Since UFC 193 is still on everyone’s and will be for quite some time, I thought I’d discuss some surprises that came in the aftermath of the head kick heard round the world. Like everyone else on the planet, I have my opinions about what happened both in and out of the ring to lead to that jaw-dropping moment. But there’s nothing for me to add that hasn’t been said many times and often better. So, what I’d like to talk about is compassion and humility. The UFC is a violent sport that pits two athletes against each other, and at the end of each fight, one person is in one of the best moments of their life, and the other is in one of the worst. MMA fans are notoriously fickle. In this sport, if you’re winning, you’re invincible. If you lose, you were never any good in the first place. This is a tragedy because these athletes are risking their health for our entertainment.
Holly Holm dominated the seemingly invincible Ronda Rousey to win the UFC’s women’s bantamweight championship. Since then, it’s been open season on Ronda. From Donald Trump to Lady Gaga to Cristiane Cyborg to the random internet person, everyone has some dig or insult for Ronda. A lot of people believe she deserves it. I don’t know if anyone deserves that much negativity. The one person that I expected to have a few words for the former champ was Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Ronda hasn’t been silent about Floyd, that’s for sure. Some of her best lines have been at his expense, and she made sure to keep their “feud” alive. It was good publicity for her and the UFC at the expense of an easy target. It would be easy to think that when Ronda lost, Floyd would have seen an opportunity to throw a few zingers her way. Instead, the champ defended her. In an interview he said:
I don’t think it’s cool how everyone is trolling her on social media. Certain things you have to learn. People will love you on Friday and then Sunday morning, […] I’m pretty sure she’s a very, very strong person, but we still have to take into consideration that she has feelings[…]. I think that everything is just a learning experience. In due time, she’ll be able to bounce back and make some noise again in mixed martial arts.
Rather than kick her when she’d down, Floyd exhibited some compassion. By any measure, I think Mayweather is a pretty terrible human being. But these comments earned a little respect from me. It was unexpected and very human. He may not know what the sting of losing feels like, but he does know what it takes to reach the top and stay there. With all of the shots that Ronda’s fired his way, to see him treat her with compassion is shocking, especially given his history with women.
Referee Herb Dean had called an end to the fight. Ronda was struggling to stand, and Holly was running around the ring, celebrating the biggest moment of her mixed martial arts career. In less than two rounds, she reached the pinnacle of her sport. All the hard work, the sacrifice had paid off. She had done the unthinkable and instantly insured her place in MMA history. With one fight, she might have even earned her spot in the UFC Hall of Fame. Her emotions are pure happiness. Then she turns and sees Ronda surrounded by Doctor’s with her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, hugging her. Holly’s antics subside, and she goes over, kneels down to check on her opponent. Some fighters do this; some don’t. Ronda herself famously told Bethe Correia to not cry after Rousey knocked her out. Rousey’s treatment of Holm before the fight was petty. Most likely, Ronda was trying to hype the fight and get herself ready to go. Instead, she looked like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Her actions at the weigh-in were the first crack in her armor. Then, before the fight, Rousey refused to touch gloves with Holm. Touching gloves is a sign of respect amongst fighters; it’s an acknowledgement that what’s about to happen is just business. Throughout all of it, Holm stayed relaxed, focused, and seemed to be having fun. Again, no one would have said anything if Holm continued to celebrate. Many fighters do this, but Holm showed compassion. To me, she looked like she was genuinely concerned about Ronda’s health.
After her hand was raised as the new champion, Holm went over to hug Rousey. The camera didn’t catch what she said, but per a later interview as reported by BJJ Eastern Europe, Holm said:
I told her I appreciate her and the reason why any of us have this opportunity is because she’s been able to come in and make waves. I appreciate that about her and she’s been a good champion.
One could say it’s easy to be magnanimous after a win, but read again what she said. It’s a pretty humble statement to say that Holm had that opportunity because of Ronda. Rousey is without doubt the reason that women’s MMA made the move to the UFC. The UFC had been adamant that women wouldn’t fight for the organization, but Ronda changed all that. The reason that UFC 193 broke as many records as it did – attendance, PPV buys, etc. – was because of Ronda. At the biggest moment of Holly’s career, she had the humility to recognize Ronda’s accomplishments. At a moment when she could have said words of encouragement or platitudes, she chose to be thankful. Yes, the fans were cheering her performance, but it was Ronda that brought those fans there. Her being appreciative shows her character.
I wasn’t terribly interested in UFC 193 before the stunning results, but now I’m addicted to the post fight coverage. The animosity flying around is understandable and even expected. The moments above weren’t as shocking as the fight itself, but the unexpected deepens the experience for me. I have so much respect for the new champ as an athlete, a martial artist, and a person. While most MMA fans seem to prefer the professional wrestling-esque drama, I and others prefer the fighters to act like martial artists. Holly Holm displayed the best of martial arts before, during, and after the fight. She is the new bantamweight queen. Here’s hoping her reign is a long one.