Aww … gimme a break!

No doubt, some variation of this phrase entered the minds and/or exited the mouths of many MMA fans yesterday when it was announced that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was pulling out of his UFC 153 fight with Glover Teixeira due to injury.

It was the latest such announcement in what has probably been the most frustrating year for the UFC and its fans with regard to fighter injuries altering significant match-ups. Such changes are still at top-of-mind for anyone who pays attention to the UFC due to the recent cancellation of UFC 151, the most significant event change brought on by a fighter injury to date.

At least, though, it was only the co-main event of UFC 153 that would be impacted. Fans would still be treated to what is basically a superfight between UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and former lightweight king Frankie Edgar. But then…

You’ve gotta be f**kin’ kidding me!

Less than two hours after UFC President Dana White announced Rampage’s withdrawal, he again took to Twitter to let fans know that an injury to Aldo’s foot would be nixing the scheduled UFC 153 main event as well.

Reaction to these announcements in the MMA community ranged from disappointment to outright anger. (One can only imagine the stream of expletives that accompanied the spike in Dana White’s blood pressure yesterday.) It was the sort of reaction that comes not from a sudden, shocking negative turn of events, but from repeatedly being led to believe everything was going to be alright, only to be proven wrong once more.

It’s our own fault, really. When Dana announces upcoming fights, few of us assume that one or both of the fighters might become injured sometime before fight night. The possibility of a training injury in MMA is an obvious one, but it’s one to which everyone would prefer to pay no attention. It’s a specter that looms silently in gyms around the globe, blissfully ignored by fighters, promoters and fans alike until it strikes at the most inopportune time.

This assumption that an announced fight will actually take place is the root of what causes such a negative reaction when an injury—again, something that should be expected to occur from time to time when we’re talking about full-contact training—precipitates a major change to a fight card. Thus, because such assumptions will continue to prevail, so too will the anger that accompanies injury announcements.

But is that fair?

It’s not as if these fighters are feigning injuries to avoid stepping into the cage. After all, the vast majority of professional MMA fighters, even many of the top guys, can’t really afford to unduly delay a paycheck. The fact of the matter is that without training as hard as they do, and risking injuries in the process, MMA fighters would not be able to put on the sorts of performances that have made the sport as popular as it is today.

The 1997 version of an MMA fighter might have been able to train part-time, perhaps just in a single discipline, against other desk jockeys at the local martial arts school and still compete against other professional fighters when the time came. In 2012, fighters are full-blown professional athletes who eat, sleep and bleed MMA. Their entire lives are dedicated to honing their craft in order that they might be able to advance just a little further up the ladder. They train almost every day, multiple times a day, with other fighters who want the exact same thing.

Injuries are going to happen.

That being said, the UFC’s fans have had to deal with their fair share of disappointment in 2012. Starting with UFC 142 in January, injuries (or other circumstances) have altered the co-main or main events of six pay-per-view cards, including UFC 153. Dana White and Co. obviously try to put together the best events possible, and have done what they can with the cards they’ve been repeatedly dealt, but having a title fight change and suddenly become an interim title fight, or a divisional eliminator become a perceived squash match, does not do well for the buy rates.

Perhaps the most significant frustration, though, is that there’s not really a solution for this problem. Fighters must continue to train as hard as ever in order to compete at the UFC’s highest levels, and this double-whammy of fight cancellations from UFC 153 will not be the last time fans will be told that a card is changing because of injuries.

This is one of the inherent disadvantages of being a fan of an individual sport. In football or basketball, if a player gets injured, the team will still make their scheduled appearance, no matter how disadvantageous the individual player’s absence might be. In MMA, a fighter getting injured means he or she will simply not be showing up on fight night.

One would imagine that MMA trainers across the world are desperately trying to develop high-intensity training methods that carry with them a lower risk of injury, but people who spend hours each day slamming their limbs into other people when they’re not having their joints twisted in uncomfortable directions are bound to get hurt sooner or later.

All we can really do, then, is hope for the best each time a great fight is announced, and try not to curse too loudly if it’s cancelled.

Postscript

HOLY S**T!!! REALLY???

In the short time since this piece was originally written, the UFC has done an incredible job filling in the gaps created by Jackson and Aldo’s injuries. UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will move up to light heavyweight to meet Stephan Bonnar in the new main event. Fabio Maldonado has been chosen to replace Rampage against Glover Teixeira and, for fun, the UFC decided to add a sixth pay-per-view fight featuring Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and fellow heavyweight Dave Herman.

Does this change what I’ve written? Not really. The sense of disappointment with the original injury announcements (and the disappointment that will accompany those in the future) is still palpable. The UFC just so happened to have enough advanced notice this time around to make it right.

Photo: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.