Every fighter loses the battle against Father Time, and how he or she handles the inevitable decline often offers penetrating insight into his or her mindset. Very few leave on top, and in a sport as young as mixed martial arts (MMA), the past few years have seen the decline of the truly big superstars of the modern era (which I'd define as the early 2000s).
After a sleepwalking performance Saturday night (Jan. 26, 2013) against Glover Teixeira in the UFC on Fox 6 main event, Quinton Jackson left no doubt that his best days are behind him and for him to continue fighting would be pointless. The fire simply isn't there, nor the ability to pull the trigger in the lethal manner he used to harness in an eye blink.
Mercifully, Jackson's long stretch of lucrative purses with Pride, and later, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), might be the biggest impetus for him to quit. After finishing his latest contract with the UFC Saturday, his bargaining position is severely hindered, and it's hard to imagine the UFC shelling out big bucks to re-sign -- or match an offer to retain -- a faded star whose recent showings have been decidedly poor.
Yes, "Rampage" brings the fans in, but he's not really a Tito Ortiz-type of opponent; most of the people paying money for an Ortiz fight in recent years probably wanted to see him get steamrolled as much as people wanted him to win. Even then, in egregious doses, it became a sickening exercise.
Matt Hughes followed a similar path, until there was little utility to be wrested from his name and billing on main cards; decimated by younger, fresher opponents, the once-dominant champ was rendered helpless too many times for my tastes. That's part of the life cycle, getting adapted to the fact that you can no longer compete at the top level, but it isn't particularly pleasurable to see much less pay for.
In Rampage's case, it could be one hell of a half-life of decline.
He remains very durable with big power, and the worst thing in the world to happen would be the kind of one-shot knockout win (something akin to Ortiz's career-extending stoppage of heavily favored Ryan Bader) to let him play out the string even further. In a way, I hope Rampage is too proud to take the short money and moves on to other things that don't involve MMA.
That's because playing the string out from here only means a lot of lousy choices, diluting the product considerably. It's one thing to match up tough contenders, but scalp-collection-style fights do not belong on main cards when said collection of the scalp is a surprise to no one, including blind fans listening to the audio feed.
Yeah, it's part of the game, but it should be one relegated to a small corner in the back of the garage. Not in the main part of the house.
I have no need to see the obvious restated time and again, especially where legends are involved, nor pay for it as part of premium programming. And you shouldn't either.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst