2007: The Worst Year in MMA History
2007, the Worst Year in MMA History
Upset About Upsets – It’s MMA. Anything can happen. Upsets happen. However, 2007 saw many more upsets than most people would have preferred or even fathomed possible. Everything from seeing Mirko Cro Cop getting executed with his own secret weapon to non-top 10 fighter Gabriel Gonzaga, to seeing the smaller and less accomplished Matt Serra turning UFC welter weight champion Georges St Pierre’s head into a speedbag was outright bizarre. MMA fans learn accept the occasional “WTF moment”, but 2007 saw so many weird outcomes that many began to wonder if the recent growth of the sport had actually caused a tear in the fibers of reality.
A Loss of Pride – No doubt the two biggest MMA organizations in the world last year were the UFC and Pride. In terms of overall quality, many MMA aficionados even felt that Pride was a superior brand. The sudden demise of Pride earlier in the year disappointed a lot of MMA fans. This disappointment was only exacerbated when the UFC (who had purchased Pride’s assets) went back on their decision to resurrect the organization in favor of moving some of the fighters to the UFC and using their old footage for highlight reels.
Un-Natural - Many MMA fans were on the edge of their seats when the universally loved Randy Couture, not only came out of retirement, but won back the heavyweight championship. This excitement however, quickly turned into bewilderment and disappointment as Couture later in the year resigned his title and abruptly quit the UFC. His motivations were vague at best, with him mentioning everything from not getting paid enough, to not getting enough respect, to not getting to fight Fedor, to wanting to spend more time acting based on his upcoming role in a direct to video sequel to ‘The Scorpion King’. Many fans who always believed in Captain American, lost a lot of respect after this sudden and puzzling move. Even if you still side with Couture and his decision to leave the UFC, you at least have to admit that it is pretty disappointing to not be able to see those last two UFC fights he was contracted for.
Death Becomes MMA – It’s inevitable in all contact sports. MMA claimed its first sanctioned death on US soil in late 2007 when Sammy Vasquez passed away after injuries he sustained in an MMA event. It was bound to happen sooner or later given how the sport has grown as of late, yet it is still a great tragedy. Also of note whom passed away this year of non-mma related injuries are IFL fighter Jeremy Williams and Gracie family bad boy Ryan Gracie.
Juice, it’s What’s for Breakfast – In every pro sport, people are going to occasionally get caught doing steroids. Nearly all contact sports have some athletes that just want to add a nice albeit prohibited edge to their game. MMA has had big names test positive in the past (Tim Sylvia, Kimo), but 2007 saw some of the most disheartening instances of illegal substance in the sport’s existence. In a battle for the UFC lightweight title, both Sean Sherk and Hermes Franka failed their post fight urinalysis. It’s one thing when someone obviously juicing fails a test post-bout, but when title defender and challenger both fail their respective tests, then it’s getting pretty ridiculous. In the nineties, Royce Gracie proved that a smaller less built fighter could dominate much larger competition. Size didn’t matter, when fights when to the ground, technique always seemed to trump muscle. Gracie’s legacy and very philosophy was tarnished earlier this year when he scored a boring decision win over long time rival Kazushi Sakuraba only to test positive with an “off the charts” reading of illegal performance enhancing drugs in his system. Gracie disputed the evidence, but refused to seek an appeal citing previous seminar obligations.
‘Roids Okay, Weed BAD – In arguably one of the best fights in MMA history, Nick Diaz dominated Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi with strikes and finished him off with a text-book gogoplata. Before Diaz could celebrate too much, his win was overturned to a no contest, after he tested positive for marijuana. This same year saw Royce Gracie win a boring fight and test positive for steroids, but keep his “W”. Because the sport is still relatively young, different sanctioning bodies have different ideas on how to punish fighters who break the rules. Hopefully we will see some more standardize procedures in the sport’s future, because having a guy get a win taken away for doing a non-performance enhancing drug vs a guy keeping his win despite doing performance enhancing drugs does not seem logical in the overall spectrum of professional mixed martial arts.
Boxed – Boxing and MMA; both combative sports. Ideally, these two pro sports would be able to coexist peacefully, but as boxing has started a slow decline and MMA slowly breaks mainstream, 2007 saw an unwanted rivalry emerge. It’s no secret that MMA is currently taking over the genre of combat sports, so it’s no real surprise that boxing felt the need to lash out at its newfound competition. 2007 saw small things like boxing commentators and historians blasting MMA fighters on air for simply being “thugs” with no real skill, going on to say that an MMA fighter wouldn’t last a minute in with a pro-boxer (never mind that most MMA fighters have boxing trainers and some actually come from a boxing backgrounds). The year also saw more heated boxing vs. MMA moments like when pro boxer Tommy Morrison, in an effort to make a comeback, called out the MMA world and even went so far as to fight and beat MMA fighter John Stover in a questionably sanctioned match. Despite the fact that Stover is only a part time amateur fighter and that the rule set was changed the day of fight to a no kicking and no grappling match (hence negating it from being a MMA contest), Morrison still claimed it as a victory over MMA. In an odd turn of events, boxing poster boy Floyd Mayweather spent the majority of the year publically insulting MMA, only to announce months later that he is considering making the transition to MMA himself. This prospect seems unlikely, though it is curious to see how the boxing community will react now that their best pound for pound fighter claims to be considering jumping ship.
Worth the Wait? – While many fans were shocked to see Matt Serra capture the UFC welterweight title, there was a growing excitement to see Serra fight his nemesis Matt Hughes. UFC fans were thrilled when the fight was signed, but frustrated when the fight date was announced: December 29. Neither Hughes nor Serra would fight at all for a whooping eight and nine months. To help build this epic grudge match, both were rival coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 6. Half the purpose of the show was to act as an added three month long promotional vehicle for Hughes vs. Serra that December. As the show went on, the rivalry grew more heated. Just before the conclusion however, Serra was forced to pull out with a serious back injury. For the first time in recent history, the UFC had to change its main event after already airing TV spots for Hughes vs. Serra. Not only was it frustrating to see a fight that had been actively promoted for eight months straight canceled, but with the severity of Serra’s injury coupled with Hughes hinting at a possible retirement, it is very possible that we may never see one of the most actively marketed fights in MMA history.
TapouT – The TapouT crew have their own show now. If you’ve seen the show, then you know why it belongs on this list. ‘Nuff said.
Unwanted Growths – As the MMA boom takes the world by storm, there is obviously going to be a bunch of organizations wanting to cash in on MMA and its explosive growth. Some new organizations are favorable, though many are questionable. The IFL’s team concept turned off a few fans, though was still met with fairly favorable reviews. The same cannot necessarily be said about a few new MMA projects that were announced this year. In an effort to have their own African American version of The Ultimate Fighter, The Black Entertainment network announced the development of a new network show in which MMA newcomers are coached and trained by hip hop stars and black celebrities to compete in a more striking oriented MMA competition. Another new promotion undergoing development, New Era Fighting, promises to deliver exciting MMA action mixed in with pro-wrestling story lines and drama.
MMA Movies – It’s only expected with every big entertainment boom; film-based projects will soon follow. Throughout 2007, many MMA films underwent development. Movies such as ‘Redbelt’ and ‘Never Submit’ appear to offer a respectable and entertaining look at the world of mixed martial arts. On the other hand, several other MMA films in the works such as ‘Never Back Down’ revolved around a glorified over-the-top look at the sport wrapped around a stereotypical MTV high-school drama scenario. Impressionable teenagers in malls everywhere are just waiting to be force-fed this latest fad.
The Best Goes to Waste – At the beginning of 2007, everyone who knew anything about MMA considered Fedor Emelianeko not only the best heavyweight fighter in the world, but the best pound for pound fighter in the world. As 2007 looked to be the most explosive year in MMA history, the MMA community was eager to see what formidable opponents the unstoppable Russian would face. Names like Jeff Monson, Tim Sylvia, Randy Couture, and Hidehiko Yoshida were being thrown around as potential opponents. After much contractual squabble and on-again off-again agreements, the decorated athlete ended up with just two bouts in 2007. The first took place in a fight that almost no one saw in a promotion that very few cared about against Matt Lindland, who is a whole two weight classes below Fedor. The second was against the inexperienced giant Hong Man Choi, who only had had one professional bout prior to this fight. Despite not actually losing either of the fights, this lack of fighting any real competition has led many MMA journalists to drop the once god-like Emelianeko down on the pound for pound rating systems, and has left MMA fans frustrated for not seeing him involved in any matches against other top ten heavyweights.
Here’s to a good 2008.
Last edited by Nathan McScary; 1/01/2008 2:19am at .
Nice retrospective man. Very well done! This New Era Fighting looks an awful-lot like Thunderbox. Any one remember that?
Knowing is not enough, you must apply...
...Willing is not enough you must do
2008's been pretty straight so far, yeah?
Awesome, this summed everything up excellently.
When you list everything that happened in 2007, you really have to admit that it was a terrible year. Great job on the list, we can only hope 2008 is better.
Pride fan gone bitter, IMO. POS.
The TapouT crew TV show is by far the worst thing to happen in 2007.
It got my vote for the most boring MMA show of the year...
Originally Posted by Ecks
Even the small-card fights that they normally showed were poorly edited and uneventful.
Except for the one where Liddell's bitch-boy was K'dTFO and then cried afterward, that was alright.
Great write up!
How did Royce NOT get his win over-turned?
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