social media as a while.  Bottom line, take a tip from Joe Silva. Avoid Twitter.

1st Runner-Up – Wanderlei Silva

I stopped watching this season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil after the episode of the on-set fight between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva took place.  It wasn’t because of the accusations that the fight was a “work”. Really, I just couldn’t take the Brazilian “celebrities” the production team shoe-horned in as coaching assistants.

Apparently, things aren’t working out nearly as well for Wanderlei Silva as he thought they would when he signed on to do the show.  In fact, this popularity among Brazilian fans has tanked as a result of his actions on the show, which culminated in the on-set fight.  Dave Meltzer captures Wanderlei’s shock in a recent article for MMA Fighting.  Says Silva, “Behind what happened there is the motives and the reason why I was mad that day. Beside the absurd (things) that he has said about all of us, he had been provoking me and disrespecting me. Right on the first episode, he called me stupid. Not at any moment did I go down to his level.”

Actually, Silva went below Sonnen’s level, spitting at Sonnen, attacking him, and allowing his own assistant coach to tee-off on a grounded and exposed Sonnen.  After all of his actions, Silva refiuses to take responsibility and now blames the editing room as the culprit for his sudden lack of likability when if he had simply owned up to the fact that Chael Sonnen sonned him, got under his skin, and he lost control, he probably would have been received with a bit more empathy.

Instead, Chael Sonnen has taken one of the most beloved fighters in MMA history with the strongest of fan bases and turned said fan base against Wanderlei by simply allowing Wanderlei to be himself.  Andy Kaufman and Jerry the King Lawler, eat your heart out.

1st Place & Hand-Palm D’or Winner for May 2, 2014: Jonny Bones Jones

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After his complete domination of Glover Teixeira in Baltimore, Jones was being heralded by fans and journalists as the best to ever put on 4 oz. gloves.  Despite his less-than glowing personality, it seemed that he had finally won over fans resistant to give the champ the love he absolutely needs to have to feel complete.  During the UFC 172 post-fight press conference Jones went on to say, “It was great to have the crowd on my side again. It has been a long time since I’ve had cheers. I figured it would be that way so I said let me really embrace this, let me really give this audience some entertainment.”

Instead of taking the tidings of comfort and joy and goodwill and basking in the afterglow of the earned admiration, Jones decided to be himself.  Since he simply cannot get all of the fans to love him, he focused his attention on those easy targets that loathe him.  Whether it was teasing Phil Davis who suffered a loss on the same night (an act that many would argue was simply Davis’s comeuppance for smack-talking Jones instead of taking his own opponent Anthony Johnson seriously) or whether it was poking fun at former champ Chuck Liddell for taking his friend and training partner’s loss to Jones so personally, Jones wasn’t content to let his work in the cage say “I told you so!” He was ready to hand out metaphorical (and in many cases, justifiable) middle fingers to anyone who dared to question his abilities leading up to his decimation of Teixeria.

And then the cries of cheater came from the peanut gallery.  Jones was accused of intentionally poking his opponent’s eye during the fight.  While his imitation of Moe Howard was simply an accident and a by-product of the hand fighting technique used to measure distance, Jones’s response to the accusations was anything but an accident.  When the complaints and criticisms of his hand fighting technique began to drown out the praise, Jones decided to respond in very Jon Jones-like fashion:

Jon Jones being Jon Jones, he immediately took the video down from his Instagram account, just not fast enough before it started making the rounds.  It’s not unusual to spike the football after getting over on your opponent.  It’s classless, if not entertaining.  But there’s nothing wrong with it.  However, to upload a video poking fun at your detractors and then take it down immediately for fear of the public rebuke just shows a lack of commitment of character.  That and that Malki Kawa should really revoke Jones’s social media privileges.  Who knows? Perhaps his phone was hacked again or it was lost again or whatever pathetic line of spin his management team will issue to try and move past it.  At the end of the day, his team needs to let Jon Jones be Jon Jones. He going to do it any way.  Better for you all to be in front of it than behind it regarding PR. Of course every time he opens his mouth to insert his foot, rest assured that the reactions of fans, those that love him and hate him will be the same.