I went to a party a few weeks ago where the headliner was The Iron Sheik.
Yes, the Iron Sheik.
So I believe the attendance at that event gives me a badge of credibility when it comes to talking about the attraction to watching legends of yesteryear perform in today’s high intensity environment.
Allow me to give you a glimpse into my recollection of the evening with the Sheik:
- His boots lacked any curls on their toes. In fact, he appeared to be wearing Sperry topsiders
- There remained a curl in his moustache
- Any hope that I had brought with me about receiving a camel clutch was quickly dissipated as I watched him struggle to get over to greet us
- He claimed to have experienced sexual pleasure from most of my relatives if they suggested they were Hulk Hogan fans. I don’t believe this to be accurate – none of them are true Hogan supporters
- He won a gold medal. He showed me.
I’m not drawing a direct connection between the Iron Sheik today and the MMA veterans we are seeing regularly in the UFC these days, but as I watched Mark Coleman lumber around the octagon at UFC 93 I couldn’t help but think we were all feeling the same way – let the legends be legends and remain retired.
No doubt the lure of the dollars available in today’s UFC vs. a decade ago have everyone from the mid/late 1990’s turning it up a notch at the gym and considering a comeback. Why not – they will draw a crowd, collect a good payday and get to hear the fans one more time while standing in the octagon instead of watching at home or ringside. It’s compelling. But the fights themselves fizzle quickly and you are reminded that you are watching someone in their mid 40’s try to compete in the toughest sport on the planet, against 20 something year olds at the top of their game. It’s just not pretty.
We’re seeing the older legends fall with regularity in the octagon these days. I don’t even want to mention their names here as it only serves to further tarnish their spectacular careers.
From my perspective, I have a great deal of respect for the godfathers of MMA but am now asking them to allow their status as MMA legends to speak for them, instead of their aging fists.