Professional athletes normally have two goals during their career that can go hand in hand: winning and making the most amount of money as possible. In the world of mixed martial arts, winning may not always be enough when the paying fans are a big part in determining who gets prime placement on cards. Lyoto Machida was once considered a fan favorite for his ability to put fighters out but that has changed in the years that have followed his title run.
At 19-3 and 11-3 during his 14 fight UFC campaign, “The Dragon” has remained in the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division. At UFC 157 he defeated a future Hall of Famer in Dan Henderson by split decision to gain what many believe is a shot at the l205 title once Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones meet in April. Even still, the outcry against Machida’s performance has been a developing story of its own.
Once the bout was over many fans and fighters took to social media outlets to profess their disgust with the way Machida performed in this fight. Messages of “boring” or “horrible” were immediately put forth to describe the way Lyoto moved around the cage while catching the advancing Henderson multiple times in the bout. While Henderson was awarded one of the judge’s scorecards in this fight, it was Machida that was more effective from start to finish.
However, effective doesn’t equate to exciting and the boos could be heard throughout the contest and when Machida was announced the winner. We’ve seen UFC President Dana White come down on fighters for not giving the mainstream fans what they want to see. Machida’s knocked out numerous opponents in high light reel fashion, see Randy Couture, Ryan Bader and Thiago Silva for example – but he still seems to be on the wrong end of complaints and negative feedback when he competes. Instead of standing in the pocket and exchanging blows with one of the hardest hitters in MMA; Machida took the smart approach to winning, but that strategy may cost him the title fight he was competing for.
With the UFC’s new policy of cutting 100 fighters by the end of the year; Machida may have placed himself in a precarious position. If he loses in an upcoming fight or is even dispatched by the champion again in less than dramatic fashion; what would be his worth to the UFC who pays him a hefty salary to fight? If fans are already calling him boring would he still be a draw if not a part of the main event? This isn’t the type of question that Machida, or any fighter for that matter, will want to find themselves on at any point in 2013.
It’s astounding how wins and losses will now be analyzed in every way with the UFC making moves to trim its roster down to a manageable size. Fighters that are booed by fans not for what they say, but for fighting with a style that doesn’t grab eyeballs should be on the alert. Machida is dangerously on the cusp of getting that “we wish you the best in all your future endeavors” email if he loses key contests while not putting on shows the fans will pay to see.