THE RUKUS PERSPECTIVE- 2013: A TALE OF TWO CITIES
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us” – Charles Dickens
For years, while coaching little league baseball, I would constantly lecture my teams about upholding some sort of professionalism while on the field. There’s nothing more that a kid wants to do when squashing another team than dance around and show off their dominance. At that age (6-15 years old) there are things that will formulate a child’s metal structure regarding sports that will shape them for their entire lives, unconsciously applying it to other areas in their life as they move into adulthood. Showboating or demeaning another team, teammate or player got you on the bench. I did it with one of my own sons, when he was 9, doing cartwheels in the infield because our team was winning by healthy margin, I quietly pulled him from the line up and sat him on the bench for a couple of innings. I was not one of those coaches who allowed their kids to do whatever and get away with it, and he knew. We led by example, if they wanted to play the game, they were going to play it right, and respectfully.
Fast forward to an age where sports and entertainment continuously blurs the lines because of the amount of money involved. People love to be entertained, their belief suspended, super human feats witnessed. The masses love to watch great athletes perform at a supernatural level, as they make it look effortless. The playing field from little league and professional sports are two totally different things. But there is a cautionary tale that is underlying in all of this and it can be applied to every aspect of your life. “One day, you’re gonna cross the wrong person, and all the crap you pulled before won’t work on them. ” Is what my mom used to tell me, of course with a bit more color and more in a New York-style Puerto Rican woman tone (love you, Mom!).
In two of the biggest upsets the UFC has ever seen, we have two fighters, in the same year, each revered as greats for different reasons within their weight classes, one the pound-for-pound best ever, the other groomed to be the next UFC Heavyweight Champ, brought back down to earth in stunning fashion. On paper, both of these mean seemed light years ahead of their competition. In reality, they got caught screwing around.
I wasn’t that long ago, when I remember a smug look on Alistair Overeem’s face at the close of Round 2 of his UFC 156 co-main event against Bigfoot Silva. Silva was not amused, and I remember specifically wondering why Overeem was so blatant with his hands completely by his side. Even when going into a clinch with Bigfoot he would bump chest to chest with him and no even appear to try and engage. I see his look, then Silva’s at the end of the second round, I kinda had an “uh-oh” moment. We’ve seen what Bigfoot is capable of in the past when you wake up a sleeping Giant. Ask Mike Kyle after he dropped him in Round 1 of their Strikforce bout. Ask Fedor, when an almost zombified Silva charged forward and completely steamrolled him. But this was supposed to be different. Overeem was supposed to be the stud who could easily find Bigfoot’s suspect chin. Instead, he continued with the hands down. I had 15-20 people in my house, and when the end of the fight began to unfold, I remember all of us on our feet, screaming at the top of our lungs. I nearly passed out from screaming so loud at that moment. A major upset that would come at the hands of underestimating your opponent…..lesson learned right? Maybe not…
Knowing the skills that you posses within your arsenal and applying them are two completely different things. Maybe Overeem believed the hype. Maybe he thought this was just a tune up fight before he faced Cain Velasquez for the UFC Heavyweight Title. Maybe for Overeem it wasn’t about IF he found that massive jawline of Bigfoot, but when. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t find it. What he found was a screaming giant hovering over him while referee Herb Dean was trying for dear life to keep this monster from devouring his prey…UFC 156- for Alistair Overeem, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Fast forward to UFC 162, the greatest of all time, set to fight a man who’s biggest fight to date wasn’t even on a PPV card. Anderson Silva, set to defend his UFC Middleweight Title against a man who was well known in the MMA world but virtually unknown to everyone else, Chris Weidman. On paper, this didn’t even look as though it would be remotely close. Most pundits pan the “styles make fights” moniker these days. “The Spider” had defended his belt more times than Weidman had professional fights. With Anderson, his “showboating” was always different. Everyone…I repeat…EVERYONE…would be mesmerized by it.. We all expect it, we all know now, he feels a guy out for the first minute of the round, and then begins to engage. And we would wait for that moment…that moment where his opponent would land a head strike….and then the hands go down…almost super human. This is not a situation we view as a man being cocky, but a super hero coming from the matrix. His opponents would be completely thrown off, scared almost. The crowd would stand to its feet. And in almost a Jedi-like fashion, any single move his opponent made thereafter was the wrong one. This is what helped to create the mystique, the awe of watching Anderson Silva go to battle, he could do these things, and psychologically defeat his opponent until they appear to fight in slow motion. Only this time, this 9-0 guy, the one no one really knew…wasn’t phased by anything that Silva did that night.
Silva, ready to do his thing, appeared to be a bit overzealous in his antics this time around. Was it the pressure of to having perform yet again? Highly unlikely. Was he frustrated to be in the cage with someone who felt had not earned the right to be? Maybe so. Was it that Weidman has his number? I would venture to say it’s a little of the last two. During the first round, in customary Silva fashion, we saw the hands down, slipping some of his opponents shots, and then countering with a flurry of combos as he has always done. But this time, Weidman bobbed, weaved and slipped. He was not touched by those combos like so many others have in the past. He was unphased by Silva’s antics. And at the close of Round 1, I had that “uh-oh” moment again. As Round 2 began, it was clear that Anderson was going to continue the horseplay. Again, even in between rounds, mocking Weidman, walking halfway across the cage, urging him to engage. Well that is exactly what happened. One too many head bobs and Weidman would create a shock that rippled through the MMA world, scratch that…throughout the WORLD, as we saw Silva’s head snap from a short left hook, eyes glazed over as he hit the canvas, and a hungry lion going in for the kill. Anderson Silva was defeated in the Octagon. Something the world has never seen, and part of it was his own doing. For The Spider- “we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
The question now is, has the combat sports world learned its lesson? My thought is no….because there will always be that one kid, that will want to bash the other team, that one son who will want to do flips on the baseball field, that one wide receiver that wants to spike the football and give a ceremonious dance. And there will always be one who will taunt another to attempt to get a psychological edge, and attempt to excite the crowd…..the result will be all….or nothing.
*Mikey Rukus is the world leading Fight Music Producer for Customized walkout music and theme music for MMA fighters and companies. His branding strategies have helped hundreds of clients achieve a better success and knowledge within their markets.
*To view Mikey’s full body of work, please visit www.soundclick.com/mikeyrukus
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