On Aug. 8, Hector Lombard responded to fans through his Facebook page concerning his recent performance against Tim Boetsch at UFC 149. The reason for his lackluster showing? Injury.
Lombard claims a fractured sternum as a reason for his disappointing performance. Is this excuse acceptable to the fans that paid to watch his fight, or should he or his camp have taken him out of the bout?
Whatever the reasoning, claiming an injury is an effective way to scapegoat a fight that goes wrong, and it should be accepted with a grain of salt when given after the fact. We hear fighters and pundits say that fighters never really fight at 100 percent. These athletes practice a hazardous sport where inside of the cage or ring they are subject to broken bones, lacerations, head trauma, et cetera. Outside of the ring, just as many injuries can occur from training and sparring.
It is understandable if a fighter chooses to accept a fight while injured because, like all of us, they have bills to pay. Since the fans are a large source of a fighter’s revenue, it is important that a fighter ensure the quality of their fights for the paying audience. This is a case of the double-edged sword that comes with claiming injuries.
On one hand, the UFC 149 card is one of many this year changed due to a high amount of fighter injuries, so not wanting to be part of another change to the main card could be part of Lombard’s reasoning for fighting injured. On the other, if his injuries were the cause for his poor performance, then his gamble to fight injured did not pay off and the choice had a larger negative impact than it did positive.
Lombard claims he will be out of competition for six weeks because he took the fight while injured because “I didn’t want to let my fans and the UFC down, love you all.”
I’m sure many fans appreciate the sentiment, but that doesn’t mean they want to watch a fighter perform if they’re injured. If we are to believe him, not wanting to let people down served to exacerbate an injury that will now need more time to heal. It also played a part in a poor performance that hurt his stock as a UFC fighter.
The decision to fight while injured did not go in Lombard’s favor at all. His excuse, weeks later, really doesn’t help the matter, because if it affected his performance that much, then the decision should have been made to pull him out of the fight.
Fans are not a culpable excuse for a fighter giving a bad performance because they did not want to let the audience down. It is up to the promotion and the fighters to entertain a paying customer and, as I stated in a previous editorial, the fans are equally responsible to understand what kind of product they are buying.
Lombard and his people decided to fight anyway. The fans did not force him, nor was any information about an injury made public beforehand, so any backlash he receives is his own because it was his choice, not the fans.
Lombard admitted in his statement that he “should never have fought like that.” That admission makes it an open and shut case. He admits that he shouldn’t have fought, but he did so anyway. The decision didn’t work out in his favor, which is unfortunate, but saying that after the fact doesn’t change his recent performance.
I’m not concerned with pinpointing the validity of pre-fight injury claims, only the facts that can be taken away from an official fight. Sometimes the explanation of injury helps a viewer’s full understanding of the events in a fight and sometimes it just seems like an excuse for not performing well.
Fights don’t always go according to plan, but at the end of the day, a decision is made and the fighters must move forward with that conclusion on their record.
To be fair, this was only the first fight for Lombard in the UFC, and he can only take half of the blame for a bad fight. His opponent, Tim Boetsch, did enough to take the decision win, but he didn’t exactly thrill fans either. We can chalk this one up as a bad night and a learning experience for the UFC newcomer.
It seems like injuries have reached epidemic proportions in the UFC this year. Many fights have been changed or postponed—or in Lombard’s case, stayed the course. Injury or not, a bad performance on the biggest MMA stage in the world will eclipse everything the fighter has done up to that point.
It is an unenviable position to have to choose to go forward with an injury and not wanting to let people down. It doesn’t always end so negatively, but if Lombard fought at UFC 149 injured, it was a decision that robbed the fans that he cares so much about of a better show.
Photo: Hector Lombard (James Law/Heavy MMA)