Near the end of the ESPN.com live chat of UFC 143 on Saturday, one of our users called Carlos Condit a coward.
Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. To be more precise, the guy called Condit a COWARD, in all caps.
This, of course, happened immediately after the scores were read in Condit’s slim but unanimous decision win over Nick Diaz, awarding him the UFC’s interim welterweight championship and -- if all goes according to plan -- the opportunity to face Georges St. Pierre in a title unification bout later this year.
To say that emotions were running hot would obviously qualify as a tremendous understatement.
I mention this anonymous user’s comment -- which we can only assume was written in a fleeting moment of blind frustration and complete cerebral shutdown -- not to give it any special consideration, but only to underscore how highly charged the Condit-Diaz decision was for nearly everyone involved.
And everyone not involved.
It’s hard to remember another judges’ verdict in a high-profile bout that spurred as many contradictory opinions and such, uh, furor in the days following.
Clearly, it wasn’t the fight many of us expected. We thought we’d get a pier six brawl; instead, we were treated to a tour de force of game planning and strategy. Condit’s gambit revealed itself subtly and though he played Diaz like a fiddle during the final three rounds, their bout was excruciatingly close and extremely difficult to score. When Diaz took his back during the final 81 seconds, it felt like things might still be up for grabs.
They weren’t. Not according to at least two ringside judges, who gave Condit the nod in all but a single round.
Even to the impartial observer, that seemed a little too lopsided. The problem is, you’d have to look pretty far and wide to find anyone who felt impartial about this fight. Like Diaz himself -- so distraught at the outcome he said he’s “done with this MMA” -- many people probably allowed themselves to get too emotionally close to the situation to judge it accurately.
Such is nearly always the case with Diaz who, if he truly does walk away for good, will be remembered as a fighter who inspired strong feelings on both sides of the aisle.
And indeed, maybe the way you scored Condit-Diaz has a lot to do with how you view both fighters and how you see MMA in general. If you prefer a more old school approach -- or possibly a more primal one -- and think of MMA first and foremost as a simple “fight” that pits one man’s spirit and physical toughness against another’s, then you probably believe Diaz’s aggressive, unyielding style won the day.
If you believe MMA aspires to be something more than a schoolyard scuffle, if you see it as a nuanced professional sport in which tactics and brainpower can and should be just as important as pure brawn, then Condit was probably your guy.
Personally, I scored it 48-47 for Condit, awarding him each of the final three rounds as he built more and more momentum, became more effective at stifling Diaz’s offense and exhibited a kind of “Octagon control” that proved more artful and effective than just senselessly pushing forward. Diaz made it tight with his late takedown and submission attempts, but in my book he didn’t come close enough to finishing them to turn the tide in the last moments.
In the live chat, of course, we update our scorecards following every round. After I scored the first two rounds for the former Strikeforce champion, users accused me of unfairly favoring Diaz. After I scored the final three for the former WEC titlist, users accused me of unfairly favoring Condit.
Neither side said it quite so nicely. That was fine. Then somebody accused Condit of being a coward. That was different. That was ugly.
Ultimately, the vehement and varying reactions to the Condit-Diaz decision speak to something both great and terrible about our sport: Everyone is so passionate about MMA that no one believes anyone else could possibly understand it in the same, personal way they do.
I love the enthusiasm. But I could probably do without the name-calling.