TORONTO -- On a fight card with so much philosophical curiosity, the headlining title bout between Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida is a perfect crescendo. In fact, the UFC 140 main event is being billed as “Art Comes Alive,” a play off two distinct aesthetics, each of which carries reports from the outlying areas of the more ancient arts.
What will we be staring at on Saturday night? Only a complicated battle of Ma’ai (spatial distance) that promises to contrast restraint and aggression through lank, lean counterstriking, with plenty of front kicks, spinning elbows, judo throws and flying knees. Machida’s sense of harmony and timing with his circular in and out movements, against Jones’ Zen bouquet of distance striking with flying tassels.
At least that’s what the promo material is telling us. Jones was quick to point out some cruder truths at the UFC 140 prefight news conference. Namely the fact that he’s good with a medley but not great at any one discipline.
“I’m four years into my MMA career, and there’s so much that I don’t know,” he said. “Jiu-jitsu is a whole culture. Taekwondo is a whole culture. Muay Thai is a whole culture. Boxing, the sweet science ... I’m not even close to that yet. There’s so much I don’t know and so much my teammates [at Greg Jackson’s] are way better than me at; I just so happen to be one of the better ones at merging them all together.”
There’s a real chance, too, that somebody gets clubbed early and that’s that. Or that Jones scotches the colorful assortments we’re used to seeing and takes things to the mat, where he can rough up Machida with old-fashioned ground-and-pound. Or that Machida finally breaks through with news on Jones’ chin and claims another casualty via his left hand. The last seems the farthest fetched, since it requires the most imagination.
And that’s the difference between the lead-up to UFC 140 and the other three cards that Jones fought on in 2011 -- that people are beginning to take for granted his dominance. Worse, some are playing at hush words. With the folly of advanced notions, Jones’ invincibility is the subtext.
Fortunately, none of this extends to Jones himself, who has seen people in his rare position fall as quickly as they rose.
“The reason I know I’m not invincible is I know I’ve seen people that do great, and they end up losing,” he said. “I hope that never happens to me. So I stay on the prowl. I’m always working hard. The biggest part is training with Greg Jackson, where I’m surrounded by tons of top fighters from around the world.”
Torres cut a double standard?
It’s been a week of rampant news. If Georges St. Pierre’s ACL tear, the big Chicago news conference and the lead-up to UFC 140 weren’t enough, former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres was abruptly dropped from the UFC for a joke he made in poor taste on his Twitter feed.
His was yet another rape joke in a head-scratching moment of surplus rape jokes.
“If a rape van was called a surprise van, more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them,” he wrote. “Everyone like surprises.”
Torres later told Heavy.com that the joke was a quote from the television show “Workaholics,” but he didn’t wrap it in quotes or provide that context. And even if he did, Dana White said it wouldn’t have mattered, particularly with Torres being the third fighter in recent weeks to make light of something as unfunny as rape in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky allegations.
Wednesday, Rashad Evans told his Jan. 28 opponent, Phil Davis, “I’m gonna put those hands on you worse than that dude did to them kids at Penn State.” And a few weeks back, Forrest Griffin tweeted “rape is the new missionary.” The UFC has been very liberal toward Twitter use and in allowing people to speak their minds without policing etiquette. As such, the fighters have gone about saying what’s on their minds without fear of consequence.
But that stops with Torres.
What was it that made Torres’ worse than these other offenders? Something like a forensic trail back to reason. White explained to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that in the Griffin case, Forrest was channel flipping and saw three stations reporting on different rapes, and -- seeing it in this ubiquitous light -- he tweeted that it was the new missionary. The joke clanked, and Griffin took a lot of heat for his insensitivity.
In the Evans case, White explained that he was trying to get under Davis’ skin. Davis was a wrestler at Penn State, and therefore it was a personal dig from a Michigan State grad (everything else was incidental). With both Evans and Griffin there was a rhyme or reason to their comments, flimsy as they were, whereas with Torres it was just twisted. Even if he was quoting a television show.
Is it fair? No. Cutting Torres for a joke in bad taste while keeping Evans and Griffin for the same offense looks like favoritism and/or selectivism. But even that’s not really the case. It seems the broader reason for Torres getting cut might be something as arbitrary as timing. It’s clear that White made an “enough is enough” example out of Torres on the fly, an action meant to convey that rape jokes won’t be condoned in the UFC. With no policy in place for social media/public decorum, this action will have to double as Wild West reckoning for future offenders.
For now, anyway.
“Bad Boy” or “People’s Champion”?
Tito Ortiz has re-imagined himself as a positive-thinking role model in the twilight of his career, and as such has officially changed his handle from the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” to “The People’s Champ.”
So at the UFC 140 prefight news conference somebody asked Ortiz what that means exactly.
“It’s just keep positive,” he said. “I asked a question on Twitter of all my fans, and I asked them what ‘People’s Champ’ meant to them. And it says someone that’s been a champion that’s giving back to their fans all the time throughout their career. And I’ve done that. I can remember back in UFC 33 out at Mandalay Bay, the first time I put my back to the wall and signed autographs for over seven hours. Every UFC I’ve ever been to, I’ve signed for seven hours each time I go. I’m there for the fans. And when you call yourself a ‘People’s Champ,’ you’ve got to be there for your fans. I’ve been there. And not only that, but just being an inspiration. Just showing with hard work and dedication and determination, you can achieve anything in life.”
Not exactly the heel-type talking that earned him a reputation back in the early UFCs, but the bad boy wasn’t all gone. When one reporter asked at what point he decided to move away from the bad boy character, Ortiz’s response was, “I don’t like you, so I’m not going to answer your question.” In other words, as much as the “People’s Champ” is there for his fans, the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” is lurking behind the sheen for select media.