Get a look at Stephen A. Smith’s face. That dull stare. The slow, heavy blinks. He’s stuck in the middle of this split-screen with a shirtless Colby Covington on one side and a bleeptastic Jorge Masvidal on the other and clearly this man is suffering. But then, aren’t we all?
We always knew the absolute worst part about Masvidal vs. Covington in the UFC 272 main event would be their attempts to sell it to us, which in this particular instance means constantly shouting over one another while Stephen A. goes from trying to moderate to simply trying not to lose his will to live. Such is the inevitable outcome of this bad blood headliner between two fighters who are now deeply invested in living their own gimmicks as loudly and obnoxiously as possible.
You book these two for the main event, ask them to carry an entire fight card now that they’ve both fallen out of title contention after two losses each against the division’s champ, and this is pretty much what you get. Two guys shouting at each other about who the bigger piece of shit is, all while the ESPN TV personality looks at us like, ‘I should have called in sick today.’
Maybe it’s the current state of the sport. Maybe it’s the current state of the world. But something about the ol’ reliable THESE TWO REALY HATE EACH OTHER! sales pitch feels like it’s falling flat this time around, which is ironic because this actually does seem like one of the more genuinely organic interpersonal MMA beefs in recent memory.
Think about it. Two fighters who became friends and training partners when they were both young in the game. As their careers grew, so did their knowledge of and gradual contempt for one another, probably not coincidentally. They hit a real schism once the money got big (well, big by MMA standards) and one guy decided that their shared coach didn’t deserve his agreed upon cut of the fight purse. Or, if you believe the other guy, maybe the split was because the money was never as big as other people thought it was. Oh and also they were jealous of his success. (Sorry, had to stifle a hearty guffaw just now.)
Point is, this is an extremely MMA feud to even be having in the first place. It is the type of shit that actually happens in MMA gyms all the time, even if it usually doesn’t get talked about so publicly or mined for its fight hype potential.
You know how many MMA coaches have been stiffed on their cut of the purse by at least one of their fighters at some point or another? Fucking all of them. It’s what happens when you operate on handshake deals in a sport where there’s never enough money to go around. Every coach out there has a story or two about the fighter who agreed to give him a certain percentage in exchange for the amorphous yet damn near constant work of getting him ready for a fight, only to decide once the fight was over and the money was in hand that, wellll, actualllly, maybe coach didn’t do enough to get paid his share.
And you know how many training partners were bros for life until they really got to know each other? Fucking many of them. We like to get worked up about these rivalries between fighters who traded words backstage at event once, or started chirping at each other in Instagram comments before they ever met, but that kind of hate is nothing compared to the hate of someone who actually knows you. And sure, as your careers advance at different rates there are also those simmering resentments over the media or the promoter giving the other guy more attention and respect than he deserves. You add in the memory of all those times he made himself some egg whites and then left the pan in the sink to “soak” for two days and suddenly you have yourself a volatile goddamn mixture.
In other words, what we have here seems to be a bad blood fight that was formed by the organic upheaveals and erosive forces of the MMA world and is now being sold to the MMA world. Yet somehow it still feels … tiresome.
Is it that we’re just sick of these two specific dudes, both of whom have been on the same exact bullshit for a few years now? Is it that MMA promoters and fighters have cried wolf on these kinds of rivalry narratives for so long that we don’t want to buy in only to hear “it was all just to sell the fight” once the money has been paid?
Or maybe it’s just that, no matter how genuine the underlying animosity may be, we all feel a little like Stephen A. right now, grimly waiting for these guys to stop yelling over one another and just fight already. The fact that the beef is real and developed as a result of the way this sport and the people in it operates might only make it feel like the kind of shit they should have settled in private years ago rather than making us watch their split-screen debates now.
Whatever it is, the good news is that it’s almost Saturday. The fight is almost here. Just don’t go into it expect it to settle much of anything. That, too, is usually how it goes when the whole thing is real.
Hey, if you made it this far and didn’t hate it, you should consider signing up for the Co-Main Event Patreon. There you can comment on these posts, argue with other people about them, even call us names or whatever. You also help support the CME and keep the discourse free and unfuckingfettered.