UFC 217 was one of the craziest nights in MMA history with three new champions and some iconic moments that will forever be remembered in the history of the sport.
Georges St-Pierre defeating Michael Bisping, TJ Dillashaw beating Cody Garbrandt and Rose Namajunas upsetting the odds and finishing Joanna Jedrzejczyk were significant not just because the champions were all defeated, but more because all the pre-fight build-up centred around those three belt holders seeing fit to trash-talk their challengers.
Bisping has long been a man who likes to build up a fight and was arguably one of the pioneers of using his mouth to generate interest with the MMA fanbase. On plenty of occasions in the past, his opponents have attempted to strike back with their own attempts of verbal warfare, but the build-up to the fight with St-Pierre featured a one-way tide of insults directed at a man known for being one of the sincerest, most respectful martial artists to grace the UFC Octagon.
To be fair, the Brit’s insults were often kept at a certain level that didn’t cross boundaries and he more often than not bookended his verbal jabs by paying respect to the Canadian fighter and his legacy.
Bisping’s appearance in the post-fight press conference on Saturday night was a display of the real man he is. He was humble, respectful, and grateful to have been able to perform on stage a such as the one in New York and he dedicated everything he’s done to his children who were sat just a few feet in front of him.
The Mancunian’s pre-fight spiel has been going on for years, but the two other champions that lost appeared to be going beyond their usual selves to stake their shine in the spotlight.
Garbrandt’s constant baiting of former teammate TJ Dillashaw peaked during fight week when he released a tape of him knocking Dillashaw down during an old sparring session at Team Alpha Male. Garbrandt claimed he only released the tape to prove Dillashaw was lying, but in truth, he overstepped the unwritten code that most fighters follow, what happens in the training room stays in the training room.
Jedrzejczyk’s pre-fight talk and actions also verged on crossing the line and on multiple occasions she looked to be almost bullying her challenger Namajunas. Saying your opponent isn’t mentally ready to be a champion and constantly saying she isn’t on your level will always invite criticism in the instance of the champion being dethroned, and Jedrzejczyk will sadly have to deal with all of the flak that comes with having such a combative pre-fight attitude.
Despite what she said in the post-fight press conference, Jedrzejczyk’s actions towards Namajunas during fight week were entirely reminiscent of Ronda Rousey’s aggressive actions towards Holly Holm on that unforgettable week in Melbourne that climaxed with Holm all but finishing Rousey’s career with a devastating head-kick knockout.
The Pole may have mirrored some of Rousey’s actions, but her character shone when she turned up to the press-fight press conference and faced the tough questions that came from the media in the immediate aftermath. Rousey never did such a thing and that goes to show that Jedrzejczyk at her core isn’t like Rousey at all. Jedrzejczyk will be back and no doubt she will once again become a world champion.
The lesson to learn on Saturday wasn’t just that the UFC can put on blockbuster fight cards without Conor McGregor and his usual promotional antics. No, it was more that the attention and respect of millions of people can be won by simply just being a good person and showing that you’re a martial artist of the highest calibre.
As Namajunas said after her victory: “This belt don’t mean nothing. Just be nice to each other.” This approach won’t work for all fighters, but this week was a timely reminder that MMA is not pro-wrestling and that ultimately, actions always speak louder than words.