Recently, I was listening to one of the more underrated MMA podcasts, “You’re Welcome” with Chael Sonnen, and, surprise, surprise, the “Bad Guy” from West Linn, Ore., made a great point: refusing a fight is tantamount to bullying.
When a fighter decides to turn down a fight for any reason other than injury or a special circumstance (family death, for example), then what they are essentially saying is, “Given my current skill set, I don’t think I can beat this fighter inside a cage fight.”
On the flipside, when the same fighter that refused a fight prior now accepts a fight, what they are saying now is, “I’m confident in my abilities as an MMA fighter to defeat that opponent on this date.”
I never really looked at picking and choosing fights in this light before, but Sonnen’s explanation makes a lot of sense. Refusing fights is an interesting dynamic that has been increasingly popular the last five years or so.
Careful fight selection has always been involved at some level, but in years past it seems the fighters’ management and representation would take the lead. You would never even hear about a fighter not taking a fight.
The practice of picking and choosing fights has gained more and more steam the last half decade or so. Some fighters, like Colby Covington, have actually used this very technique in the public spotlight to ignore would be suitors, and very effectively. Kamaru Usman comes to mind.
All jokes aside, the more I think about the practice of declining fights, the more I agree with the West Linn badass. If you pick and choose fights, then you are a bully.
The UFC could solve this dilemma in a number of different ways, but the question is whether they even want to. You can’t deny the drawing power of some good smack-talkers.
The protocol the UFC should use for fighters who decline fights could go as such: If a fighter decides that he/she doesn’t want to fight said fighter, and it’s for any other reason other than described above, then the fighter that refuses the fight should drop in rankings substantially as to prevent him/her from getting a title shot any time soon. If the fighter that refuses the fight isn’t ranked, then he/she won’t be getting a title shot soon anyway.
It’s doubtful that the UFC would ever implement a protocol this drastic, but I, for one, don’t like this new era of super-fight holdouts and fighters dodging opponents. It’s time to put this practice to an end.