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Do People Really Believe This?

July 18, 2010

I don’t know whether to be embarrassed about what won this week’s Sunday Junkie on or to just shrug it off like I usually do.  Nobody mistakes fight fans for Rhodes Scholars; these aren’t sports fans that populate sites like FanGraphs and THT.  That’s probably why they’re MMA fans in the first place — they’re less interested in technical striking ability and points scoring, and a lot more interesting in seeing cats get knocked out or submit to something that looks really painful.

Still, though, the fact that this entry won The Sunday Junkie means the idea that its author refuted is percolating through the collective mindset of a reasonably large number of fans.  I don’t spend a lot of time in MMA forums, so I’m no authority here, but if there’s anybody who is, it’d be the editors of a popular cagefighting news site that has forums on it.  That means there are a lot of people in the MMA fan base that are, frankly, some of the bluntest knives in the drawer.  Here’s the winning entry, from Jordie “BCJunglist” Hyland:

I find it amusing when people talk about “pound-for-pound best fighters” because it’s increasingly apparent they don’t understand the origin of the term and its purpose. I think some clarification is in order. The term originally was used in the automotive industry, and “lb for lb” meant the weight of the car vs. the “ft-lbs” (or horsepower). The purpose of the term was so that if you have a much heavier car and you want to compare it to a much lighter car, you make a ratio of pounds vs. pounds. This way you don’t have to take away a few hundred pounds from the heavier car or add weight to the lighter car to compare the two. When people use the term in MMA, they quite often will cite that, “This fighter needs to move up to this weight to fight his champ to find out if he’s the pound-for-pound best.” The whole idea of “pound for pound” is that a fighter will never have to move a weight class for you to know where he stands. Even hinting that a fighter needs to fight at a different weight to prove his worth in the pound-for-pound rankings is a silly idea, and people saying this clearly don’t understand the term’s origin.

WTF?  There are people who follow cagefighting closely that don’t know what the phrase “pound-for-pound” means?  That’s.  Just.  Inconceivable.  Of course pound-for-pound arguments are supposed to exist in a vacuum.  The whole point that discussion is that there’s no way to dilate Georges St-Pierre so that he’s exactly the same size, proportionally speaking, as Anderson Silva.  He’d have to change something that makes him so dominant at 170 to compete with Anderson at 185.  That’s why we say “GSP is a better fighter, pound-for-pound, than Anderson Silva” instead of “GSP would beat Anderson Silva if the latter were a welterweight”.  It’s all hypothetical.

Saying someone needs to change weight classes in order to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the fight game is liking saying the New Orleans Saints need to play Alabama in football to see who the best football team is with respect to their peer group.  It’s like saying Magic Johnson needs to suit up and get back on the court so we can finally find out if he or Kobe is the best Laker of all time.  It’s like saying the Yankees need to play the Jacksonville Suns so we can finally find out just who’s number one.  I don’t know what I was expecting of MMA fans when I became one, but it wasn’t fight fans talking about stupid crap like this.  Let’s try to up this discourse a little.

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