In honor of Johnny Walker fight week we ask, what makes an MMA weirdsmobile?

If everything proceeds as expected, this Saturday the man the MMA world knows as Johnny Walker will come dancing to the cage for the UFC Fight Night main event, probably swiveling hips in a lascivious manner as some poor cutman has to try to get him to pause the lap dance moves just long enough to smear Vaseline on his face.

It will be a spectacle. It will be a scene. And all this is before the fight even starts. This is before he flings his gangly limbs at Jamahal Hill in an attempt to render him unconscious. Should he succeed at that task, you just know the ensuing celebration will be its own delicate mess. Don’t forget, this is a man who has actually injured himself while celebrating a victory before. He is not the type to settle for a quiet fist pump and an appreciative glance up at the almighty.

The reason behind all this behavior is actually quite simple: Walker Johnny da Silva Barra Souza is an MMA weirdsmobile. We know this about him. For the most part, we love it. It is a big part of his appeal to the MMA fanbase, because this sport truly loves its weirdsmobiles. It always has. Walker is just the latest in a grand lineage that stretches all the way back to the beginning. It is a sacred truth that as long as there is MMA, there will be weirdsmobiles.

But while it’s easy to know a weirdsmobile when you see one, listing off the key criteria that make a weirdsmobile is actually kind of difficult. Simply being quirky or strange or funny isn’t enough. MMA has tons of those people, but precious few weirdsmobiles. It’s also not enough to have an unconventional fighting style or a penchant for potentially harmful celebrations. That might just make you dumb without making you interesting.

So what are the key ingredients for a true MMA weirdsmobile? Here, let’s take a stab at outlining them.

It’s style and substance, each flowing into one another

A key element of weirdsmobiles is how their fighting styles seem to stem from their personality quirks. This is what separates the weirdos, of which MMA has many, from the weirdsmobiles.

Consider the case of Georges St-Pierre, the former UFC two-division champ and welterweight GOAT. Was he always a bit of a weird dude? Sure. He talked about possible alien abduction scenarios, seemed almost childishly obsessed with dinosaurs. At the same time, his fighting style was entirely rational, even scientific. He exploited opponents’ weaknesses. He fought smart even when it meant being boring. At times he seemed like a fighting robot, which is what made him so successful.

He may have been weird outside the cage, but he was a machine driven by sound logic and extensive research and preparation inside of it. Conclusion: not a weirdsmobile.

On the other hand, consider someone like Yoel Romero. Intensely religious outside the cage, with a love of jaunty hats and light, breathable fabrics. Inside the cage he often fought like a man who had completely forgotten that he was once an Olympic medalist wrestler. Even when it would have been to his advantage to rely on ankle picks and top control, he instead opted for a style dependent on flying knees and sudden bursts of bungalows. He’d point off in one direction to distract you during a fight. He’d knock you out and then try to plant a delicate kiss on your lips right after. Totally bizarre shit, and yet somehow internally consistent. Which brings us to our next criteria.

It’s effortless and natural, and possibly lacking in any sense of self-awareness

The weirdsmobile is not trying to be a weirdsmobile. This is very important. The weirdsmobile may not even know that he is a weirdsmobile, and as such may be baffled by the nature of people’s interest. This is why someone like Sean Strickland will never be an MMA weirdsmobile. He is far too interested in actively and intentionally cultivating that type of sales pitch. Plus, once he gets in the cage he fights much too intelligently, as if for all his talk about wanting to bathe in blood he is at his core a defensively sound fighter who mostly doesn’t want to get hit.

Contrast that with someone like Nick Diaz, who never tried to get us to think of him any certain way and in fact seemed pretty bewildered at times by what it was we all liked about him. Sometimes that confusion gave way to anger. What, we were all just gawking at him like an animal in a zoo? We wanted to know whether he was excited to fight someone in a cage? Fuck no. Who would be excited by that?

While the performative psycho might lean into that perception, Diaz always seemed entirely guileless. If he got punched in the face he’d punch back because he couldn’t not do that. But it didn’t mean that he enjoyed fighting. He just had to make some money and there didn’t seem to be any other way to do it. The fact that we were all looking at him seemed to make him a little embarrassed for us. What kind of people were we that we wanted to see his blood so badly?

He wasn’t trying to be this character. He wasn’t pleading for our attention, and in fact seemed a little uncomfortable with it. This was just who he was, which brings us to our last point on the list.

The weirdsmobile can’t turn it off … ever

Combat sports are filled with people working various gimmicks. Pro wrestling-style heels. Hardworking church boys who just want to compete and do their best. Glowering menaces driven by an urge to do great bodily harm. Fighters often adopt these ready-made personas because they seem easy and reliable, but the mask always slips at some point because it’s more a character than a personality.

The weirdsmobile did not choose this life, however, and therefore cannot choose a different one when it is convenient. A weirdsmobile is a weirdsmobile for life. Just ask someone like Wanderlei Silva, who will probably still be threatening to stomp people’s teeth out when he’s in the nursing home and no one even has any real teeth left to stomp. That’s very different from a try-hard like Colby Covington, who seemed to hope that he could take the character on and off when he felt like heading to the hotel buffet.

This frequently complicates our love of the weirdsmobile, because it so easily drifts from entertaining in the context of the fight world to dangerously criminal in the context of the real world. A prime example of this is Jason “Mayhem” Miller. Here was a true MMA weirdsmobile, a guy who seemed to have been born a spaz but found a constructive way to channel that energy thanks to MMA. Then his MMA career wound down and his behavior became increasingly, disturbingly violent toward the people in his life, resulting in multiple arrests amid an ongoing spiral toward serious incarceration.

It’s the worst-case scenario of the MMA weirdsmobile, and it is not all that uncommon. Look at Charles Bennett, the fighter formerly known as “Krazy Horse.” There’s a guy who brawled with Chute Boxe backstage at a PRIDE event, and also once attacked a training partner with a metal pipe. He’s also been arrested multiple times on battery-related charges, including violence against women.

To be clear, domestic violence does not make someone a weirdsmobile. There are sadly way more domestic abusers in MMA than there are weirdsmobiles, and there are weirdsmobiles who have never, ever been accused of hurting a woman or a partner. But it’s a fact of MMA fandom that sometimes we love a quirky berserker right up until we realize that the same traits we cheered when it led to brawls in a hotel lobby might carry over into their home lives when no one was looking. Then we tend to get uncomfortable with our own role in all this, wondering if we might be complicit by having encouraged this behavior in the past. Then we may try to ignore them and pretend none of it ever happened.

Even when the activity doesn’t spill onto the wrong side of the law, the weirdsmobile is often his own worst enemy. Think about Paulo Costa drinking wine before a title fight, or rolling in way too heavy on fight week. Think about old school guys like Drew Fickett, who had a fight called off when he showed up drunk. Think about Diego Sanchez following his love of unconventional training methods right into the hands of an obvious con man and phony who attached himself to the fighter like a virus late in his career.

The weirdsmobie walks a razor’s edge. The weirdsmobile sometimes appears to have little choice.

And yet, how can MMA, itself a land of misfits, not love these people? We are drawn to them. This little world sometimes seems like it was made just for them. When one leaves we wave a tearful goodbye before turning our attention to the next, newest one. When the last weirdsmobile leaves MMA, may he tear down the cage and turn out the lights. This sport needs them, maybe even more than they need it.

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